Wellington\u2019s cleaved landscape is based on a visible fault line cutting north-east through the North Island before pitching into the Pacific Ocean. While this geography limits the size of the city, it certainly hasn\u2019t constrained its architects or builders. They have responded with small, tall and interesting houses perched on ridges and clinging to impossibly steep hillsides.\r\n\r\nTo be a Wellington architect, therefore, is to be an expert in foundation design and resigned to the fact that large parts of a budget can get buried underground. This small Kilbirnie site is no exception. As well as having a steep contour and awkward triangular shape, it has also been cut and retained for a bend in a busy arterial road. Not a site for the fainthearted, it was tellingly purchased off an architect by a builder. And at only 260 square metres, it\u2019s had several schemes dreamed up but never realised.\r\n\r\nIts new owners Adam (the builder) and Alicia Pierson commissioned Ben Mitchell-Anyon of Patchwork Architecture to develop a fresh scheme. \u201cThis was never going to be a conventional hillside house,\u201d says Ben. \u201cIt would burn too much budget on excavation and waterproofing \u2013 money better spent on the house itself. We also had a busy road to deal with, so we lifted the house high above the traffic for privacy and to capture killer views of the harbour and surrounding suburbs.\u201d This meant breaking the height-to-boundary controls by up to four metres on the road and public reserve boundary. However, the council wisely approved the scheme so this innovative design would create something unique from a seemingly uninhabitable site.\r\n\r\nBen has designed a 10- by 10-metre box \u2013 exactly 100 square metres \u2013 set three storeys above the site entry. Simple geometry has allowed him to rationalise the site and create a highly efficient plan. \u201cThe brief was for a three-bedroom family home,\u201d he says. \u201cThey had no preconceptions about the design and gave us full creative freedom. Having worked with Adam on several houses now, our starting point was the level of detail and perfectionism we\u2019ve seen in his work. A simple square offered an incredibly crisp form \u2013 not only relating to Adam\u2019s building interests but also leaving us more budget to apply to the detailing and materials.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe house is supported by a concrete block core \u2013 enclosing a small office, laundry, entry and stairwell \u2013 and ten steel poles. The main floor cantilevers past these foundations to not only present a dramatic composition to the road, but also pitch the house out toward the view.\r\n\r\nReminiscent of the L.A. Case Study Houses of last century, the industrial panelised materials and minimal form challenges the stereotype of a home. From the outside, the structure is purposely devoid of recognisable house signs \u2013 no eaves, no pitched roof, no window reveals, no shutters, no traditional porch. Enigmatic and as un-house-like as you can get, it could be mistaken for a watchtower or small commercial building. Silver anodised cladding, flashings, joinery, downpipes and gutters \u2013 even a full metal underside \u2013 create a singular form broken only by vertical panel joints. \r\n\r\n\u201cI love it when you get a strange site and it produces an unusual outcome. You wouldn\u2019t look at the site and think a perfect square would be the logical response,\u201d says Ben. \u201cThe clients were willing to take a risk with the sketch design and they trusted us to design them a great house. We knew Adam could build it, so we weren\u2019t afraid to try unusual details. He knows what he likes, but also trusts us to do our thing and gave us input for how he wanted to put it together.\u201d\r\n\r\nTo explore the house, you climb seven and a half metres up two sets of external concrete stairs to arrive at the entry deck protected below the house proper. A glass door leads into a timber-lined lobby and stairwell, where the warmth of the interior is immediately revealed by the oiled Tasmanian blackwood. Winding up another level, you arrive in a small lobby leading onto the main living space. Timber is used throughout the main floor, with a solid oak floor perfectly mirrored in a solid oak ceiling. This luxury is continued in two walls of blackwood cabinetry \u2013 the one-wall kitchen and living room unit. Dark grey matt ceramic tiles complete the dark palette. From this warm containment are two areas of floor-to-ceiling glass revealing an outside deck and a long view of Evans Bay from the corner window.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe main living room is strangely peaceful despite the traffic and wind,\u201d says Ben. \u201cQuiet and warm; it\u2019s the elevation above everyone else that gives that privacy. It is a house to sit and watch a storm.\u201d Bedrooms are distributed on the other three corners of the square with two bathrooms set back-to-back on the hillside.\r\n\r\nWhile it\u2019s essentially a single-storey house, the architects have created useful outdoor spaces at three levels \u2013 below, centrally and overhead. The entry deck provides a covered outdoor area and adjacent garden made private by new planting and with external access up to the main deck above. At the very top, a flat roof forms an open deck with a quirky \u2018bus stop\u2019 in the centre. Referencing the arterial road below, it provides a protected room from Wellington\u2019s fierce winds \u2013 and fixed furniture that won\u2019t blow away. Access is via a freestanding concrete stair \u2013 the fourth flight of stairs! \u2013 and across a bright yellow steel gangway.\r\n\r\n\u201cThese spaces above and below make it very dynamic,\u201d says Ben. \u201cThey provide views around the building, up and down \u2013 indoor\u2013outdoor rooms that are inexpensive to create and add a lot of interest. The roof deck is a fairly unusual feature in a city known for its wind. But on a good day, there is no better place to be with its panoramic views of the harbour and city.\u201d\r\n\r\nThis young and emerging design practice run by Ben and business partner Sally Ogle \u2013 colleagues from architecture school \u2013 is gaining a reputation for striking and innovative buildings. A small and adventurous practice challenging the status quo to find high-quality living solutions.