Not long after architect Adriana Toader started working at Cook Sargisson Pirie & Williams, some old clients of the celebrated architect Marshall Cook approached the firm asking for a pool to be added to their home in Maungawhau Mt Eden, Tāmaki Makaurau. The house is well known: it won architecture awards in its day and is rightly considered one of Cook’s finest. Now running her own practice, Toader’s approach was subtle and respectful. “I took my time,” she says, “and I only showed the project to him after I had already come up with a design that I felt fairly confident about.”
Tell us about the original house.
The original house was designed in 2001 and built in 2002. Like all Cook’s houses, it is a timeless design, uniquely and sensitively tailored to suit the clients and the site. The clients who commissioned it, Philip and Heather, still live in the house with their two sons and they cherish it just as much as they did when they first moved in.
How did the project come about?
Philip and Heather came back to the same practice – Cook Sargisson Pirie & Williams – wanting to add a pool and make some small changes to the western courtyard. I was working there at the time and took the project on. I later continued under my own practice with the director’s agreement.
Was it daunting doing something to such a celebrated house and by such a celebrated architect?
Yes, very much so! I was pretty nervous about it, also because I have such admiration for Marshall Cook and the remarkable breadth of his work. I need not have worried. His response was very positive and has been so throughout – a great confidence boost. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Marsh better. He is as gracious and kind as he is talented, not to mention the most amazing storyteller.
The pool fits in there really nicely. Tell us about your design approach.
I really wanted to respect the original house sitting proudly on the site, not to detract from it in any way. Since I already admired Marshall’s work, it was an enjoyable process of employing a similar language so that the new and old would have a friendly conversation. I thought of the pool and pool house as more like landscaping elements, the stone wall and floating roof creating an “outdoor room” and the cedar and glass screens (pool fencing) providing privacy while also helping to more clearly direct visitors to the original house entry. The slant line of the pool mimics the slant of the sloped brick wall and hopefully brings a similar playfulness.
The landscaping by Landscape & Ecology is exquisite and further enhances the design and the connection between old and new.
Another lovely part of the story, and an integral part, is that it was built by the original builder (Nick Leitch) who built the house, even though he was supposed to be retiring. It really was a labour of love for all involved.
What makes a good pool and how did that play out here?
Apart from being able to do a good bomb, as the kids would attest to… I think a “good” pool, like any “good” architecture, needs the same ingredients: sensitive attention to context, orientation, detailing (a better version of the dreaded “pool fence”), as well as a good understanding of the client’s needs, wishes, aesthetic sensibilities, lifestyle, etcetera. Heather and Philip were wonderful clients, it hardly felt like work.
What’s the best bit about it?
The best part really has been how well received it has been and seeing the clients and their family enjoying it. I’ve even had comments from neighbours about how well it fits in – that was really satisfying after a long arduous process trying to convince the council planners.