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THE ADVENTURES OF A BACH BUILD: PART 10 – THE FIGHT FOR THE FOLLY

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The moment has arrived, it is finally time to lodge for consent! Neville and the team at Kirk Roberts have finished the documentation and all the certification has been done. I’ve written (and re-written!) my resource consent application arguments fighting our case, now all we can do is wait. Wait to see if the council approves our design, wait to see if they buy into our Kiwi Bach dream, wait to see if we can actually make this a reality.

As I have mentioned previously, this whole process has been a challenge in the respect that I am acting as both architect and client…sometimes I feel I don’t have my trusted advisor to bounce off! Everything seems to take so much longer and every decision seems like the biggest you will ever make. Preparing to lodge for consent has been an especially frustrating time for me. My biggest irritation about the process is that a lot of what is required to be drawn, is for compliance for the council and not for fabrication of the buildings.

We made the decision to add in the fabrication details as required after the approvals have been made. While unconventional, I rationalized that, by doing this, the documentation phase would be shortened and therefore we would save time. Although, in the long run, it hasn’t actually saved us any time, but has simply moved the time required into the construction phase. Which will mean a lot more time for me, detailing and working through structural solutions, to ensure the buildings do come together correctly once we are on site. I will have to be on my toes to ensure Aaron is well supported!

And now as we wait for a response from the council, I’m beginning to get nervous that they will be noticeably displeased by the lack of fabrication detailing and will have a large list of RFI’s to answer.

But I’m far more nervous about the folly. The reality is, Hanmer Springs District Plan Guidelines specify that all buildings must comply with their alpine character ideals. And our yellow folly mightn’t necessarily be in that character. Unsurprisingly, I have some issues with the Hurunui’s ‘Alpine Character’ specifications and somewhere deep in my soul makes me want to confront this. I struggle to comprehend how a landscape character can be transferred to the built environment. I feel that we have adopted the sentiment of the alpine landscape in our design and colour choice but perhaps not followed the guidelines to the letter. We are completely in love with our bach design and I have already fought hard to keep the folly, are we prepared for an ugly spat with the council? I may disagree with their guidelines but we were aware of them going in, are we willing to make compromises in order to get our project approved?

Unfortunately for us and our yellow folly, boxes need to be ticked, people need to do their jobs and those at the council are not swayed by my enthralling arguments. In fact, they make some very good points, dispelling my claims with evidence I hadn’t even considered. I had reasoned, as rational for the folly design, that as our property straddled the boundary of a rural setting we were influenced by the colours and materials in such a setting. The burnt yellow inspired by the Autumn poplar trees that are seen all over the district and the metal cladding akin with materials used for barns and farm buildings. To me this made perfect sense. Sadly, the council explained that the Chatterton River is the marked landscape feature separating the urban and rural, and our property falls on the urban side. Weakening our argument even further, the council claimed that my argument regarding the colour of the folly is too seasonally weighted and therefore does not comply with the alpine character. They are also concerned the folly will dominate the Hanmer skyline and could be viewed from
too many places within the district. Their arguments are valid, and I’m glad they do see our folly as a folly – something that draws attention and has some aspect of whimsy about it, but where do their decisions leave us?

As we reflect on our defeat, we realise the folly was never about it being yellow, it was about it being a folly, an interesting, distinct object in the garden. We can still achieve contrast against the other pavilions but with approved colours and materials. Looking through the palette of council permitted materials I can feel an idea forming… Using weathered timber that would gradually age to a mid-grey, and we want it to show its age! Too many materials these days are required to look as good in 10 years as the day of installation. But now we see our folly as a way to appreciate time passing; it ages as we do.

Although it was never about being yellow, there is still a little fight in me yet, and I will do my upmost to ensure anything that can be yellow will be YELLOW! A cheeky nod to the colour that was.

Published on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017