AAA Visionary Awards Finalist
Auckland Architecture Association
with Jesse Ewart and Jason Tan.

Nestled in the Mackenzie Basin on the edge of the idyllic Lake Tekapo, this project imagines a collection of observatory cabins and visitor house as lens for observing and isolating the southern phenomenon of the Aurora Australis. Situated within the spatial territory of the recognised Dark Night reserve, the largest in the world at 4,367sqkm - a boundary encompassing the Aoraki Mt Cook national park and the settlements of Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook. Vast clear skies to frame the natural display and lunar orbit.

The picturesque aesthetic of the basin landscape, gives perceptions of dramatic and sparse settlements - with conservation awareness towards both land and sky. This work questions the local context towards alternative architectural typologies distilled of unique territorial conditions and context, also addressing preservation of architecture and landscape environment.

The cabins operate as a series of abodes for experiencing the temporal events of the southern lights and preserved Tekapo night-sky. Generating an alluring object distilled of context, through formal operations and materiality of the locale. Formally composed with a figural scalloped roof-line, to reveal particular apertures aligned for observation towards the peripherals and sky. Affecting the internal layout of the sleeping compartments on the mezzanine level and the shared living area, bathroom and kitchen facilities below. Occupants rest as they are immersed within a sublime experience of the night-sky, constantly shifting the spatial conditions of the private spaces.

The visitor house forms the collective building of the immediate site - its geometry augments the structural tectonics of the elemental gable form and courtyard ring. Towards a building intertwining within the unique landscape and field conditions, operating with various aperture devices at different scalar for recording lunar patterns and temporal moments. The building forms gestures from the Māori wharenui towards a contemporary reinterpretation of land-form architecture, that embeds within the earth’s undulating surface.

Tyler Harlen 2019