Building the Auckland House



New Zealand has one of the highest per-capita rates of architecturally designed homes in the world, and Auckland surely has most of them. Is there anything beyond the current fashion for suave bland elegance that marks the city’s clutch of big new houses as particular to this city? Frances Walsh asks the architects.

From 1937 to 1949, 30,000 state houses were built in New Zealand. As well, from the late 1950s to the late 1970s, the Auckland Harbour Board, the Auckland city council, Keith Hay Homes and Fletcher subsidiary Beazley Homes all built in the Auckland suburbs.” The Group had a project which was largely about trying to construct a vernacular but it didn’t significantly affect the bulk of building in New Zealand,” says Tony van Raat, head of the architecture and landscape school at Unitec.

Vernacular a rises out of insular societies, van Raat says. New Zea land is not one. Then there’s Auckland’s benign climate,which makes many kinds of architecture possible.Two architects on van Raat’s hit-list convey the range. J.W. Chapman-Taylor (1878-1958) built affordable houses in the English Arts and Crafts tradition, adapting the English cottage, using concrete in his later years. Andrew Patterson, of the practice Architects Patterson, designed his Summer Street House in 1992: a truculent metal-clad box in a street of Ponsonby villas. Van Raat likes it, “because it’s extreme and completely un-New Zealand.Regionalism arises out of particular climatic conditions, particular material availability and an inherited tradition of building and we don’t really have any of those things.”