Architect Ken Crosson gives his picks for NZ's best-designed hotels and lodges
Travelling New Zealand to find the country's best architecturally designed hotels and their surroundings was a contrast to my usual getaway in the Coromandel. With this experience I got to see so many different landscapes and hotels in various climates all within the length of New Zealand and gain some beautiful insight into the accommodation landscapes that New Zealand has to offer.
A favourite of mine would have to be Kinloch Manor and Villas, which is perfectly placed on 254ha of spectacular shore above Lake Taupo. I can only describe it as a reinterpreted modern day Scottish Baronial Castle. It's an incredibly massive stone building that the architects really thought about in terms of placement and landscape, it is massive, heavy and powerful; construction we rarely see in New Zealand. They also utilised the building to frame the incredible panoramic lake views you get from almost anywhere in the property.
Another extraordinary piece of architecture is The Lindis — it is a striking work of art in a striking landscape; located way up in the Ahuriri Valley surrounded by the Southern Alps, this picturesque retreat is the perfect location for guests to connect with a primordial landscape and have clear views of the dramatic Southern night sky — the stars and the moon with no city lights.
From the Southern Alps you can go to another extreme in the Bay of Islands. There you find beautiful rolling soft green landscapes with native bush and coastal beaches. Places like Eagles Nest are perched upon the clifftops in Russell with stunning panoramic sea views or The Landing Residence, set among a 400ha property with only four private residences. These sorts of places are examples of incredible modern architecture that have been designed to stand the test of time and will become architectural classics because of their relationship to their site. Unique responses to our unique landscapes. It was a delight to be immersed in the outstanding Māori history at the Landing and be reminded of the beautiful craft of early Māori with the amazing collection of art and artifacts.
There is a charming place called Donkey Bay Inn set in The Bay of Islands, not far from Russell. The property is full of energy and sits just above a nudist beach. However what really stands out to me is the owner, he is an incredible man with a big presence and a big personality that promotes the accommodation: artistic, enigmatic and experiential. This is something people look for when looking for accommodation now, they want an experience, an adventure, a place that is unique and memorable.
Then you have The Duke of Marlborough sitting just above the shore. The history of the hotel represents so much of what the building now stands there as. It has been there since 1827 and was in fact the first hotel in New Zealand to hold a liquor licence. And back in the day when Russell was described as the hell hole of the Pacific it was rowdy and at times, pretty rough. You can only imagine what that building has witnessed over the years.
As time goes on, the more modern hotels and resorts going up have a big focus on sustainability and eco-friendly ways, looking at embodied energy, high levels of natural light, minimising their waste and carbon footprint — not only in the building but in the way they operate.
* Architect Ken Crosson is a judge on Hotels by Design, Sundays on Three
For more New Zealand travel ideas and inspiration, go to newzealand.com