Design Engine Architects Ltd.

Ph. +64 7 849 2935 or +64 21 138 37 39.   Email.   Post. P.O.Box 4237. Hamilton East 3247. NZ


Ratcliffe River House


Ratcliffe River House owned by Robin & Colleen Ratcliffe was selected to be in the top 7 Architect Designed Projects in New Zealand for TVNZ's The Art of the Architect Programme, the NZ equivalent of The Grand Designs Series. Design Engine provided the Architect & Project Management Services over 4 years for Hamilton Super House. TVNZ's "The Art of the Architect" Episode 2 will screen during primetime @7:30pm on Thursday 27th March 2014 in a one hour episode.

"The Art of the Architect" is Hosted by Peter Elliott and Directed by Award Winning Director Dean Cornish. The Series starts on 20th March 2014. Each episode focusses on one New Zealand architect who has been charged with the task of executing the dream of a New Zealand family or community. Peter and Dean track their creative journey through the fascinating process of realising a spectacular building, from the clear site to the finished product. The art of compromise will be ever-present as we witness the Architect and Clients dealing with challenges of site, budget and expectations of both parties.

Featuring striking homes and buildings, The Art Of The Architect raises the level of awareness and expectations around the importance of design.

Clients: Robin & Colleen Ratcliffe

Project Design Team:
Structural Engineer - Alan Park from Holmes Consulting
Site Surveyor - David Laing and Associates Surveyors
Geotechnical Report - Aine Colsen from Opus
Quantity Surveyor - John Moore from Kingston Partners
Design Engine Architects - Abigail Wassung, Dhazi He, Thorgils Hilmarsson, Jonathon Tangney, Monique Clark
Lead Design Architect & Project Manager - Mark Wassung

Project Building Team:
Builder/Site Foreman - Ken Atkinson from Construct Ltd
Builders - Keith Parlane, Graeme Parlane, Trevor Rhodes, Grant Gibbons, Nick Hoebergen from Construct Ltd
Excavator - Tom Andrews from Tristar
Piling - John Faber & Doug Irvine from Spiral Drillers
Steel Fabricator - Greg Jensen from Jensens Steel Tauranga, Phil Counsell and Christian Bilbe from Modern Construction Hamilton
Reinforcing Steel - Alastair Mackay from Fletcher Reinforcing
Linings - Will Fransen from Adept Interiors
Glass - Timothy Bolt from Viridian Glass
Aluminium Windows & Glass - Mike Tubbs from Origin Windows
Roofing - Brian McLuskie from Waikato Roofing Solutions
Electrical - Iain Colville from Switch Electrical
Home Automation - Cade Uttinger from Savdesign
Stainless Steel - Colin Ashton from McLeod Sheetmetals
Curved Glass - Louis Paulussen from Tempabend
Kitchen - Kevin Middlemiss from Treetown Kitchens
Stone Mason - Stephen Broomhall from Empire Stone
Stone Supply - Kumar Pramod
Site Manager - Patrick Dempsey

TVNZ Crew:
Production Manager - Sue Killian
Interviewer - Peter Elliott
Director - Dean Cornish


Robin & Colleen are larger than life Clients that have travelled extensively internationally. They have a special love and passion for Egypt which has resulted in a collection of Egyptian and International artefacts that are to be accommodated in the new House. The Brief described the House to be their dream Home celebrating 36 years in business, a symbol of their achievement, iconic, unique, extraordinary, futuristic, a blend of public, commercial and residential. The Clients own a white convertible cadilac, a black cadilac, bright yellow hotrod with a mustang in the wings, hence there is provision in the design for a 5 car garage and workshop styled on a European Ferrari Showroom with extensive use of tiles and natural light. The design was to maximise Waikato River, Gully and Fairfield Bridge views. We had a blank canvass to work with, indicative multi-million dollar budget that had to have a "wow factor", something New Zealand has never seen.


Robin & Colleen design and fabricate large scale truck trailers in Hamilton for New Zealand and Australia. The Design Concept for the House was inspired by the following 3 items: First, the Client's design drawings for truck trailers - large scale steel structures. Second, the nearby Fairfield Bridge, a ferro-concrete structure built by the Waikato District Council in 1937 that is arched, lyrical, organic and evocative in form. Third, the Egyptian Processional Temples with their architectonics of Grand Ramps, Hypostyle Hall, Bud Columns and Sanctuary as well as the relationship and close proximity of the Nile River likened to the Waikato River. I referred to Sir Banister Fletcher's - "A History of Architecture" Processional Temples of Egypt. The Stairs, Main Bedroom and Ensuite are set out according to the Fibonacci Spiral - Golden Section/Divine Proportion. The design celebrates "structural expressionism" through "Flying Magaftas" - curved, organic columns/beams on the outside and inside of the House. The House will have the first curved glass lift in residential construction in New Zealand, this is meant to be an abstracted Egyptian Bud Column in Glass, creating a beacon of light at night.

Green Eco - Sustainable Design elements are an integral part of the design: there is a passive design triple volume Hypostyle Hall North facing, which acts like a Suntrap in Winter, warming the House, and cooling/air conditioning/natural ventilation in Summer through the Venturi Stack Effect created by louvres at the lower floor and upper floor roof creating a natural flue - drawing cool air over the swimming pool through evaporative cooling and upward to be exhausted at the roof louvres. Passive heating and cooling are controllable on each floor to the House by large opening sliding doors between Hypostyle Hall and House Floors. There is rainwater harvesting to a concealed underground 50,000 Litre rainwater storage tank. Local Waikato Hinuera Stone will be used for stairs, columns, floors, ramps and decks recalling Egyptian golden sand. There are also automated sun control louvers to the cantilevered eaves. This House promises to be an extraordinary project for New Zealand.