Architect Craig South explores an alternative to the norm when it comes to central city living.
Architecture is typically viewed as a whole – the exterior lines, the internal layout and the fit-out. And while it is all of that, if we were to strip it back to a considered shell, we have what is known as Naked Architecture – a term being used overseas to describe buildings being designed and built with no preconceived ideas around their internal layout and use; buildings that the end-user is able to individually tailor to suit their needs.
This is not to say that the cornerstones of architecture are ignored. The roles of the developer and the architect are still vital throughout the process. Each unit or apartment needs to be the result of considered design; crafted for its individual location and placement within the overall structure in order for the building to be a success. The developer and architect are equally important during the fit-out stage, ensuring the end result is a well thought out, bespoke home.
By offering buyers this ability to buy ‘shell space’ and fit it out to suit their personal needs, we are creating end-user buy-in in terms of what they are wanting, giving buyers the opportunity to stake a claim and invest, beyond financially, into their purchase.
Where someone might spend more on floor tiles and fittings, another occupant will spend less. One may have an ‘entertainers’ kitchen and one large living area, while another will have multiple living spaces and sleeping options to suit their family – allowing everyone to create a home that falls within their budget while meeting their personal needs.
Having been seeking an inner city living option for my family, it has become apparent that finding the perfect solution is hard. Our decision to move into the inner city has been driven by the high level of amenity and the incredible opportunity Hagley Park offers as a borrowed landscape, ensuring that no matter where we move in this central neighbourhood and what size our floor plan, we have this vast green space on our doorstep. This ensures we won’t be compromising on the Kiwi backyard, rather opening up the opportunities that come with living within close proximity to such an under-utilised offering.
Personally, we would jump at the chance to convert a ‘shell’ into spaces that reflect our family’s needs both now and into the future. And what is exciting is that someone else could create something completely different in the adjacent space. This is a concept that allows for individualisation of style, budget and layout, creating a cross section and diversification of people living in our city.
This type of development is not an unknown concept in New Zealand, or even Christchurch. We commonly adopt it in the design and build of commercial buildings, so the question is, why not do it for personal living spaces?
We tend to look to Europe for passive design learnings and other design concepts, so why not look to them for inspiration to encourage families into our inner city?
With our central city neighbourhood bursting with amenities, yet slow to attract residential development post-earthquake, it is time to think beyond ordinary and offer a new and unique way to encourage people back.
Having missed out on hosting yet another big name, architect Cymon Allfrey highlights the importance of moving forward with our plans for a stadium.
It is without doubt that we are a city capable of hosting events, with the World Busker’s Festival, the Under 19 Cricket World Cup and the recent Black Caps/England Cricket test, as recent examples. However, our lack of facilities means we often miss out on events such as the upcoming Shania Twain tour or the recent Ed Sheeran South Island visit. While it is easy to see the potential economic loss we face as a result of no stadium, what we aren’t as quick to focus on, is the social impact.
Approaching it as an oppor-tunity, the Dunedin City Council thought big when it came to hosting Ed and, as a result, gained much more than economic success for their city.
They renamed the city DunEDin, closed streets and, with the addition of food stalls and street performers, achieved a wonderful party atmosphere. They approached the concerts like guests coming to dinner: they tidied up, set the table, put their best foot forward and enjoyed the fruits of their labour, achieving something truly special while propelling their city into the international spotlight, firmly establishing Dunedin as a destination and should be celebrated for their ambitious approach and innovative thinking.
What their success also highlighted was the need and importance of our stadium – or lack thereof. There is no doubt that our council needs to look beyond the cost to build the stadium and get going. In order to make Christchurch a destination, we need to establish ourselves as an attraction and give people a reason to return to our city, sooner rather than later.
We have all the facilities for tourists: beautiful restaurants, accommodation options, bars and retail, the operators of which have invested in our city. Now it is time for our city to invest in them and help draw the crowds.
With this in mind, we need to ask ourselves whether what we are planning is enough. Why are we not building something that will propel us into the spotlight and make Christchurch a true international destination? Perhaps we need to be more aspirational in our thinking – why not build towards the 2030 Commonwealth Games?
The benefits, social and economic, are there for all to see – now we just need to get on and do it, all while ensuring we aren’t being shortsighted in the process. Let’s not continue to argue over a 35,000-seat stadium; we need to stretch ourselves and set Christchurch apart. It is no longer enough to replicate Dunedin’s stadium as they have proved they can offer both performers and visitors much more than a one-off concert; it’s the opportunity to experience an event.
Having personally experienced DunEDin, I would drive the ten hours there and back again tomorrow in order to do it all over. They aspire to host big names and in this case they rose to the challenge.
Dunedin had the foresight to see that the reward goes beyond the one-off monetary boost from a single event – the question is, can we? And how much more are we prepared to miss out on?
Architect Cymon Allfrey explains why following the rules ultimately leads to a more successful outcome – for us and our city.
There will always be red tape. The processes required to reach an outcome at times can seem onerous, cumbersome and tedious – yet the role of rules in society creates order, structure and, in terms of architecture, often a stronger, more successful outcome.
A question was raised recently on an online forum whether there was too much red tape being applied in the design of the central city when it came to illuminated signage. And that as a result of this red tape, we were diminishing our ability to achieve a vibrant and engaging city.
Taking into consideration a number of factors, including the affect these signs have on drivers, our city plan doesn’t favour intermittent lights or flashing neon signs. Rather it has a focus on creating sophisticated characteristics and high quality built spaces.
When looking at our city we need to be careful that we aren’t confusing energy with tricks and props. The energy comes, and will continue to come from, quality retailers, diverse businesses and residential development. All of which reside within smart, high quality design, there to create a level of interaction and engagement with the surrounding space.
We have to achieve a well-planned and considered central city, before we can dress it up. Inherently the city needs to perform well to attract the people and the energy; without this no matter how we decorate it, the energy and vibrancy will fail to thrive. Factors that the red tape ensures are placed first on the priority list.
There is no denying over the last couple of years that we have seen a shift away from static billboards to more interactive, digital replacements. I am absolutely in favour of seeing some embellishment through digital signage, as it can help to create a more dynamic building façade, and bring a different dimension and atmosphere to a space at night that couldn’t be achieved without it. Yet we need to ensure we don’t become a city of advertisements; a city of visual pollution and no substance.
If we consider London’s Piccadilly Circus or New York’s Times Square, these are concentrated deliveries of moving signage, there to create atmosphere. Their visual aspect has made them a destination, yet they are examples of highly considered spaces where the quality has been enhanced through layers of embellishment.
No matter what you dress a space up with, unless it has been designed correctly there will be no engagement. Cathedral Square is an example where a lack of considered design has created a space that is too large for regular engagement and high levels of energy. Unlike the prequake central city laneways, which were highly successful spaces bursting with activity.
We are on the right track to achieve a vibrant and energetic city centre, we just have a process to go through to get there. The presence of red tape allows everyone to have an opinion, while the ongoing parameters it brings ensures we have the building blocks to achieve a city of integrity, quality and engagement.
With compact homes in the spotlight as a solution to housing, Architect Cymon Allfrey questions whether small really is better.
It has been wonderful to see such a celebration of architecture in the media recently, in particular that of small or compact homes: homes that are providing innovative solutions to living within a condensed floor plan.
While these houses are providing a more efficient way of living, they are not necessarily providing a more affordable solution to building. Small doesn’t necessarily mean low cost, yet more often than not we are seeing the lines blurred between the correlation of small and affordable, and vice versa.
While it is possible to establish a connection between affordability and size, what is often missed in this instance is an emphasis on design quality, which ultimately impacts the livability of the home. The size of your new home is only one consideration when it comes to achieving a high quality, affordable design.
While there is no specific definition of a compact home, it pays to note that we are talking about small, not tiny houses, which are typically semi-permanent structures of 50sqm or less.
Like all forms of architecture, compact homes see the architect apply a design solution to a number of different needs, wants and requirements: a unique typology for that homeowner, site and location. And, as with all successful architecture, a compact floor plan should be a direct response to the needs of that particular typology: one size doesn’t fit all and that is ok.
The question you need to ask yourself when planning your new home is whether small is right for you, your needs and your site. Context, in particular, is a key consideration as compact housing demands a high degree of local amenity; a way of living that is simply not suitable, or desirable, for all. A compact house on a large rural site, for instance, would fail to function as successfully as that of a suburban setting.
As architects and designers, it is our responsibility to be efficient in our design, no matter what the size of the home. A poorly designed small home is still a poorly designed home; the fact that it is small doesn’t mean it is instantly an example of ‘good’ design.
It is important to remember that it is not for anyone else to judge what you need in a home. It is however, your architect’s responsibility to fulfill your needs in a responsible way, whether this is in 70sqm or 350sqm.
We need to ensure we are celebrating successful architecture no matter what its size. The emphasis or definition of ‘good’ design needs to be around creating efficient, sophisticated living solutions first and ticking the box around size, second.