Matter Bach

Matter Architects



The Matter Bach is a beautiful piece of design work by Matter Architects, it demonstrates that a small building can be a great building. Situated in the small town of Whiritoa, on the east coast of the North Island, this little residence is a local landmark.

Low Cost

What’s driving the cost down on this project is its simplicity. It is small with a simple, easy to build, shape and simple low cost materials - polywood and corrugated tin and polycarbonate. It’s clever use of eliminating windows while still catching lots of light would definitely have cut costs in a big way too.

The Matter Bach was built by professionals about 10 years ago for the $110,00 so you can expect that it would cost more than that to repeat the exercise but even then it should still be a relatively low cost build.

All photographs credited to Samuel Hartnett

From the Architect’s website:

It needed to be small and clever. We also wanted to re-interpret the holiday experience, acknowledging the community interaction, while also creating a more private experience. The site came with its idiosyncrasies, a public drain dissected the section, while the low lying topography was working as the local flood control.

The first reaction was to conceive a ‘wharf’ – a box on stilts. Privacy from the side neighbours drive was required, while interaction with the street was a desire. This led to an extruded tube form, open at the ends. Having created this horizontal enclosure, occupation was then allowed to take place underneath, and on top, in the form of the roof deck.

Two pins tie the wharf to the site. One is the translucent stair tower, passing from ground to sky in a protective cloud. The other is the fire stack, allowing water storage at the base, and open fires to the living area and the roof. The replacement of building footprint with a sky garden is well established in Modernist architecture. In this case, the subterranean flood plain was transposed into a large raised terrace on top of the building, to dine, sun-bathe, or serenade the neighbours from the hearth.

The result of putting the garden in the air is sea views from the house, within the height constraints of the site, something more traditional neighbours houses are deprived of.

Materially, the building is built using traditional bach materials, but with some re-interpretation. Creosote ply forms the body, with the two corrugated towers of tin and polycarb. Tectonically, the house dissolves its threshold with the street, with the drawbridge that bridges the living to the front yard deck, creating a space that entertains, or is entertained by, the passing community. The bach has quickly become a Whiritoa landmark, either when empty for it’s forbidding black box look, or when occupied, when the living kitchen becomes part of the street. The roof top deck retains its privacy, most passers by not knowing that a whole outdoor life is happening above their head.

The economy of the design has created much intrigue, and influences matter thinking. Sleeping nooks, top lit showers, and of course roof gardens are becoming a favourite part of the repertoire. A small house that’s a great house.


To get in contact with Matter Architects or check out their other projects visit