Great design doesn’t have to stand out and be different – and that can certainly be the case when it comes to master planning a new community, where many of the best examples look and feel ‘normal’, blending seamlessly into their natural surroundings, treading softly on the landscape, and enhancing the quality of life of their inhabitants.
Veros Property’s Sean Haynes, Senior Development Manager for Wooing Tree Estate says “master planning is as much an art is it is a skill, requiring a delicate blend of design, technical expertise, meticulous detailing, respect for the land and, most importantly, local knowledge and experience.”
One of the country’s best practitioners is Queenstown-based Paddy Baxter, from Baxter Design. So when it came to selecting a master planner and landscape architect for the new Wooing Tree Vineyard Estate, there was little hesitation in asking Paddy to join the team. “From the word go, Paddy and his team have understood our vision and have really jumped on board in bringing it to life.”
Baxter runs a specialist design team from his offices in central Queenstown and currently has 40-50 projects on the go, ranging from substantial residential gardens for private homes and lodges, through to large-scale commercial and urban design, with several projects in geographically sensitive areas, such as the Fiordland National Park, Manapouri, and the Mackenzie Country.
Born and bred on a South Island farm, Baxter began his career 30 years ago at one of New Zealand’s leading environmental planning and design consultancies, Boffa Miskell, working alongside renowned golf-course architect and resort planner, John Darby. He has since gone on to master planning and establishing the design language for most of large residential developments in the Wakitipu Basin – Millbrook being one of the largest and most well known, but also its exclusive neighbour, Bendemeer, home to some of the region’s most spectacular homes. “Paddy’s ability to identify with Central Otago in everything from material palettes to landscape species made him a natural fit for the team” says Haynes.
“With all our projects, we try to give them a sense of place by acknowledging and respecting the local vernacular – from the landscape through to architecture and culture. We don’t have a formulaic, cookie-cutter approach to our work.”
” Each project is individually crafted to give it a particular sense of pride of place, emphasising and celebrating its location, natural features and history. This site-specific design response carries through to all aspects of the project, in every detail.”
Baxter says that with every new project, there is always pressure to create something unique. However, with the Wooing Tree Vineyard Estate, he acknowledges there is an extra responsibility to deliver something truly exceptional for the Cromwell region.
“As you come down from Christchurch or up from Dunedin and cross the bridge into Cromwell, this new development will be the first thing that greets you. It is the gateway to Cromwell, and Cromwell is Central Otago – it’s at its centre,” he says. “You’ve got Queenstown to the west, Alexandra to the south, and Wanaka to the north. It’s at the crossroads and, in the very near future, I think you’ll begin to see Cromwell play a pivotal role as centre of Central Otago. As such, there is a real pressure to create something special here.”
But not just the roads that lead to Cromwell. With plans already well underway to extend existing cycleways from Clyde (Otago Rail Trail), Queenstown (along the Gibbston Valley), and even down from Wanaka, Cromwell is set to become the capital of biking trail tourism in the region. “We’re working hard to integrate the cycle trail through Wooing Tree Estate and provide direct access for our residents to this fantastic regional facility” says Haynes.
Currently, Cromwell enjoys an uninterrupted view out over the Wooing Tree’s grapevines, across Lake Dunstan and up to the hills in the distance. Baxter doesn’t want to spoil and intends to protect those view shafts.
The vines are an integral part of the Wooing Tree story and a major component and consideration for future development of the site. As such, Baxter’s intent is to keep a substantial fringe of vines that wrap around the entire south and west borders of the Wooing Tree site, cloaking it in a soft green shroud creating a truly unique point of difference. The vines are not only a nod to the award-winning winery from which the new development takes its name, but also reference the nearby Bannockburn and Bendigo wine regions, home to some of Central’s top labels.
“We’re really excited about enhancing the Wooing Tree wine brand in concert with the development of Wooing Tree Estate” says Haynes. “Wooing Tree wine is synonymous with Central Otago and we’re looking forward to creating a new cellar door and supporting boutique commercial precinct that complement the brand and Cromwell’s wine experience”.
Baxter says “Having a framework of viticulture at a scale where it still plays a part in the urban design, but doesn’t overwhelm it, is important to this development; that, combined with architectural forms that take the shape of a contemporary Central Otago response in the form of traditional gable roofs, avoiding hip roofs and that brick-and-tile approaching to building homes.”
To give the new development a sense of identity and continuity – and to keep it from looking like a random suburban mix of housing – Baxter has developed strict design controls that keep the colours, materials and cladding of all the homes to a minimum – local stone, timber and metal – reflecting a rural underlay and respecting the sensitivity of its location. He says that the new residents are welcome to bring their their own architect or designer, with the understanding they must work within this set of design controls.
Last, but not least is the Wooing Tree itself. The way this famous tree is recognised and celebrated by the local community is reflected in the pride of place Baxter has given it in his master plan. “The tree sits at the centre of the design, on a strong view shaft that connects it to the town’s famous ‘giant fruit’ sculpture. There are very strong connections between all the streets and the green spaces, and how they connect with the wider Cromwell community, through walking paths and cycleways. We were very cognisant of this all the way through the design process,” he says.
With design controls in place and most of the structure finalised, Baxter says his master plan is at a very advanced stage, and he’s looking forward to seeing the development taking shape as the first release of sections goes to market.