Firth Brick a stylish feature of Metlifecare’s Gulf Rise villas 

It is estimated that by 2051 there will be more than 1.1 million people aged 65 years and over in New Zealand. Naturally, as our aged population grows and people are living longer, healthier lives, considerable demand is being placed on housing and care alternatives during retirement.  

Stage one of ‘Gulf Rise’ retirement village in Red Beach, formerly the Peninsula Golf Club, addresses these important drivers and is the realisation of Metlifecare’s long-term vision for retirement living in New Zealand. Warren and Mahoney, the Architect charged with bringing this vision to fruition, was given an ambitious brief to set a new benchmark for a quality designed retirement village – breaking the stereotype of large overwhelming blocks and providing diversity in residential offerings and community engagement.  

With stage one of the development winning the ‘Planning and Urban Design’ category at the Auckland NZ Institute of Architecture Awards announced in early August, the proof is most certainly in the pudding.  “Gulf Rise challenged the stereotypical approach to the planning of retirement villages,” the jury said. “This deliberate and considered design allows for public and private space, generous walking tracks and, most gratifyingly, gardens producing edible crops.” 

Nicola Catherwood, Associate from Warren and Mahoney Architects discusses the design concept for this award winning project, the decision to use a custom split version of Firth’s Devonstone Brick in Premium White, and the question ‘how can retirement living connect to the community taking into account the current disconnection or lack of belonging which happens when people retire? 

The concept 
“When we were approached to create a concept for the site, Metlifecare wanted to explore a new approach to the design of retirement living, breaking away from the large, interconnecting blocks that have defined retirement villages to date. We undertook a series of early conceptual massing studies, and played with various building shapes, heights and forms, in order to create a diverse range of spaces that the residents could enjoy. There has definitely been a shift in what people want and expect in places to live when they retire, and so we wanted to create something that addressed these needs, and we think we have with Gulf Rise.” 
The approved plan for Gulf Rise included 35 single-level, two-bedroom, adjoining ‘villas’, ranging in size from 115m² to 128m², each with a garage and arranged in five blocks along a suburban street pattern. Two apartment blocks are situated behind one of the rows of villas and are the gateway to the village via a corner lobby café at ground level, for use by both the residents and surrounding community. And … there are no fences and gates, just well positioned privacy screens and planting. 

A contemporary, economical choice  
“Bagged brick was initially proposed as the lighter cladding on the villas, however with cost and time constraints on the project, we worked closely with Haydn & Rollett to explore alternatives,” explains Nicola. 
“I had heard through the client, Haydn & Rollett, that they and the architect had been considering a white brick and had looked at clay which wasn't white enough nor did it have the texture they were after,” says Bernice Cumming, Architectural  Consultant for Firth. “Our plant manager at our masonry plant in Whangarei had played around with splitting our Devonstone brick through the face and sent up some samples to see what I thought. I took a Premium White colour to Haydn & Rollett which they in turn took to the architect to consider. It was accepted and we proceeded to manufacture a made to order run and hold stock in Auckland for Greg Church from H&R, the building contractor for the villas, to draw down from.”  
“The advantage of choosing Firth’s Bricks with the split face is that it is a finished brick,” adds Nicola. “Not only did it fit the look and feel of what we were after, it also had added benefits such as not requiring a second trade to do the bagging, reducing the overall time to install. There are also no on going maintenance costs (labour and materials) for Metlifecare.”  

Goal achieved  
“Stage one, and the Firth custom split Devonstone Brick in Premium White finish of the villas, has been well received by both the client and residents who are very happy with the result and look we achieved,” adds Nicola. “You don't see split face brick used very much in contemporary projects, which makes it unique.”   
Talk to Firth today about the various stock, made to order options, colours and finishes available for your next project.

Go to: EM: or Ph: 0800 FIRTH1. 

Customer: Metlifecare – Gulf Rise  
Architect: Warren Mahoney Architects  
Contractor: Haydn Rollett Ltd 
Location: Red Beach, Auckland  
Product: Firth Custom Split Devonstone Brick in Premium White – Split Face finish  
Photography: Jason Mann