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The B word: South Architects

When planning new home projects, conversations about budget and expectations should start early. Don’t wait until the design is underway, suggests Craig South of South Architects.

Getting ready to build a new home is so exciting, particularly if it is for the first time. As architects, it is incredibly rewarding to work with people setting out on that journey and talking with them about their lifestyle goals and dreams.

The role of architects at this initial stage is to start breathing life into the brief, getting to know the client, along with their site and life aspirations.

Many architects strongly recommend involving either the builder or quantity surveyor early in the process to establish firm build cost expectations.

It can sometimes be difficult having those frank conversations around budget, but it is much better to be clear about all the details and associated costings before work begins on the ground.

A work to budget promise must entail much more than a lip service commitment that everything will be covered. In fact, fulfilling that promise rests on having good, clear communication from the outset around what the budget is, what it includes and what it will deliver. Even a simple misunderstanding about whether fees include GST or not risks having a big impact if no one has ever taken the time to clarify it. Fundamentally, meeting client expectations rests on communication, respect and achieving clarity and understanding right through the process.

From a design perspective, the architect’s number one priority is always to create an inspiring home for their client that fulfils expectations.

Within that, budget parameters play a part in guiding and influencing the size of the home and the complexity of the architecture.

In our experience, the wow factor comes from having beautifully designed spaces which can be achieved within any budget. Playful inspiring design is still very achievable.

As the build progresses, the architect’s ability to make changes to align with a particular budget will gradually diminish.

It underlines the importance of having everyone on the same page from the outset, to minimise any likelihood of the unexpected as the project enters the construction phase. Early decisions on finishing elements will help keep the budget on track through to the end.

Design and construction costs are not the only factors worth weighing up when thinking about budget. Increasingly, people are also starting to consider whole of life costs associated with their plans.

How homes constructed today can have a big impact on long term running costs. More energy efficient designs that include a solar system and high-performance glazing and insulation will be more expensive to build initially but the trade-off will be a home that is cheaper to live in.

Adding to that, of course, are the comfort, well-being and sustainability benefits associated with a well-designed energy efficient home.

Having good discussions right through the whole design and build process remains pivotal to ensuring your new home will deliver the lifestyle you want long term.



Hillside sleek: Smylie Builders

In completing this stunning SDMC Architecture-designed home on Cannon Hill, Smylie Builders have provided a fabulous outcome for the owners, who faced tribulations in getting back onto their much-loved site post-earthquakes.


“Topography dictated the design, and we were involved in the whole process from design to completed build,” says Smylie Builders Creative Director Chelsea Smylie.

“We were able to achieve a seamless build that fitted within our client’s budget.

“The strength was in the partnerships we have between the designers and subtrades.”

The homeowners had a clear vision of the aesthetic and Chelsea was able to work with them on all their interior choices.

The result is sleek featuring dark cladding and kitchen, fused with some elements of fun – a kiwi bach vibe, think retro wallpapers and tiles, splashes of colour, and plywood ceilings with negative details throughout.

Colorsteel cladding and a 22m roof all on one plain enclose a hidden, plywood-lined band room-slash-teenage hangout accessed via a step from the garage, creating a cave-like feeling.
The study is connected to the hub of the house with an internal window above the feature barn track yellow door.

“The building process was highly interesting with the combination of timber retaining walls, concrete retaining walls, suspended concrete floors and suspended timber floors, lots of structural steel and suspended walkways, including drive on deck,” says Managing Director Nick Smylie.

“We were determined to deliver a home that would make this family feel it was all worth it: personalised; and it had to feel like a fresh start.”


An historic birthday

One of Christchurch’s most iconic heritage buildings celebrated a notable achievement recently – its 107th birthday.

The Old Government Building in Cathedral Square has long been an epochal architectural addition to Canterbury’s cityscape. Beginning life, as the name suggests, as home to several government departments when it opened in August 1913, the building has lived several lives in its 107 years.

It was designed by renowned architect Joseph Clarkson Maddison in a grand Italian Renaissance Palazzo style, which was typical for official buildings built in New Zealand in the late Victorian and early Edwardian years. The style was seen to project an impression of authority to signify the power of the state.

Maddison was known for designing many large scale and brickwork buildings in the city, including the original Ballantynes and Carlton buildings, as well as several churches and large industrial factories in wider Canterbury.

The foundation stone of the Old Government Building was laid by then-Prime Minister Sir Joseph G Ward in 1911, who told the gathered crowds they should be proud to have such a building of character “suitable to the importance of the city”.

The building housed various government departments until the 1980s when occupants moved to other newer offices, and the beautiful building fell into serious disrepair.

Public outcry saved it from demolition, and Christchurch City Council purchased the building from the central government for $735,000 in 1991.

It was then on-sold to high profile Auckland-based property developers, Symphony Group, for a profit of over $6 million, and on the condition it was earthquake strengthened.

That condition – completed as part of the building’s conversion into luxury hotel suites under the Heritage Christchurch brand – likely saved the building.

The Heritage Christchurch opened in 1996, and the strengthening works made it one of the only heritage buildings in the CBD still standing after the Canterbury earthquakes.

The building, with much of its historic character preserved, now hosts beautifully appointed self-contained one- and two-bedroom suites, plus, a fully equipped health club with lap pool, sauna and jacuzzi on site. It’s also home to the popular OGB bar, and a barber shop.

Heritage Hotels has secured numerous awards for its stewardship of the building, including Canterbury Heritage Awards in 2010, 2012, 2014 and again in 2018 in the tourism category, as well as several World Luxury Hotel Awards over the last decade.


Storylines in the design journey: South Architects Ltd

Impactful architecture works on so many levels, not just outwardly, but also by making connections with people and places. At the heart of any great design is a compelling story, says Craig South of South Architects.


Being able to tell a story is of fundamental importance to the architectural design process. Doing it well requires responsiveness, patience and a willingness to be open to possibility.

Developing and communicating narratives through design – ultimately expressed as built projects – is both fulfilling and enjoyable.

The process is open and informal, involving architect and client in an evolving two-way journey, each building a deeper understanding of the other.

The architect’s goal is to gain a complete picture of the client, their goals and aspirations, as well as the key features of site and setting.

Effectively, the “story” grows from this into a series of references which then inform a highly personalised design response.

Out of this process, a unifying narrative may emerge to drive the design forward.

It can be inspired by something very simple, like a beautiful natural object or historic artefact, or even a striking geological feature.

A good architect knows how to recognise a good design story when it comes along and will use it to give the home texture and shape, as well as an anchor in the landscape.

In our practice, we often find ourselves designing homes that can achieve a specific connection with the surrounding landscape.

They may point to physical landmarks or frame a spectacular view.


Environmental factors build the narrative further with sun and wind, local weather conditions and topography all feeding into the emerging story line.

Many other threads shape the design story too, such as client preferences around materials and colours, along with functionality, environmental and budgetary considerations.

The end goal is to create inspiring architecture and an unparalleled experience of home for the client.

It is very satisfying to reach the end of a project with the client expressing a sense of real ownership over their new home.

They understand the story behind it, how it all functions and fits together and why their home is so uniquely special to them.

This approach, so very powerful in residential architecture, is doubly useful in commercial architecture, where story telling can form part of the brand message.

A clear narrative behind the design will help ensure delivery of great results, whether a stand out hospitality experience or a strongly functional industrial workspace.

There is a balance to be struck between being too literal in a design story versus taking a more subtle approach.

Success lies in designing for uniqueness, carefully weaving together elements that are important to the client and relevant to site and project purpose.

Architecture is, beyond doubt, highly subjective.

Some buildings are designed for aesthetics alone yet ultimately more satisfying is architecture that carries a story within itself of people, ways of life, of the landscape and the environment.

This, for me, is what makes the design process so exciting.

Our stories are rich and diverse, fuelling creative possibilities and opportunities that can contribute to truly remarkable outcomes.




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 evolution: WSP Architecture

Architecture is the blueprint for a city’s form and function, making it critical to development. So we caught up with WSP Architecture –Christchurch Principal Architect Colin Corsbie FNZIA about the architectural evolution of our city.





What drew you to architecture and what do you love about what you do?
A passion for physically building places and spaces. Each project brings different design challenges and people together. It is a people profession which is constantly changing and evolving, and you learn something new each day.

How is the architectural climate looking right now?
It is difficult to gauge the ongoing impacts from Covid-19. Firms primarily working in the commercial and hospitality sectors will be affected most. Some firms are certainly feeling the pain in the short term and may have to diversify to survive. New Zealanders are very resilient however and part of our “can-do” Kiwi mentality is to look forward and focus on things we can control, not dwell on things we can’t change. I am positive the profession can respond to this latest challenge.

What are some of the main architectural trends you’ve been seeing come through?
The Christchurch Earthquakes have resulted in a new architecture where innovative resilient structures have been created and these structures are being expressed as part of the architectural aesthetic. Covid-19 has already changed the way we work and given us the opportunity to reprioritise our lives. People are more aware of the profound impact our surroundings have on our health and wellbeing, and this will drive new architectural approaches to work and home environments. This unprecedented event has given us the opportunity to pause and reflect on what we are designing and building, another outcome of which will be a more committed focus on sustainable and environmentally responsible design solutions.

Your practice was involved with the St Patrick’s Church in Lincoln. What are some of the other most fulfilling projects your practice been involved with over the past year?
Our design aspiration is to create enduring and human-centric architecture. Our portfolio is very broad, encompassing community and civic projects, churches, schools, tertiary education facilities, projects for central government and local government agencies, commercial buildings and large infrastructure projects. A new Visitor Experience Centre in Stewart Island, the Auckland City Rail Link (CRL) project, Grace Apartments Complex in Auckland, Massey University Innovation Science Centre, Linwood Pool Complex, new Public Amenities for the Kaikoura highway, a new Town Square for Greymouth, the MWRC Commercial Office Building in Palmerston North, and Wellington East Girls High School, demonstrate the varying scale and geographic spread of our projects.

What exciting projects we can look forward to?
We are currently pursuing a number of exciting project opportunities which will help revitalise the towns, cities and regions where they are located. Commercial and political sensitivities prevent me from expanding on these at this point, but a number have already secured funding, including some with Provincial Growth Fund support and will be proceeding in due course.

What does the next 12 months have in store for WSP Christchurch?
We are committed to a number of economic stimulus projects across New Zealand and these will be our primary focus in addition to our business as usual project work. Our practice is extremely busy and has a strong forward workload. Our over-arching design ethos is ‘Creating what matters for future generations’ – and this is what drives our design team.




Exceptional on Jeffreys: Stanton Builders

Lockdown might have put pressure on timelines but nothing can dim the enthusiasm and experience of local home construction experts Stanton Builders.



Director Brent Stanton and his team are enjoying the challenge of bringing a current project in Jeffreys Road back on track after the enforced break.

“Every successful project is a collaboration of the designer, my staff and I, and subtrades and it’s always about quality work, no exceptions,” Brent says.

Designed by Keith Ussher Architecture, Brent’s focus on teamwork is the key to bringing the four bedroom two ensuite home to completion in time for its original handover date in November.

Clad in Rockcote Integra Panel and Vertical Cedar with tray roofing, Brent’s favourite feature of the home is the Hard As Rock feature stone wall.

“It’s massive and it looks fantastic.”

Specialising in architectural homes and restaurant fitouts (a recent favourite project is the interior of Chiwahwah Mexican Cantina Bar), the plan is to continue with more of the same type of work although Stanton Builders is very happy to work in the first-home side of the building market too.

“We love the challenge of bringing our quality work to the more cost-conscious homes as well, and we can do this because we are a small company, very flexible and the onsite team comprises of very experienced individuals


Beachside Modernism: HMO Architects x Owens Building

Thoughtful and flexible additions to a 1950s mid-century home in Sumner, originally designed by architect Paul Pascoe, have earned Duval O’Neill and his team at Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects a place on the shortlist of the New Zealand Institute of Architects’ 2020 Regional Awards.




Understanding the eminence of Paul Pascoe (himself an NZIA Gold Medallist) in mid-century New Zealand architecture, the home owners knew they needed to find an exceptional architect who understood and appreciated modernist properties.

Hearing that Duval had his own mid-century home, they realised they wouldn’t do better and the finished property reflects the empathy of its designer with the principles of the modernist movement.

The small three-bedroom, one-bathroom house is now transformed into a much larger four-bedroom with ensuite and a new laundry, as well as a second living room that can double as a sleeping area.

The bedroom addition frames a new sheltered internal courtyard while also acting as the end point for the gallery link and a portal to the contained garden.

Central to Duval’s design concept is the rationalisation of circulation and entrance areas, retaining the long garden view as well as repeating the roofline and choosing materials which respected the essence of the original Pascoe design.

The addition features the same cedar boards, copper nails, door handles, recycled rimu flooring, window frames, eaves, interior and exterior colours, and overall proportions.

The HMOA team has ensured a clear division between adult space and the children’s bedrooms and play areas.

Owens Building partnered with HMOA on this special project and Director David Owens enjoyed both the clients’ and Duval’s commitment to the original architecture of the home.

Owens Building places a premium on integrity, ensuring every project represents its commitment to excellence.

“Our delivery style and our relationships with clients and designers is of utmost importance to us, and often leads to great friendships forming,” David says.

“Also, as enthusiasts of mid-century architecture ourselves, it was a joy to be part of the project team,” David says.

Owens Building relocated to Wanaka in 2016 and has since become involved in a number of projects involving passive house principles.

David and family are soon to move into a newly constructed home which incorporates these principles and elements of mid-century design, so offering the best of both worlds.


The architecture of transportation hubs: WSP Architecture

It’s never been so important to attract and entertain visitors in our New Zealand towns and cities.

By Matt Sloper, Architect at WSP Architecture

A common problem faced by visitors and locals alike is access to transportation infrastructure.

Nationwide, councils are now looking to explore infrastructure developments designed to transform town centres, eliminating congestion issues, improving accessibility, providing new public amenity spaces and enhancing the visitor experience.

The key design driver for a transportation hub is a strong urban focus, resulting in high quality solutions that sit sympathetically within the urban context, address the surrounding street frontages, are inviting and safe, allow easy permeability through the site, provide added community amenity, and are well integrated with the surrounding neighbourhood.

Where natural beauty surrounds the sites; an appropriate design response is for the built insertions to be complementary with, but subservient to, the broader natural environment.

Texture, light, shade, materiality and colour are carefully considered to give the exteriors a sculptural quality, and one which adds interest whilst also reducing the overall visual impact.

These hubs service mixed transportation modes, including built-in capacity to accommodate greater numbers of electric vehicles in future.

Transportation hubs should embody connections with local culture and history, creating a distinctly local flavour that speaks of its place and reinforces the destination’s reputation as a meeting place and social and economic centre.

Although responding to a pragmatic functional need they make a positive contribution to the character and quality of New Zealand towns and cities for all to enjoy.


Powerful on Park Terrace: PRau x H+M Builders

A special setting deserves a striking design, and that is what Phil Redmond Architecture and Urbanism (PRau) has created for the historic site on Park Terrace overlooking Hagley Park.



A regional finalist for the NZIA competition, Phil and his team were given plenty of scope, with the client brief simply specifying three bedrooms and a double garage.

The completed home lands on the line between inventive but familiar, drawing as it does on the traditional clean gable form of residential Christchurch and meshing it with historic industrial brick warehouse form.

The black bricks are laid in Flemish bond, full length then end length, with some end length bricks proud of the surface which adds texture and plays with shadow and light.

While the exterior is dark, simple and clean, the interior features the softness of blonde wood.

Of many surprising and sleek features, Phil’s favourite are the solid steel heavy windows.

“They are so dark during the day, but at night, lit from within the scene shifts and the house becomes light and sculptural.”

The dormer windows frame considered views, engaging with Hagley Park and generating a secluded connection.

H+M Builders gave this very special design its final form.

Directors Hamish Inch and Matt Stephens are passionate about bespoke architecture and Matt says, “working with Phil was a breeze from the outset. Phil’s attention to detail and vision made our interactions with the clients very simple”.

Phil says, “PRau and H+M Builders share a focus – we create pieces of timeless architecture that people will enjoy. Hamish and Matt have brought a house together that this family, and admirers, will enjoy for years to come.”

A favourite element for Hamish and Matt was fashioning the intricate detailing, a process that left zero tolerance for error.

The interior finish that features pre-finished hot-rolled steel panelling is a highlight, as are the concealed pivot doors, enclosed by the dormer-laden tray roof.

“We’ve loved working with quality products and turning a set of plans into a physical structure, and of course having our clients see their dream take shape,” Matt says.