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Details matter in achieving architectural vision: Allfrey + South

Delivery of concept drawings marks an exciting milestone in any architectural project, yet what follows is critical in determining success. As architect Craig South observes, detailing holds the key to fulfilling the potential of inspiring concept design.

Architect Craig South
Craig South


In our practice, it is always a great feeling to share concept designs with our clients and be a part of that excitement when they can start to visualise how their finished house will look and feel.

From their perspective, it may sometimes seem as if our work is all but done at this point.

In fact, this is really only the beginning of another fundamental phase that must be managed well to ensure the design promise is fully realised.

During the next stages, technical documentation needs to be completed to a meticulous standard so the finished product will properly align with the original concept.

Such documentation will help guide the project through to an inspiring conclusion by ensuring, for example, that junctions will line up as expected and cladding will be applied correctly.

Careful detailing will also need to ensure that a building is weathertight and complies with all building code requirements.

As architects, we appreciate that this phase can sometimes feel slow for our clients who are eager to see tangible progress on-site, as it does take some time and most of this technical work is invisible from their end.

However, taking the time to get every detail right at this point will not only save potential heartache later on but will also give peace of mind that the original concept will materialise.

Our approach is thorough and includes modelling the building right down to its foundations to make sure all details are correct.

Once the documentation is completed, there is a detailed handover to the builder followed by ongoing collaboration, with documentation serving as a key communication tool.

We are very conscious of the investment clients make in our service and will do everything we can to ensure the final outcome eventuates in line with expectations.

Of course, once builders and other consultants start coming on board, we become part of a much bigger team.

Maintaining good communication across all aspects of the project as it proceeds is a top priority for us.

We work with others who share our ethos and passion, from builders to structural engineers, with our forward focus never wavering from the original architectural vision.

We continue having conversations with contractors throughout construction and seek to resolve any evolving issues or deviations from the detailed plan.

It is risky not to be involved in this way as poor detailing can have flow-on impacts that may need to be remediated or will degrade the intent of the original concept.

It is not a risk we are willing to take.

Within the overall project budget, the costs associated with achieving a quality process and robust documentation is modest.

We believe the service that architects offer in this area is invaluable.

While it is not as exciting as the concept itself, we do believe details matter and the results are obvious in projects around the city where that approach has been successfully adopted.


Distance no barrier to achieve inspiring architecture

Whether planning a new home in Canterbury or further afield, a consistent quality design process should be achievable. Architect Craig South, of Allfrey + South, suggests distance need not present any impediment to success.


Architect Craig South


Given all the advantages of connectivity in today’s world, overcoming distance to achieve great architecture is a challenge that architects can readily embrace, provided they have the right client-focussed systems and practices in place.

At Allfrey + South, we approach each new project with the same high level of care and attention.

We are committed to ensuring everyone can access our unique style of architecture, regardless of site location.

While we are based in Christchurch, we can design for sites throughout New Zealand.

Wherever the site, the fundamental steps required to achieve inspiring results remain the same.

We do not treat a project involving a distant site any differently than a site close at hand.

In either scenario, site visits are of key importance in order to gain first-hand experience of conditions such as sun and wind exposure, local weather and other factors that could influence design decisions.

Equally important is the need to gain a clear understanding of the client’s priorities and their lifestyle aspirations.

We also try to keep in mind architectural vernacular, as this can sometimes vary quite significantly from region to region.

Not all design work at a distance involves new home projects.

For example, some people may require help to upgrade or update an existing holiday home.

Again, our process involves getting to know and understand what’s on site and spending time with the client to ensure they get the best possible result.

While much can be achieved online or through video-conferencing, we find there is no substitute for meeting with clients in person as they fine-tune their brief.

We would never expect a client to draft a brief from scratch and send it through to us.

We also like to meet directly with clients when presenting design concepts, as we believe the best architecture evolves out of a personalised process.

There are exceptions to the rule but, where possible, regular face-to-face meetings are always a key part of how we work with clients.

If this involves having to take a flight or two to meet with them, then that certainly presents no barrier for us.

It only requires a little flexibility on our part to accommodate a day or two travel out of the office, (and we always make sure to offset our carbon emissions).

Logistics are a big part of the equation for designing at a distance.

We like to seek out good relationships with builders, consultants and local councils at the locations where we will be working to make sure we have a sound appreciation of associated build costs, as well as local planning rules and regulations. Ideally, we also try to source local office space where we can meet with those involved in the project.

Sometimes we work not just with distant sites but also with ‘distant’ clients who live elsewhere in New Zealand or even overseas.

Having robust processes in place, including good communication plans, ensures design work can proceed smoothly, no matter where either site or client is located.