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Collaborative Luxury

CoLab Architecture proved itself the superlative choice to design the three luxury homes on the stunning site vacated by historic Parkdale. CoLab Director Tobin Smith designed styles complementary to the outcomes the developers sought for this very distinct niche and, as the name over the door suggests, collaborative work is a specialty.



The Heaton street frontage forms part of the city’s character assessment area.

Tobin wanted to keep the scale of the original homes in the area but not replicate them.

“CoLab is creating a new heritage that we hope will still be celebrated in 100 years’ time,” Tobin says.

“We have a style that is becoming recognisable and you can see it particularly in the rear house with its strong gable forms that are part of the illustrious Christchurch school of architecture. Brick cladding honours the original homestead, it is soft and in keeping with the area.”

Each home is distinct: “Resorting to three identical builds for efficiency’s sake was never contemplated,” Tobin says.

“The site and the community deserved the best in design and construction.”

Each home does however have a generous envelope, with the beautiful stream and surrounds as the focus.

“The art of it was the design and position to maximise privacy and outlook.”

Takahe Construction led on bringing the homes to life.

“They brought a proven track record to the project and there is such strength in collaboration. There was incredibly valuable feedback going back and forth between us as we put the houses together – it creates a learning environment all around,” Tobin says.

“The level of finish achieved in these homes and the quality craftsmanship are second to none.”

Tim Forman of Takahe says, “In partnership with CoLab, the team at Takahe and its subcontractors were driven by quality throughout these builds, with a clear understanding of CoLab’s vision. It’s been a real pleasure to work with such a positive and encouraging team.

“The architecture was challenging and extremely detailed and, by all accounts, an incredible experience to bring this to life. V grooved cathedral ceilings with clean negative details are a real feature that continue throughout the form of the houses,” Tim says.


Spencer Park Surf Life Saving Club building

Architectural life saver: The Spencer Park Surf Life Saving Club is riding a wave of award nominations for CoLab Architecture and Bushnell Builders

Already listed on the Honours Board in the new Spencer Park Surf Life Saving Club building, CoLab Architecture is now harvesting honours for the project in the 2018 Canterbury NZIA awards, currently shortlisted to win the Public Architecture section.

Spencer Park Surf Life Saving Club building

True to its name, CoLab collaborated on design with Aaron Jones of Urban Function Architecture on this authentically community-driven and focussed scheme. The club was built purely with fundraising and donations, with the building industry, the community and the council working together to realise the dream. “It has been a wonderful project and process to be involved with, an extremely successful community project,” says Colab’s Tobin Smith.
Architect Blair Paterson together with Tobin had a unique brief for this building – the location: isolated, the risks: weather, tide and vandalism, the needs: utilitarian, the budget: lean, yet the want was something exceptionally unique. The result is stunning; simple but interesting; elegant but very, very hardy.
The materials are robust and fit the tight budget – which means locally available. The ground floor is concrete block “to account for the fact that the sand dunes are likely to encroach on the site at some point”.
The upper levels are 28mm thick Siberian Larch which can handle the blast of wind-driven sand, and whose colour will dilute into silver over time, blending with the thousand shades of grey evident on so many days in the land of the long white cloud.
The 900 square metre building is actually three wings. The tower contains the control and first aid stations, positioned on the path from the car park to the beach. An external walkway links the next block housing the clubroom and bar plus the replacement Spencerville Community Hall above, with gear storage. Incorporating the hall extends the use of the building from seasonal to year-round. Views and deck are fully glazed east and completely opening to the west. The suite is completed with the third wing hosting changing and bathrooms, offices and gym.
Architect Blair Paterson says, “We would love to be involved in more community projects where we can because while our work is nationwide, Christchurch is our home.”
Bushnell Builders was selected as the main contractor, getting the project across the board with a limited budget through strong buy-in from subcontractors and suppliers. “The construction for this iconic building was a true team effort,” Bushnell Builders Project Manager Brad Austin says.

Spencer Park Surf Life Saving Club building “The generosity of subcontractors and suppliers who supported this project requires special mention.”
Bushnell Builders supported this project both in light of the importance of surf lifesaving in the area and supporting the local community. The company prides itself on delivering projects of a high standard while collaborating with clients, consultants, subcontractors and other stakeholders to ensure projects are a successful and enjoyable process.
The Spencer Park Surf Life Saving Club building demonstrates the success of this approach and Bushnell Builders congratulates CoLab on the 2018 NZIA nomination and for the success of the project. “As the Larch cladding fades, it will blend with the landscape and the views from the building will add to the grandeur of this iconic building,” Brad says.
“The Spencer Park Surf Life Saving Club is a project that we are very proud of and we believe that as a team we have left a great legacy for the club and community.”

Project Partners

  1. CoLab Architecture
    Ph: 03 379 3309
  2. Bushnell Builders
    Ph: 03 344 5972
Dorset Street Townhouses

Talent for townhouse typology: CoLab Architecture and The Dorset Street Townhouses

The Canterbury earthquakes signified a nor’wester-worthy gust of wind to the burnished flame of the ‘Christchurch Style’ of architecture, snuffing out much of that era’s celebrated oeuvre. Fortunately, Tobin Smith and Blair Paterson, of CoLab Architecture are tending the flicker that remains, providing oxygen to the essence of those mid-century ideas and fuelling their evolution to relevance for this century.

Dorset Street Townhouses

The Dorset Street Townhouses are a case in point. Located in an architecturally important area of the city where streets run rib-form from Hagley Park to the city, the three standalone highly-specified townhouses replace a monolithic art deco block of four flats.
The area’s rich grain of townhouse typologies inspired the gable rooves and elegantly dense forms clad in dark vertical and horizontal cedar. Proximity to the wooded acres of Hagley Park made the use of timber an obvious choice, with the radiance of oak flooring and joinery complementing the double height living room indoors and wooden louvres tempering the window expanses outside.
Cutting Edge Kitchens supplied the joinery and Tobin describes the local firm as “totally fantastic”. Jonathan Parsons of Cutting Edge Kitchens says the companies have had a great working relationship since CoLab’s inception. “We love doing CoLab jobs because they provide all the necessary information and the end product always looks amazing.”
All the company’s joinery is custom made and installed by Cutting Edge Kitchens, which understands the look CoLab is going for and recognises the importance of getting the details right. “On any job we’re happy to talk through options and discuss with them available alternatives in style and price,” Jonathan says.

Dorset Street Townhouses Garry Muirson Builders enjoyed shouldering the task of bringing the well-designed but complex project to life. Director Garry Muirson, says that CoLab was great to work with, and this project was fun to do, as it is their first within the ‘four avenues’. “It is rewarding to know that our craftsmanship on this great design will enhance this historic area for years to come.”
Getting materials on site was sometimes challenging for Project Manager Jade Muirson and his team, given the narrow but surprisingly busy streets. However, the effort was more than worth it and they are thrilled with how this high-profile build has turned out.

Dorset Street Townhouses Bringing diversity to design post-earthquake is important to CoLab and the judges have taken note with this project shortlisted in the Canterbury competition of the NZIA Awards: Multi Residential category. CoLab has been an award-winner each year it has entered; not surprising given its ethos of articulation of local characteristics in form, “don’t force an idea if it doesn’t suit an area”.

Project Partners

  1. COLAB
    Ph: 03 379 3309
    Ph: 021 285 1900
    Ph: 027 4346 981