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Aro Hā Retreat

Tennent Brown Architects

Shared By

Symone Garvett

Project Name

Aro Hā Retreat

Project Status


Year Completed



20,925 sq. feet


  • Hugh Tennent
  • Ewan Brown
  • Sharon Jansen
  • Brenda Solon
  • Maurice Pipson
  • Trent Isaac
  • Thomas Sheridan
  • Hannah France


  • Structural Engineer: Dunning Thornton
  • Other: Holmes Fire
  • Other: eCubed
  • Other: Marshall Day Acoustics
  • Civil Engineer: Airey Consultants Ltd
  • Other: Darby Partners
  • Construction Manager: Edge Construction
  • Other: Triple Star

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Project Description


Aro Hā Wellness Retreat is a yoga and wilderness retreat at the head of Lake Wakatipu with a vision to create a community space that fosters the connection between nature, wellness and humanities and the need for transition to a regenerative existence.

The brief called for a 16-32 bed yoga and well-being retreat with a spa and an associated residential community for staff, all founded on permaculture principles and capable of functioning off grid for periods of time. The site is on elevated schist foothills of the Richardson range near Glenorchy in the South Island of New Zealand, overlooking the lake and Greenstone Valley.

The central siting concept for the design of the retreat is that of a necklace of buildings laid out on a path. This path reflects the journey, which Aro Hā seeks to support for the guests; the provision of a transition space to enable personal growth and well being.

In response to the brief, the architectural language developed for the project draws from the natural environment. The forms are sculpted and are typically mono-pitched, with a singular weathered gray coloring to roof and walls. It is reflective of rock outcrops and blends into the natural environment. Local stone building elements are used sparingly and as anchors to otherwise timber-clad forms. The windows on the sunny faces are typically recessed into the building form in niches, to provide shading in lieu of overhanging eaves and provide measured solar gain for the passive house construction.

The community building captures the sun with attached triangulated food production structures for citrus and glasshouse kitchen gardens. This provides guests an education in permaculture principles. The sacred space and culmination of the ‘path’ is the Aro Hā Room, which has a billowed acoustic timber ceiling and timbered surfaces overlooking the empty surface of the lake and Greenstone Valley. This room is designed as a reflective space for yoga, meditation, teachings and gatherings.

Aro Hā aims for self-sufficiency: to be able to operate without connection to the grid, and with maximum on-site food production. Almost every conceivable energy generation system is employed: solar thermal and wood boiler, all interconnected with a district heating scheme from thermal vessels, ground and roof based PV arrays, and micro-hydro generating into a large battery store. Food production is integrated into the architecture with solar capturing greenhouses and winter gardens for extending the growing seasons.
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