Superhome of the Year Awards 2024 | Brutalist Beauty, Tai Tapu

Brutalist Beauty, Tai Tapu

Stephen and Juanita Clearwater | ADMIRE CONCRETE HOMES

Judges Comments: “Combining the striking beauty of brutalist form with extensive dematerialization, this house achieves elegant minimalism. It boldly embraces simplicity in its exterior shape, celebrating a unique approach to design. From the innovative spatial connections to the utilisation of raw materials and construction

Form-marked raw concrete is a hallmark of New Brutalism, an architectural style that thrived in the 1950s–1970s and strongly influenced the ‘Christchurch School’ through the 1960s. Brutalism, updated for modern living, is now well and truly back in the house in Tai Tapu,

The owners of this ‘monolithic’ home never intended to build a raw concrete home, but after chancing upon a design online, they met up with Stephen and Juanita Clearwater from Admire Concrete Homes and went ahead after their initial meeting. They had both long admired the ‘70’s look and were suitably impressed by the robust design. Not having much of an idea how it was all going to come together coupled with the fact that, at the time, nothing else had been built like it – they were taking a massive punt.

Today, they are proud trailblazers for raw concrete and adore their home’s ‘wabi-sabi’ – imperfectly perfect character. In fact they are so happy for Stephen and Juanita to show others their proud home that has led to the home being on the 2023 ‘Superhome Bus Tour’.
People’s assumtions that the concrete dwelling would be cold are proven incorrect, in fact they find the home surprising warm, quiet and inviting.

This is a very strong and solid home, from foundation to roof. More than 520 tonnes of concrete and 18 tonnes of reinforcing went into the construction. The concrete pour was completed in eight stages, starting with the garage and bedroom wing (100-200mm thick walls) and associated outer concrete wall (called  a ‘wythe’, 300-400mm thick). Rigid insulation was placed between the two, creating a thermally efficient sandwich effect. Two different types of concrete were used – one for the walls, the other for the ceilings. 

All services are internal, with electricity supplied through conduits. A lot of care was taken with planning to ensure wiring, plumbing and fittings would be correct.

A house like this has huge thermal mass properties and is a high performer for energy efficiency. It maintains a stable, comfortable year-round temperature with ease.

While the geometry of the architecture is solidly rectangular, the home also has a playfully circular theme. A large round hole, moulded into the concrete canopy above the decking outside the kitchen, has been dubbed ‘the circle of life’. It is echoed throughout the home in round planters, circular mirrors and globe light fittings.The colour palette is deliberately neutral so as not to detract ‘from what the house is’. Two mustard and white retro ‘50’s recliners add a pop of colour – and a Palm Springs vibe – outside the media room (with actual potted plants also contributing to that vibe).

Flooring is easy-care vinyl planking in the main living space, with rugs and carpets softening selected areas.A floating staircase with dark timber-treads lead up to the main bedroom suite with spacious walk-in robe, a make-up/dressing station and well-appointed bathroom. Off that is a resort-style inclusion in the form of a large double shower room.

The owners have landscaped to create relaxing outdoor spaces and added artificial turf along the shady side. A water feature came from their previous house and is a ‘restful touch’. 

The home was part of the 2023 SUPERHOME TOURS