Cabane Picalo / Atelier Gérard Dombroski
Text description provided by the architects. Last year I built a steel spoon five meters long and traveled the country photographing it in skate bowls (an exercise in thinking of skate bowls and swimming pools as household items ). During this trip I went to Driving Creek Railway and Pottery for a bee where we rebuilt some wood ovens. After the work bee, DCR invited me to come back for a month-long residency to build “something”. The rules were that it had to be made from what I could find around DCR and due to COVID they had no money to spend.
I saw a wonderful opportunity to do a month of non-commercial work at DCR and it turned out to be quite an adventure: I became a sort of architectural explorer. In a rather kiwi way, the project was about finding and reusing to create what I think is a rather functional but unconventional little cabin. I would say a good third of my time was spent scavenging for materials, tearing down disused structures and giving them new life. I have always tried to include projects that can be done in a short period of time in my architectural practice. These projects provide a framework for instinctive design moves and are developed and built quickly. Test an idea, take a risk.
I arrived at DCR on February 2 of this year. On the first night, I picked a spot for the yard on the hillside under the kanuka canopy and found an old steel frame that had been abandoned for its past life as a zipline platform. The steel frame gave me my footprint and my stair niche. From there I thought it would be a great experience to lay under the canopy of the kanuka and watch it sway back and forth and interact with the sky, so almost immediately the concept of building a “room for see the trees” imposed itself. The first view would be directly up the skylight, the second view directly through and out towards the canopy with the roof sweeping between the two views.
Because of my trip to the skate park and because the day before I had helped a friend build a mini skateboard ramp, I opted for a decidedly skate park shape for the building. I had until February 25 to complete the project so I could get back to Wellington in time for my own 30th birthday party on the 26th. I spent the first few days on the digger, digging a track and prepare pile holes. We had the floor laid and concreted on the fourth day. The remaining days, I started my morning with a coffee in a city cafe before working until dark. It was a beautiful moment, meeting locals, spending time with the other artists in residence and the people who came to pass on old materials.
I think the result fits perfectly into the Driving Creek setting, both visually and culturally. DCR has a long history of contributors – Barry Brickle would often host other artists some of whom would come to the Coromandel and build a shack in which they would stay or work. It’s my small contribution to the place.