Today Hobsonville Point is the by-word for thoughtful master-planning, bringing well-designed density to a new housing area.

But architect and urban designer James Wallace, who has worked on a number of Studio Pacific's urban design and masterplanning projects, remembers the early days of the neighbourhood.

"When I started working on Hobsonville Point, it was still grass fields and runways. Even rabbits," he says. "Now it's a different town. You can re-write the landscape in the blink of an eye."

Wallace's historic perspective on the Point came in handy over five years ago when he and developers Winton were invited by Hobsonville Land Company (now HLC) to come up with the plan for 4.2 hectares of land at Launch Bay.

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"It was the premier precinct on the base, the best part of Hobsonville, closest to the water," says Winton's Chris Meehan. "It's no accident that they put the officers' houses there."

"As well as the four heritage houses, we wanted to retain the oval, which is where the military had their parades. And it was most important that the old hangar be addressed."

Launch Bay / Winton. Photo / Supplied
Launch Bay / Winton. Photo / Supplied

Winton and Studio Pacific's plan is that the several blocks of Launch Bay will eventually incorporate 343 homes in a mix of stand alone houses, apartments and terraces over the next five years. The first tranche is a release of the four officers houses (complete with consented plans for extensions and modernisation), 13 stand alone Oval Houses and, at the gateway corner to the precinct, the first apartment block, Marlborough.

"It's important to have good corners and edges, not a weak scattered ones," explains Wallace.

"The Marlborough is the 'front door' so it required special design. In a new area, you need landmarks and little beacons for orientation."

The architects used a palette of pale bricks and aluminium that echo the industrial strength of the pre-war hangar next door. Eventually the hangar maybe converted to loft apartments, but in the meantime Winton is inviting tenders for creative public use — gym or food market or shared work spaces.

Meeham explains the site is designed in a tiered, stadium formation that graduates out from the oval, the heart of Launch Bay, getting higher as it moves away so all the properties will have sea views. Careful landscaping has expanded the original pitch, the new Oval houses are ranked around it to crate another of those built edges Wallace talks about.

Wallace describes the regimented curved placement of stand-alone houses around the oval as a modern interpretation of the grand curved Georgian streets of Bath or parts of Europe, enhancing the public space with a disciplined edge.

Laneways — some connecting to the new hub of farmers market, brew bar and ferry terminal, others to the waterfront bike and walking trail that circles the entire Hobsonville Point — are the critical glue for the neighbourhood, allowing residents to walk, bike, bump into each other.

Launch Bay / Winton. Photo / Supplied
Launch Bay / Winton. Photo / Supplied

A playground at the edge of the oval is intended for families from tots to teens, with spots for all ages to hang out.

The houses themselves were inspired by pictures of the tents pitched on the oval — a gabled white skin stretches over the roof and walls, the gardens and decks are the "pegs", the arrangement of the houses disciplined and military. A more modern palette of cedar and glass hovers inside the skin, while the interiors are pure luxury, conceived by interior designer Stewart Harris of Macintosh Harris. Oak floors, Fisher and Paykel appliances and upscale fixtures

All the landscaping is complete and the Oval is about to be vested back to Auckland Council as a public park. With one show house already completed, the first homes should be ready for occupation by the end of this year.

Next door to Launch Bay, Panuku is planning mixed use housing and work spaces, completing one of the last pieces of the Hobsonville Point jigsaw. Wallace says Launch Bay demonstrates how Aucklanders understanding of urban living has changed.

"Six years ago, the housing was single freestanding houses and a few terraces," he says.

"Now density and intensity have increased as people are more conversant with medium density, and have seen how good architect-architect-designed living can be. They get it now, you can use the great public spaces that you don't have to mow.

"Expectations are higher and high for great public spaces, we've set that standard here."

• What You Need To Know: A new development around the former military oval at Hobsonville point with four restored heritage officers' houses, 12 Oval Houses and nearly 40 apartments in the Marlborough.
• Officers Houses: Four stand-alone houses built in the 1930s, 147 to 175sq m plus triple garage, 54sq m on 1100sq m (more or less) prime waterfront land beside the oval. Exterior renovations completed with new triple car garaging, landscaping and driveways; consented plans for interior renovations and extensions to 189-257sq m.
• Oval Houses: Two levels with four bedrooms, a study, two living spaces and 3.5 bathrooms, spacious decking and double garage. 238sq m, from $2.1 million.
• Marlborough: 39 apartments in one, two and three bedrooms. Eleven apartments now avail, level 6 being the top floor; internal lift access sizes from 50sq m to 80sq m plus deck. Starting at $680,000 for one bedroom to $845,000 for penthouse. Completing in autumn 2020.
• Inspect: Wed to Sun, 11am-2pm, corner Hudson and Marlborough Crescent.
• Schools: Hobsonville Point primary and secondary
• Contact: Kirsten Bishop, Bayleys, 027 660 6446.
• On The Web: https://winton.nz/