Words: Andrea Stevens
Photography: Simon Devitt
On a clear day, flying over the Southern Alps offers a surreal view into a craggy milky wilderness. This chiaroscuro landscape of glaciated valleys and snowy peaks traces the length of the South Island and the alpine fault. Alluvial planes fall toward the east coast, and out of sight, peaks plummet into west coast rainforest.
Shades of white eventually give way to rivers, inland lakes and a mosaic of fields. I have reached the old gold-mining settlement of Queenstown, a remote yet international destination for climbers, skiers and scenic tourists. It’s another world for this North Islander, more accustomed to the semi-tropical north. Mountains loom all sides. It is dry, golden and clear.
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Otago stone makes the buildings foreign, and the wines are as dry as the climate. An almost Nordic atmosphere is tinged with English picturesque by the liquid amber and lakeside willow. I have come to see a new house by Noel Lane, twenty minutes drive toward historic Arrowtown.
The road arcs north-east, over the Shotover River and below Coronet Peak. On approach to Lake Hayes, we branch off the main road and on to gravel, to reach a subtle stone and Cedar house. Low and wide, nesting on the brow of a hill, it reflects the materials and colours of the landscape.
It looks like a local, until I see its vaulted copper roof. Lane always does something different with a roof. It is his fifth elevation, and this one is special.