Taylors Mistake Home

With a concept to support simple and flexible living, the design for this house, perched on a ledge above Taylors Mistake Bay has evolved into a collection of elegant objects. These three vessels are grouped artfully together to create an afternoon courtyard that maximise beach views and sun. Construction will commence in early 2016.

What if… buying a house became more affordable?

  • What if housing was more affordable?
  • What if housing solutions were more achievable?
  • What if architects and engineers could contribute creatively to the supply of housing, and at the same time, improve the environment?
The affordability of housing has featured in news headlines consistently throughout the year. But, despite the high media profile, few satisfactory answers have been offered and the dream of owning a home has, for many New Zealanders, been pushed further and further beyond reach.

But is owning a single family unit on a single piece of land the appropriate goal for all New Zealanders to aspire to at this point in the 21st century? Is this crisis really an opportunity to rethink the nation’s goals not just in terms of housing but in terms of all the environmental and social factors that are present alongside housing? With an unprecedented demand to develop new homes in the Auckland region, and the complex housing requirements of Christchurch’s rebuild, surely this point in time can be seen as not a crisis but a strategic opportunity for New Zealanders to address the way we design, build and invest in houses.

As part of my role as Architect in Residence, Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering at the University of Canterbury I presented a lecture in September 2015 examining the crisis as portrayed in the media and investigated ways architects have responded to this urgent need, drawing on local and overseas examples.

Winners of the 2015 NZIA Local Awards for Canterbury


Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 NZIA Local Awards for Canterbury, announced on Thursday night, 21 May, in Christchurch.

I was joined on the jury for the awards by Wellington architect Stuart Gardyne, Christchurch architects Justin Leadbetter and Maria Chen, and Christchurch engineer Helen Trappitt.

One thing that struck us was the number of projects that had been initiated prior to the earthquakes. Architects in Christchurch have been challenged. For them, as for many people trying to make things happen in Canterbury, opportunity has been partnered with frustration. They have had to re-imagine their work while negotiating significantly changed conditions and navigating a quite different course to completion. To develop a design and see it through such altered circumstances and still produce a meaningful building takes skill, patience and perseverance. The Architecture Awards celebrate the architects, their clients and collaborators in Canterbury who have excelled under these conditions.

Some of our comments on the winners:

The architect’s laudable approach to heritage architecture [of the Isaac Theatre Royal] is both respectful and skilful in its intervention. Many key heritage features of the existing building have been painstaking restored. Structural strengthening was concealed with precision. The seating circle was given a new pitch, providing a better viewing angle, while contemporary additions have been designed with clarity and functionality. The heritage value of this project is priceless and its undeniable charming presence in the city will be enjoyed by generations to come.

The Christchurch Botanic Garden Visitors Centre is a thoroughly contemporary building that strongly connects with the typology of traditional garden glasshouse buildings. The structure’s long form is an almost ethereal presence within the greenery of the gardens. Appropriately, botanic themes inform elements. The result is a thoroughly integrated work of architecture.

Hagley Oval is a striking new international cricket venue for Christchurch. The building unashamedly draws on precedent. The tensile roof membrane sports structure is a form instantly recognisable as a cricket venue. What gives the type credence here is the straightforward yet graceful handling of materials and details, giving the structure an expressive profile and a luminous interior.

The list of winners:

Commercial buildings
Three35,  Addington (Jasmax)
177 Victoria Street  (MAP)
Stranges and Glendenning Hill buildings, (Sheppard & Rout)
Young Hunter House (Sheppard & Rout)
Lyttelton Studio Retreat (Bull Osullivan Architecture)

Christchurch Eye Surgery Clinic (Wilson & Hill Architects)
Whareora, CPIT (Athfield Architects)
Kidsfirst, Diamond Harbour (Opus Architecture)
Te Kete Ika, Lincoln University, (Sheppard & Rout)
Munro House (1968) (Warren and Mahoney)
Knox Presbyterian Church Rebuild (Wilkie + Bruce Architects)
Merivale Retail (Thom Craig Architects)

Public buildings
Isaac Theatre Royal (Warren and Mahoney)
Hagley Oval Pavilion (Athfield Architects)
Christchurch Botanic Garden Visitors Centre (Patterson Associates)
Matariki, Canterbury University (Warren and Mahoney)
Secondary Data Centre, Canterbury University (Warren and Mahoney)
Ruataniwha Civic Centre, Kaiapoi (Warren and Mahoney)
Lincoln Library and Service Centre (Warren and Mahoney)
Twizel Public Toilets (DLA Architects)
Brooklands Lagoon Public Toilet (Opus Architecture)

Residential buildings
Villa Close (Thom Craig Architects)
Loudon Homestead (Sheppard & Rout)
Cashel Street Townhouses (Athfield Architects)
Warrander Studio, (First Light Studio, Makers of Architecture)

Pictured above: Cashel Street Townhouses by Athfield Architects

See all the winners at the NZIA site »

Work in Progress: Taylor’s Mistake House

Taylors Mistake

A sneak preview. A vessel ‘beached’ on a ledge above Taylor’s Mistake Bay. A twin timber hull, boards cladding both roof and walls. A small interior courtyard. Carefully detailed cabinetry the contents of the vessel. These are some of the ideas contained in this new house at Taylor’s Mistake.

It is a closed-form design, where plan, section and detail use a language of containment. Materials are expressed as wholes, not as parts.


Work in Progress: Kenepuru Cabin

Kenepuru Bach

A conceptual approach opposite to the Taylor’s Mistake House has been used at Kenepuru.

Here a tiny cabin opens out into the landscape. Materials extend past one another and overlap, building up a rich construction language.

The surrounding deck is considerably larger than the cabin itself; bearers, joists, beams and rafters carry out past the walls of the building proper. Individual elements are layered and repeated, each joist, each board given autonomy.

Some 3D renderings of the design.

Kenepuru2        Kenepuru1

Resene Architecture and Design Film Festival 2015

With New Zealand almost into the icy grip of winter it’s also film festival time. This year Resene is working with Rialto Cinemas and Clearly & Co to bring us the fourth Resene Architecture and Design Film Festival.

The movies are divided into four separate spheres: Architectural Perspectives, Design Inspiration, Experiments in Space, and Greenscapes.

My must-see picks for this year are screenings of two Sir Ian Athfield movies: Architect of Dreams directed by Geoffrey Cawthorn and Architect Athfield directed by Sam Neill.

The festival is screening in three New Zealand locations:

Wellington – The Embassy Theatre – 28 May – 10 Jun 2015

Dunedin – Rialto Cinemas Dunedin – 11 Jun – 21 Jun 2015

Christchurch – Academy Gold – 25 Jun – 8 Jul 2015

Download the festival programme here »

Visit the festival website here »




Futuna Lecture Series, 25-29 March 2015

In the latest Futuna Lecture Series, Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena will be giving three public lectures in New Zealand (Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington) this month, speaking about his work and the philosophy that underpins his architectural practice.

Aravena has practiced in Santiago, Chile since 1994. ELEMENTAL, his practice, is a “do-tank” that, in partnership with the Chilean Oil Company COPEC and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, develops housing and infrastructural projects with public interest and social impact. He is internationally admired for his work with ‘incremental’ housing. As well as having a strong social focus, his architecture has been described as essential and rigorous in the way real materials are used. “Exposed concrete, wood, glass, steel, masonry, copper and stone are composed, coupled, and superimposed, achieving aesthetic, functional and formal solutions that are strongly original”. 

The Futuna Series focuses on international architects who have built a strong design reputation in architecture and urbanism. Last year, Niall McLaughlin’s lecture was inspiring. Aravena is bound to lift the bar with material just as topical, especially in his approach to social housing.

Limited tickets available at

Aravena Alejandro Architect Lecture

Ian Athfield

Sir Ian Athfield

Ath’s death a few weeks ago took me by surprise. Although I knew he was unwell, his energy and enthusiasm must’ve masked just how unwell he was. It has taken until now for me to gain some perspective.

I first met Ath when I was fourteen years old, and he has since then been a constant presence in my architectural imagination. He taught me so much, from when I was an after school helper through to becoming a graduate and a practising architect in his office, his influence second only to my Dad’s. The wonderful thing about Ath was his ability to enrich and enliven relationships – his and his architecture’s relationship to the world, to people and places. The emotional power his work contains is a rare thing in contemporary architecture.