The house that Jack built

Jack Zhang’s scholarship-winning “anti-gravity” house

It all started with the leaves of the cypress plant. The twisting branches of the Bonsai tree offered form. And the Tensegrity sculpture, a kind of optical illusion that seems to defy gravity itself, was the final element in Cambridge High School student Jack Zhang’s NCEA scholarship-winning architectural design.

It’s this kind of visual progression — from a simple natural form to a functional building — that NCEA scholarships in DVC (Design and Visual Communication) demand, according to Nick Bowskill, Zhang’s teacher last year.

Zhang has scored the highest scholarship mark in New Zealand for DVC — a first-time achievement for CHS when it was awarded this January — with his design for an “anti-gravity” house situated on the banks of Lake Karapiro.

“It’s once in a lifetime really,” Bowskill, one of the school’s resident DVC teachers, said. “You don’t get scholarship DVC, ever.”

Zhang saw a Tensegrity sculpture — in which a piece of wood appears to levitate in space above another — online once, and it captivated him. “It looked like it was floating in air — and I was amazed by the physics of this — the illusion,” Zhang said.

And so, when it came to creating a design for his DVC scholarship application, Zhang turned back to the Tensegrity concept, and set his mind to designing a house that would appear to levitate above the Lake Karapiro shore.

Natural forms like the cypress and the bonsai factored in: “I took the leaves of the cypress plant and extracted the basic shapes and rearranged and combined them to form my architecture piece,” Zhang said.

“It’s all about the visual story,” Bowskill explains. “About telling that design story, from the leaves to the final building.”

The portfolio Zhang submitted to NCEA tells this entire story, from quick sketches to final computer renders, taking spatial flow, materials, engineering concepts and light all into consideration.

Bowskill is full of admiration for Zhang’s skill with a pencil. “He’s developed his own sketching style. It’s expressive and emotive. Really quite original,” he said.

Over his four years at Cambridge High School, Zhang, an international student, quickly found his niche in DVC. “When I came here I was year eleven, and I didn’t know what architecture was … I took engineering, it wasn’t the one I wanted, I took art, it wasn’t the one I wanted, and then I found DVC — and I thought “That’s my stuff.”

This year, Zhang is looking to head to university overseas, with his heart set on studying architecture.

And he’ll have this extraordinary scholarship result under his belt — as Bowskill said: “To get scholarship, [the design] has to be out of the box, it has to be like — whaaaat?”

“Just like, of course, Jack’s ‘anti-gravity’ house.”

More Recent News

Māori ward reviews commence

District councils across the region are reviewing their Māori ward policy in the wake of last week’s abolition of the power of veto by voters. Legislation pushed by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta places the…

Te Awamutu-born writer to talk crime writing and gangsters

Te Awamutu-born author Scott Bainbridge is the first of several authors lined up to give public talks during Waipā District Libraries’ Author Month. Scott will talk about his books and some of his upcoming projects…

Covid briefing: Fun run canned

There will be no fun running and, some houses won’t be crowded for a few weeks. Saturday’s announcement of a ramping up of Covid alert levels has resulted in the annual Waipā fun run in…

Vaccine program starts in Waikato

The rollout of Waikato’s vaccination program continues. It began Thursday 25 when 28 Waikato District Health Board vaccinators received the first of two doses at the dedicated Covid-19 vaccination centre. The following day at the…