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Real lives behind the architecture: Allfrey + South

From the outside, the practice of architecture may seem a little formal. Architect Craig South, of Allfrey + South Architects, says greater openness can change perceptions and promote positive outcomes.



When I first started out in this industry more than 20 years ago, I’m sure I would have thought that creative skills alone held the key to great design. In fact, as I’ve discovered, it invariably evolves out of building good relationships with clients; spending time with them on-site and getting to know their lifestyle and aspirations. You really can’t do that effectively without also sharing something of yourself along the way. Equally, good open communication is fundamental to building a healthy, friendly work environment. Once barriers start coming down between people, the relationships that form are generally very positive and productive.

As barrier busters go, my family’s Newfoundland puppy, Murphy, is proving a real champ. I’ve recently started bringing him into the studio with me. What a great experience it has been for everyone – so far, at least! Studies suggest that pets in the workplace are fantastic at relieving stress and encouraging social interaction. Dogs have been a fixture at Amazon for many years now and I can see why; having Murphy around the office encourages the team to take breaks away from their desks and lifts the overall mood. Of course, he’s a distraction to an extent, but a happy one and I think ultimately, we will all benefit.

I’m impressed at how chilled and relaxed Murphy is, both at home with my three daughters – aged 15, 13 and 10 – and in the studio, his calm nature seems to rub off on everyone that meets him. The plan is to have Murphy in the studio three days a week and, until he’s fully trained, he will spend most of his time hanging out in the office courtyard awaiting cuddles and pats. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can resist his ineffable ‘Newfie’ charm.

He will also be joining us at Allfrey + South’s Open Studio session later this month (29 November). This is an informal opportunity to drop by, ask a few questions and get to know us all a little better. Those with an interest in craft beer might be interested in the ‘brew day’ feature of the afternoon as I experiment with a new batch, and there may be an opportunity to sample some of my other home brew too!

During our Open Studio, you will find all of the Allfrey + South team are happy to share perspectives on architectural trends and innovations, as well as interests outside the office. Our website has been running some interesting stories from staff this year with blogs on a variety of topics from furniture restoration and small apartment living to travel experiences. It has made me appreciate what a diverse group we are, with many different outlooks and hobbies. While we are all employed in the same architecture sphere, we bring a range of experiences and talents to the practice.

All of this feeds back into an exceptional service for our clients, focused on celebrating their uniqueness in turn so as to create truly bespoke homes.

Meanwhile, I’m sure there will be many more updates to come on Murphy, who is still only at the start of his very own journey towards becoming a fully-grown dog! He may be small now, but he may eventually tip the scales at around 70kg!


Architect Craig South
Craig South



Sustainability in architecture: Allfrey + South

With interest growing in sustainable lifestyles, we caught up with architect Craig South of Allfrey + South Architects for his thoughts on the role architecture has to play in the sustainability equation.




Sustainability means different things to different people. As an architect, what does sustainability mean to you?
I think we all have our own ideas on what comprises a sustainable lifestyle. For some people, it has a lot to do with location and wanting to live close to where they work. For others, it may be about choosing a home with a smaller footprint or wanting to install solar panels. In our practice, we listen closely to our clients and are very happy to work with them to achieve their particular goals in this area.

Discussing sustainability in architecture might once have been considered a little unorthodox, but it is now an almost universal aspiration for people to want to live in well-insulated, energy-efficient homes. We live in a world where we have to make more sustainable choices and, as a practice, this is something we consciously and actively accept. We currently have a number of projects underway from alterations to new passive houses that set very high sustainability standards.

Why is sustainable architecture important?
We want to create beautiful architecture that people can enjoy living in, so there’s still a balance that needs to be struck. It would be a mistake to prioritise sustainability above all else but, of course, it makes absolute sense to include sustainability features because these result in warmer, drier, healthier homes that are more fun to live in. Who wouldn’t want that?

Rather than designing to code, we always aim well above that in terms of insulation, ventilation, solar heating and so on. It’s not just us being ‘eco-conscious’. Many of our clients want to go down this route because it makes so much sense. While above code projects may cost more upfront, the benefits are ongoing in terms of delivering power savings and a comfortable way of life. From a re-sale perspective, homes designed for sustainability will also remain more attractive in the long-term and continue to hold their value.

What is Allfrey + South’s approach to sustainability?
It is part of our baseline commitment to our clients and, by setting the bar high, we hope we can help inspire others to follow our lead. Fundamental elements of sustainable architecture include orientation that appropriately considers sun, shade and wind; and having high standards of insulation (including the slab) and ventilation. By ventilation, I don’t necessarily mean mechanical ventilation; good natural ventilation can be achieved through effective window design that promotes air flow and air quality. Recycled materials can come into the sustainability equation too, though often we find it is the heritage value of such materials that are particularly valued.

Fundamentally, we are guided by respect for our clients and will always work to achieve their lifestyle goals. How far we can go down the sustainability road is largely dependent on the conversations we have with them. It is a real pleasure to work with clients who are passionate about sustainability and want to share their journey towards a better way of life with us.


Architect Craig South
Craig South



Opening new doors on city living: Allfrey + South Architects

Buyers seeking a newly built city apartment will find plenty on the market. But what if people want something else, something more connected and affordable? Architect Craig South explores what this ‘something else’ could look like and how it could transform how we live.




I was recently invited to contribute to a New Zealand Institute of Architects’ forum on the subject of emerging trends in city living in Christchurch. As one of the speakers, I was pleased to give a talk on co-housing and the work our practice has been doing in this area for the Peterborough Housing Co-operative. We have been privileged to lead the design of this new pocket neighbourhood over the past three years as the project has evolved. The development includes both private homes and shared facilities, clustered around a large central courtyard.

The co-housing approach is instinctively attractive because it connects with our ideals of wanting to live well in small communities and of wanting to live more simply and more sustainably.

Now more than ever, people really do want greater choice around how they live in the urban environment. Internationally, we are seeing the emergence of a growing array of solutions to answer that consumer trend. For example, ‘Naked Architecture’ offers buyers the ability to buy ‘shell space’ with no pre-imposed layout so that it can then be finished and fitted out to suit personal needs and budget. The idea is that two different potential buyers will likely have two very different sets of lifestyle priorities, so it makes sense to let them decide how they want to configure their own space.

Sparking a lot of interest in Australia right now, too, is the Nightingale model. This is an innovative, architect-led approach to apartment development that seeks to prioritise social, environmental and financial sustainability. With profits capped, projects are crowdfunded through an ethical investment model and transparency around costs and governance – it’s an approach that is proving very popular (each project to date has been completely pre-sold via ballot).

Of course, the reason why models like this resonate so well is they offer more control. Future residents have a say on key design decisions, such as how much car parking to include or whether to have any shared facilities. They call the shots on whether to have a swimming pool or communal barbecue area.

In my view, any kind of shared, multi-residential arrangement could only succeed if all those buying into it were on the same page, sharing a similar vision. As well, there would need to be clear and effective ground rules in place to minimise any potential misunderstandings or conflicts.

Could something like the Nightingale model work in Christchurch? Certainly, I think it offers some exciting potential for those interested in pooling their resources to get the kind of city lifestyle they want within a multi-residential setting.

Having held a number of interactive forums on architecture this year, through our ArchiChat Group sessions, I’m aware that many people would certainly welcome more choice in this area of urban housing development. At our next round of ArchiChat in November, we will be seeking to gauge interest in potentially trialling this approach at a Christchurch site. Whether you are a developer, builder or potential home buyer, we would welcome your input – register at


Architect Craig South
Craig South


Architectural forum attracts positive response: Allfrey + South Architects

Allfrey + South Architects’ initiative ArchiChat is resonating strongly with people who share their passion for design and the architectural process. As Architect Craig South reports, the latest two-way forum sparked constructive discussion on how people like to live and holiday.



Having launched our ArchiChat Group earlier this year, it is exciting to see interest growing in this interactive social forum that we set up for people wanting to learn more about architecture and what architects do.

As well as giving people an opportunity to explore the practice of contemporary architecture, the forum is providing an invaluable vehicle for an informal exchange of thoughts and ideas. It has been a great experience and we’re certainly learning a lot from those taking part.

Our latest series, in early August, was well-attended and generated great feedback. We got the ball rolling at each session by asking people to name their favourite holiday locations. It was interesting how these places so often lined up with a passion, whether for tramping or biking, peace and quiet, or just wanting to be somewhere beautiful with family.

Discussion then turned to what sort of bach people dreamed of and how that might complement their home lifestyle. Some preferred the concept of combining a modest city home with a large bach where they could holiday in style and comfort with friends and family. Others clearly favoured a spacious city home for urban living complemented by the option of being able to escape to a small private bach.



We talked through how each option could look in architectural terms, drawing examples from our own practice. We first outlined how a large holiday house can be designed to accommodate multiple families with all the comforts of home and how this could be combined with compact living in an inner city apartment. Many felt this combination would work best if the holiday home location was not too far from the city, making it easy to invite friends and family out for a weekend away.

Secondly, we showed how a large city home can be designed to maximise easy living for children and adults, as well as catering to extended family/guests. We discussed how this could be complemented by a small bach designed to make best use of space by delivering flexibility, privacy, style and comfort.

A lot of people thought a small, low maintenance bach would be perfect for a more distant getaway. We also touched on how you could combine a small city home with a small bach and designing for one-off crowds in small spaces. Smaller buildings do offer that advantage of less maintenance.

Personal preferences will always influence how people live and play, though most attending our sessions agreed that a bach should look and feel different to day-to-day living so as to create that true sense of escape.

In these latest ArchiChat sessions, there was also lively debate on the Merivale Mall expansion and whether people favoured suburban development over growth in the central city. The consensus favoured a vibrant city centre. Needless to say, we are looking forward to another successful round of ArchiChat later this year and having more people join our conversation on architecture.


Architect Craig South
Craig South


Bringing People Together to Talk Architecture: Allfrey + South Architects

Allfrey + South Architects opened an exciting conversation on architecture with the wider community earlier this year via its new ArchiChat Group. Architect Craig South explains what the open forum is all about and why it is going from strength to strength.



It has been a privilege for us to open our practice this year and welcome those with a passion for design and the architectural process to join our ArchiChat Group get-togethers. Sharing a room with people from all walks of life who are genuinely interested in what we do as architects and how we go about it is really thrilling in many ways.

We first realised there was a place for an interactive social forum on architecture after being approached by a lovely couple, familiar with our work, at an open studio session last year. They were curious about design and asked lots of questions about our projects. It struck us that there could be other people like them who would appreciate being able to meet us informally and talk about architecture. We were not sure what to expect when we launched our first ArchiChat Group session earlier this year. In fact, demand was such that we ended up holding a second evening to cater to everyone who wanted to get involved.

Our next ArchiChat series of meetings will be in the week starting 5 August with the third scheduled for November. While builders, engineers and landscape architects are among those taking part, anyone with an interest in architecture is welcome to register. You don’t need to be an industry expert or someone thinking about building a new home. ArchiChat is primarily a forum to meet and socialise with our architects and other people who share a passion for all things architectural. Our get-togethers, with drinks and nibbles provided, are small, friendly and generally quite noisy with plenty of opportunities to ask questions and chat about matters of interest.


At each session we go through some of our projects, including past and current work. Again, we see this is as very informal, not a lecture. We also encourage discussion regarding newsworthy topics in the world of architecture. For example, a focus of debate at our first ArchiChat sessions was ‘the Tulip’, the controversial new skyscraper planned for London. As we are involved in a local project, we also chatted about the co-housing movement and opened up the floor to explore what people think about this trend.

This month we are inviting people to share their thoughts on whether it is time to rethink the norm of the small bach. For those who socialise most with family and friends while on holiday, then a larger bach and a smaller city house or apartment could make more sense than a large city home and a tiny bach. We are looking forward to hearing people’s feedback on what would work best for them.

We love how the ArchiChat Group is creating a place for dialogue and a two-way flow of ideas. As much as people can learn from us, we are also gaining a lot from the informal exchange of thoughts and ideas with people who care about architecture as much as we do.

Register your interest at and we will keep you posted.



Architect Craig South
Craig South




Breaking down myths about architects: Allfrey + South

Misconceptions about architects and how they work can be off-putting for those weighing up whether to use their services. In reality, as architect Craig South observes, there is nothing to fear and much to be gained from engaging a registered professional.



It can be easy to forget that people outside your own profession may not have a great understanding of what it is you actually do. Buildings are integral to our lives, yet the role of the architect is not necessarily clear to everyone. In our practice, it is refreshing to meet people who know we can add value to their project.

Architects are registered professionals who must meet stringent academic and professional standards to achieve that status. Achieving that registration takes many years of training and experience. It means architects can be relied upon to deliver a robust design process informed by an in-depth understanding of client needs and the site.



Unfortunately, there is a prevailing myth that architects will simply cost too much and are unaffordable. Of course, working with an architect does involve a cost – often quoted initially as a percentage – but with that will come peace of mind that the design process is in the best possible hands.

It is worth remembering that the architect’s fee is just one small component of the total cost, yet is crucial to the project’s ultimate success. Working with an architect is the best way to protect your investment and to secure a result of which everyone will be proud.

In the end, architecture is so much more than just shelter or a roof over your head. It should also excite you, inspire you and add pleasure to your life. As architects, this is what we strive to achieve: to design outstanding buildings that function well and that are also uniquely suited to site, context and, above all, individual client needs.



We understand that not everyone has the luxury of a lavish budget. Architects can tailor design to budget and brief to achieve optimal results. The same skills and abilities are brought to bear on smaller scale projects as for larger ones and the same design process used. The point is that scale does not determine the quality of the result, but engaging an architect will enable your project’s potential to be maximised.

Architects add the most value when they have a clear understanding of your lifestyle priorities, the spaces that are most important to you and how you like to live. A relatively open brief allows the architect to interpret and express clients’ dreams and aspirations to create balanced and authentic outcomes. Site and environment also inform final concepts, with documentation used to guide construction on site.

In our profession, good communication is pivotal. It informs and underpins the entire design process and involves not just the client and the architect but also the builder/construction team, engineers, suppliers and others involved with the project.
If you’re ready to move beyond the myths, think about starting a conversation with an architect and be prepared to see where your dreams could take you.



Designing for Community: Allfrey + South

City housing initiatives that promote a sense of community are sparking growing interest. As architect Craig South explains, such housing developments can take many different forms.



Earlier this year, we launched our ArchiChat Group to provide an informal way for people to meet us and share our love of architecture. It has generated a lot of lively conversation, especially around the topic of community-based housing. Many find the idea really appealing because it connects with the New Zealand dream of small, friendly neighbourhoods where children can play and grow up feeling safe and cared for, and where adults can socialise much more freely than they do in today’s suburbs. The vision also embodies a more sustainable, less wasteful way of life through sharing facilities and common spaces.

In Christchurch, a good example of this is the Peterborough Housing Co-operative where a trust is creating a new pocket neighbourhood. It has been fascinating to lead the design of this medium density development over the past three years. On track to be completed in 2020 are 14 single and multi-storey residences and a ‘Common House’, clustered around a large central outdoor space. Ranging from smaller one-bedroom homes and studios to three- and four-bedroom homes, the houses will all be different and suit a range of occupant typologies.

As with any other project, the key to good design has been to understand the values and objectives of the client. In this case, the goal was to create houses that would be private while also encouraging social interaction with neighbours in the shared courtyard and the ‘Common House’. It will be a very child-friendly place with plenty of room for safe play in the outdoors and with cars accommodated separately in off-street parking to one side. There are limited entry points to the development itself, encouraging interaction between occupants as they cross paths.

Shared facilities include a laundry at each end of the central courtyard. A ‘Common House’ will be the community’s social hub, comprising a guest room, kitchen, spacious lounge, kids’ space, study space and a teens’ loft. The concept of a development such as this is to combine private housing with a sense of belonging to something bigger. The options for community housing are fairly limitless and need not simply replicate what has been designed in this particular instance. Other people might approach such a project with a completely different set of values and priorities that would, in turn, shape the final outcome.

Our work with the Peterborough Housing Co-operative has certainly sparked a lot of interest and enquiry on how the concept might be applied to other similar housing developments. We are really passionate about the co-housing concept and know that it can be successful in many different forms. We have had many in-depth discussions in the office; could we live in a co-housing community? Who would our neighbours be? What shared facilities and amenities would work best for us?

Do you think you could live in a co-housing community? If you are interested in setting up a similar development or want to learn more about co-housing, we want to get to know you! We would like to take ArchiChat ‘on the move’ and meet with groups who have a specific interest in co-housing, so please get in touch so we can bring ArchiChat to you!




You & Your Architect – A Creative Partnership: Allfrey + South

Every person is unique. As architect Craig South explains, your home should also uniquely reflect who you are and how you want to live.



Big weekend get-togethers or coffee for two on the deck? Enjoy reading in the sun or love to garden? We’re all different; good architecture acknowledges this and is responsive to people’s lifestyle choices. We deeply value our clients and recognise that their aspirations are fundamentally important to the whole design process.



Every project starts with an in-depth conversation on their brief, aesthetics and lifestyle. Having that understanding from the outset is vital to achieving the end goal of a truly bespoke home. We approach every new project with creativity, an open mind and a willingness to listen and respond. We appreciate our clients’ commitment and the trust they place in us. In return, we offer a robust process that is collaborative, thorough and responsive.



In our own practice, rather than being defined by a particular style, we prefer to be defined by our client-focused process. In turn, this leads to homes that are uniquely designed for them. We are not known for having a defined brand and that is very much a deliberate choice.



We believe our approach to design is special because it goes deeper than simply asking ‘how many bedrooms’ or ‘what size’. We like to ask the ‘why’ questions and explore what clients are really seeking to achieve to ensure a deeper understanding of what they want out of their new home. We also like to celebrate the uniqueness of every client, creating homes that will fit their aspirations and how they want to live.



Some people worry about prioritising their lifestyle choices in a design, because they think it could adversely affect potential re-sale value. In reality, by creating a home that’s in sync with you and how you live – rather than a home that you think someone else would enjoy – you are more likely to get something truly authentic that others will positively respond to in the future.


Responding Creatively to Design Guidelines: Allfrey South Architects

Meeting design guidelines for particular sites is a must, but architect Craig South argues there is still plenty of room for creative interpretation.



When making a big investment in a new home, it can be reassuring knowing there are design rules in place to protect that investment. Yet if these rules are followed conservatively, the results can be pretty bland and uninspiring, which may not be desirable from a long-term investment perspective. A creative approach will more likely produce something memorable that will hold its value and reflect your design ideals. As architects, we are required to work within guidelines, yet I feel we must not lose sight of that bigger design imperative: a unique response to a one-off set of criteria. I believe there is always space for playfulness in design. No matter the project, we always start with our client’s brief and an understanding of the site and the environment, before exploring the limits of what is possible within the rules.

Such exploration requires a little reading between the lines. For example, guidelines might stipulate what colours can be used, but not specify all building elements. This allows the option to inject personality in the non-specified elements. For instance, selecting a brightly coloured gate, without breaking the rules. These guidelines can be open to interpretation to some extent, such as in Hanmer Springs where all buildings must comply with the ‘alpine character’ ideals. The Hurunui Council is very particular about the look of the township, with strict height restrictions, specifics around roof pitch and constraints on colour choice. While these guidelines presented a challenge, by thinking differently and not opting for generic or easy options, we arrived at a very unique solution. Following the guidelines, but full of playful design elements, The Family Bach doesn’t take itself too seriously. Fundamentally, architects can add value and a sense of fun to design, even when constraints are in place.


It is important, as architects, that when we are designing to guidelines and pushing those boundaries as much as possible, we have a considered rationale behind our design decisions. There can be times when we need to defend our ‘out of the box’ thinking and, in order to achieve the best result for our client, we must fully understand the guidelines and have the ability to justify how our design fits those parameters. Considering site context is imperative to enhancing a project’s creative potential. The village at Terrace Downs features several traditional alpine homes however, we created a family home that stretched the notion of what an alpine home is.

The influences of Canterbury’s rugged mountains inspired our approach to roofline design, with soaring roof planes, asymmetrical and abrupt, extenuating the mountain slopes in the background. Of course, the alpine environment affected the orientation of the home and the organisation of the internal spaces, ensuring year-round liveability and engagement with the environment. It is an inescapable reality; design guidelines must form part of the design brief for specific sites. Yet, as architects we believe it is also important to interpret these creatively. There is always room for flexibility within the rules to create something unique.




Allfrey + South Architects

Let’s talk Architecture: Allfrey + South Architects

Architects Cymon Allfrey and Craig South announce a new brand, along with an exciting new group to draw people together with a shared passion for architecture.


Allfrey + South Architects


It is energising to have started the year with a fresh new brand, Allfrey + South Architects and to reflect on what that represents. The name change captures the strong partnership within our practice and gives a renewed sense of purpose for the New Year.
While the name is different, we have the same team of creative people on board who love everything about architecture.

We share a culture of collaboration and a desire to achieve extraordinary results. Wrapped up in our name too, is a sense of social responsibility that means we endeavour to create buildings that are completely in sync with their location and community. Above all, we recognise how privileged we are to be invited into our clients’ lives, to turn their dreams into architectural reality.

In truth, we are all totally passionate about architecture and love talking about it whenever we can and to whoever will listen. Wherever we go, we tend to explore and immerse ourselves in architecture and may easily get distracted by the curve of a wall or a choice of cladding. It’s an occupational hazard!


Allfrey + South Architects

We can’t help but bombard each other and our friends and family with architectural conversation, but last year we had one of those light bulb moments when we realised other people might also be genuinely interested in what we have to say. That moment arose from an open studio session where we met a lovely couple familiar with our work. They wanted to delve deeper into our design theories and hear about our current projects. Their level of curiosity really impressed us.

It got us thinking that there must be other people in and around Christchurch who would love to discuss architecture and would like to get involved with a group that could make that happen.


Architect Craig South
Craig South
Cymon Allfrey
Cymon Allfrey