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Enhancing lives through design: WSP Architecture


At the start of any project, architects and designers must consider an important question; ‘How will the buildings and spaces we design affect people we may ourselves never meet?’

Words Hailey Sinke – Architectural Designer at WSP Architecture

At its most basic level, architecture exists to create the physical spaces in which people live, learn and work. But architecture is more than simply the built outcome; architecture influences our society and communities in a broader sense, and good design has the ability to strengthen connections within our communities, improve our health and wellbeing, inspire and anchor us to our place here in Aotearoa.

In addition to responding to the fundamental needs of clients by designing buildings which provide for their needs of physical space and functionality, as designers we must also consider how built outcomes will affect members of society who will use and frequent these spaces, both now and into the future.

Connecting and consulting with a range of stakeholders is hugely beneficial to final outcomes. Listening to and understanding the nuances of different clients and user groups – be it groups from central and local government agencies, school and community boards, local iwi, or building users such as staff, students or members of the public – positively influences the design process and final outcome.

Exploring innovative ways to bring the needs and ideas of clients and users together allows designers to create meaningful architecture.

Working on a range of community projects of varying scale and complexity, my intent is to create enduring, human-centric architecture for our communities and for future generations to enjoy.

 


 

Architectural winners revealed


The people spoke when the Christchurch Town Hall was mooted for demolition post-quakes, and it was saved. Now, after substantial restoration, the judges of the Canterbury Architectural Awards have also spoken – and the heritage building has been crowned an architectural winner.

 

 

The public building, built in 1972, took out one of two awards in the Heritage category of the annual awards run by Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Judges celebrated the remediation work by Warren and Mahoney Architects, which preserved the building’s Brutalist design and reflection of post-war austerity with the use of reinforced concrete.

Alongside remedial works, the architects identified several new elements to increase the value and amenity of the building without lessening its integrity, including a new 1500m2 block for the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

There were 25 winners across 11 categories of the awards, which highlighted the diversity of Canterbury’s architectural offerings.

From large public-use buildings like the Town Hall and Ashburton’s Bathroom Pavillion (Architype), to Tekapo’s Dark Sky (Sheppard & Rout), CBD The Welder precinct (Three Sixty Architecture) and residential projects like the stunning Chippendale House in Charteris Bay (Stephenson and Turner), Riverside House (Three Sixty Architecture) and Wrightmann House (Athfield Architects).

 

A complete list of winners can be viewed online www.nzia.co.nz.


 

Designing for change: South Architects


Is it possible to design a family home today that will stay in synch with changing needs through future years? Craig South, of South Architects, believes it can be done provided evolving family dynamics are carefully considered in the design process.

 

 

Moving somewhere new every time life changes is not a universal practice around the world and, as our households become more diverse, attitudes are changing here too.

Inter-generational living is becoming more common and influencing home design preferences.

I believe the trend could be towards long term strategic thinking that involves very careful selection of a location and an environment that will have enduring value, coupled with future-focussed design objectives.

Of course, homes should always be designed to allow for planned growth and change so that it can continue to provide value into the future, rather than just current demands.

In fact, we see this evolutionary process happen within our own practice as homes we have designed adapt to meet changes in family dynamics, as the years go by.

Today the concept is moving a step further with designs that effectively combine two homes under one roof.

One such project we have been working on with a client involves designing a house with a self-contained wing, well-connected to the main home and with its own views as well as internal and external amenities.

The goal is to provide a quality lifestyle for extended family with the clients’ parents living in the connected wing.

In another future scenario as families evolve, the self-contained space could be used by older children.

Or the clients could eventually live there themselves, with the next generation in the main home.

The real value of the design is how it supports the concept of an extended family living well together, with privacy and independence in balance.

A desire to add separate yet linked accommodation spaces to the main home is certainly emerging as a design preference in this ‘house for life’ movement.

We can also see a growing taste for smaller bedrooms and more living spaces.

It’s my view that dormitory-style bedrooms could catch on, it works well for families with the extra space used to create a separate living room to socialise with friends.

The key to having a successful inter-generational home is to ensure there is good communication, good planning and having the courage to make design decisions that may seem unexpected in the present context, but will make perfect sense in the future as the family grows and evolves.

As architects, we must consider our clients’ personalities and preferences in order to create enduring bespoke designs that will suit their way of life, not just today but well into the future.


 

Architect’s own home entices: Sheppard and Rout


An architect’s owned-designed home becomes an expression of their beliefs and ideals, and this is especially true of the new home of Tim Dagg, Architect at Sheppard and Rout.

 

 

Tim and his family lived on site previously and, for Tim, the context of the site and orientation of the home are always key to the design.

This held true for his own build: the existing north-facing landscape with its mature native plantings, seated terrace and swimming pool have been retained.

With a school and railway line as neighbours, there is no danger of being built out, so Tim designed the entire north end of the house in glass to bring the gorgeous outlook inside.

Materials are low maintenance in natural and neutral hues.

The interior features polished concrete floors, a natural timber feature wall and a balustrade in natural mild steel. Black rubber covers the stair treads, with living room walls and ceiling lined with birch veneer.

Roof and exterior walls are clad in coloursteel, with some easy access areas in stretcher bond brick and in a light stained cedar.

“Our roofer was awarded Roofer of the Year at the Coloursteel Roofing Awards. The job required discussion between the foreman and me and the roofer, and his workmanship and expertise has produced an outstanding result.”

The glass wall is protected by a 1.5m roof overhang to reduce solar gain.

All downstairs doors and windows open fully, while skylights upstairs cross vent and naturally cool. “Energy efficient design is vital in a successful home,” Tim says.


 

Nestled into the hillside: Hofmans Architect x MWH Construction


The seemingly unsolvable challenges of adjacent sites were the ultimate inspiration for NZIA shortlisted Hofmans Architects, when designing these two striking homes in their home village of Arrowtown.

 

 

Suitable for a family of five, each home makes the best of the uplifting views and embodies spatially efficient floor areas, while making a virtue of the site restraints.

The finished homes are not simply a visually pleasing counterpoint to an iconic landscape, but express virtuosity in design as well. The very steep slope has a no-build line as the top two-thirds of the site, a schist seam running through the middle of the site and a tight five metre maximum height plane.

These factors demanded an efficient design set within the lower portion of both sites.

The usual 4m separation was successfully reduced to 2m, which allowed the houses to sit independently of each other whilst increasing the buildable area.

By tilting the side wall and dropping the roof pitch of one property, this allowed the other to achieve good winter sun.

“We are always inspired by our local environment and like to use natural materials that sit well in our surroundings,” Director Maarten Hofmans says.

“The Chinese miners were masters in using local materials that came to hand and creating shelter in an efficient as possible form – something that we have drawn inspiration from. We strive to achieve simple and easily understood solutions. These homes are two simple sculpted shaped forms that nestle into the hillside.”

Corten clads the firewood storage walls and folded cedar wraps the forms, while pushed in recesses define the entry points.

MWH Construction brought the designs to reality and Maarten says, “It was a pleasure to work with MWH, their enthusiasm for a well-executed product always makes us happy as Architects”.

Director of MWH, Myles Herschell says, “the aesthetic of this project was a real drawcard for our team – the houses resemble folded cedar origami. Also, the opportunity to work with Hofmans Architects: their creativity, receptiveness to change and solutions is always a pleasure.”

The philosophy at MWH is to push boundaries, reinterpret styles and challenge notions of what construction can be. Transparency, adaptability, teamwork plus Myles’ own design degree enable MWH to work at the boundaries of architectural inspiration.

 


 

Exceptional on the estuary: MCAS x Ethos Homes


International award-winning architect, Max Capocaccia of MCAS understands that buildings shape us as much as we shape them.

 

Max’s aesthetic results in buildings that not only generate emotion, but perform as the healthiest environment possible for those who dwell in them.

His Rockinghorse Road project encapsulates this holistic approach: attention to detail has produced a home that performs to a very high standard, is energy efficient and does not require heating during winter.

An enhanced timber frame utilises thicker timber and an airtight membrane with interior service cavities to reduce thermal bridging and achieve airtightness and provide well above standard thermal performance and triple-glazed windows are a feature.

Clad in a combination of macrocarpa vertical timber board, and batten and shiplap profile, the three distinct volumes within the home are simple in their shapes, but the subtle complexity of Max’s design means the house marries with its natural setting at sea level on the estuary.

“The main idea was to minimise the visual scale of the building through fragmenting mass,” Max says.

The flood prone situation next to the estuary needed a solution and Max responded to the challenge by creating a small hill as a base for the second volume, with each volume connected by a bridge, smaller in scale, this volume includes the entrance.

“I love the way the three volumes relate to each other, it is a real accomplishment of creativity meeting context,” Max says.

Peter Bielski Managing Director of Ethos homes built the house.

“He was thorough the whole way and communication was clear – it was good to talk through issues on site,” Max adds.

Peter says, “working with Max was a good fit: his design was stunning and building high-performance homes is our forté”.

Ethos Homes was born of a desire to bring Peter’s experience of German high-performance homes to the market.

“Healthy, sustainable homes enhance the lives of those that live in them,” Peter says.

Recognised as Certified Passive House experts in Canterbury, all Ethos projects are blower door tested for airtightness.

“We are passionate that every build provides the best in energy efficiency, health, comfort, and sustainability,” Peter says. “I put my integrity on the line for every home we build.”


 

Captivating retreat: Tim Nees


A hidden Banks Peninsula retreat captured the judges’ eyes at the New Zealand Institute of Architects Canterbury Awards 2020.

 

EDDIE SIMON PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Architect Tim Nees has fronted New Work Studio for more than two decades and his latest project sits among 35 shortlisted for the Canterbury Awards.

The stunning design is one of 13 represented in the Housing category.

While Tim’s clients were ensconced in their 135m dream home, judges had to forgo the usual onsite visits to projects, due to Covid-19 restraints.

Instead Tim was interviewed by phone to paint parts of the picture that photos could not express.

“Nothing beats being there – seeing, smelling, touching,” Tim says.

“These aspects are the essence of a home. However, judges used photos and plans to get a sense of the experience of the home.”

Tim recognised this achievement was a collaborative effort with his clients, and Huntley Quinn Construction.

“Huntley was a good, solid communicator and great solution finder.”

The house is named Houhere, aka Lacewood, after a native tree common to the area.

Construction used little steel and concrete, and instead the sustainable build incorporated nature – macrocarpa, Douglas fir, purpleheart and larch.

Solar power, two water tanks, a generator, and gas heating was integral to the design – off-grid living is at this home’s heart and reason.


 

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.


 

Secluded Beauty


An iconic build, which also blends naturally into the secluded Banks Peninsula site, was the creative challenge presented to award-winning Architect Tim Nees.

 

 

“The brief was for an informal weekend retreat, to eventually become their retirement home,” he says.

“It was designed not only for the look, but to take advantage of water views and hillside vistas on each side, while letting in light and breezes.”

Self-sustaining and completely off the grid, with two water-collection tanks, the surrounding four hectares was once part of an old farm.

“It has been left by the clients to ‘re-wild’ itself,” says Tim, who recently designed his own unique seaside escape.

“The clients were really happy, saying it was like a work of art – and beyond beautiful! It almost feels like an architectural tramping hut to me.”

The saw-tooth roof, painted heritage red, has its highest points facing the east to catch the morning sun.

Two bedrooms on either end and a cosy nook up a few steps surround the open-plan high-stud living areas.

 

A purposeful mix of non-treated timber features throughout the 172 square metre interior including exposed beams of macrocarpa and Douglas fir, a well-oiled plywood floor and walls lined with birch plywood.

A solid-timber kitchen bench top was sourced by the clients. The deck of purple heart, like the larch cladding, was left to silver over time.

Huntley Quinn was our builder,” Tim says.

“He was exceptional at thinking through the challenging strategy of working in a remote location, and very organised and honest. The communication was great, which was very important.”

The award-winning construction firm hired a bach about 15 minutes away, where his crew of six stay during the week.

As a second-generation builder and Project Manager for 29 years, Huntley also spent a day or two each week on the tools.

Completed last year, Huntley says it was quite a technical build with a lot of joinery, complex roof and an elevated subfloor.

“Logistically it was a challenge, but enjoyable and rewarding – especially with building through all four seasons, from scorching heat to snow.

We achieved the right balance of design to budget through a very close collaboration between architect, builder and client.”

 


 

Is affordable architecture an oxymoron?

Is affordable architecture an oxymoron?


I don’t come across many clients (actually none), who have an unlimited budget. When to even build a stock standard house will extend the reach of many New Zealanders, it leads us to carefully consider where we are putting our money and question the default settings on architectural design.

 

Is affordable architecture an oxymoron?

Do you build three double bedrooms, a double garage, walk in robes, ensuites and sculleries to protect resale value when there is now just the two of you at home? Do the kids get a double room and bathroom each? If we follow the contemporary patterns, the house size is large and the goals start to become unattainable and can rob you of the opportunity for a bit of architectural excitement.

A good architectural designer will sensitively record and follow your brief. And that is just it; it is your brief. You have the most power at that early stage to influence the project and cost by what you ask for. With this in mind I challenge my clients to really prioritise their wish list. If it is a well written brief, it will beautifully reflect their desired day to day lifestyle rather than prescribe a number and size of rooms.

Describing a lifestyle leaves room for creativity. If you get it right, that covered outdoor living area where you actually want to spend most of your time living, won’t be cut in the cost savings because it has a higher value than a walk-in wardrobe.

 

Ben Brady
Linetype Architectural Director & Designer   Ben Brady