A changing landscape; an emerging vernacular - Architecture NZ
A changing landscape; an emerging vernacular

A changing landscape; an emerging vernacular

Living in smaller spaces is a topic that’s been discussed for a while now. In Auckland in particular, it’s something that’s a necessity rather than an option...

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

Living in smaller spaces is a topic that’s been discussed for a while now. In Auckland in particular, it’s something that’s a necessity rather than an option as available land becomes scarce and the population grows at pace.

The pressure that these two issues have created is resulting in a changed way of looking at the home and what it means to live well. In terms of the government’s Special Housing Areas around Auckland where higher density developments have been called for, we’re seeing an emerging design language with a focus rooted in community and connection.

“Our firm shifted its focus into this style of architecture about four years ago, and for us, it’s about creating and designing spaces that are comfortable and enjoyable for people to live in,” Phillip Matz of Matz Architects says. “It actually doesn’t matter whether a space is tiny or large, the design principles are the same. The challenge is when everything is reduced in scale to ensure those same design principles.”

The aim, Phillip says, is about designing spaces that people really want to live in. And that’s something that he says has often been overlooked by developers in the past, but is changing as the need for more higher density living develops.

Te Atatu Rd

“We’re seeing a real shift in developers’ mentalities towards their projects. They are embracing the importance of creating spaces that people love and are really proud of their products, and aiming to meet peoples’ high level expectations.”

There’s another nascent shift happening in the wider public concurrently, with a willingness and acceptance starting to become evident for this modern way of living. “It is a shift that has been a difficult one for New Zealanders, but it’s happening and with an infusion of new cultures from all around the world, people’s attitudes are starting change,” Phillip says.

“Overseas, people have been living in smaller spaces and higher density developments for hundreds of years successfully, and often people who have come to New Zealand from other countries immediately embrace this style of living here too.

“The key thing with designing higher density developments, aside from the normal design objectives, is to create shared open spaces that create connections within the neighbourhood. When you are designing higher density living, you are effectively building a small village, and for that village to be successful, people need to have spaces where they can create connections with others.”

There are many ways to do this, some more complex than others, and where and how they are designed in offers a multitude of opportunities to push the boundaries. “Rooftop tennis courts and barbeque areas are some I’ve heard of lately that prove hugely popular with the tenants,” Phillip says. “Then there are ideas like half-sized basketball courts within mixed-use central courtyards.”

Te Atatu Rd

The other important part of creating desirable higher density living spaces is ensuring the communal areas are open and accessible. “We work really closely with landscape architects to ensure all the areas used for parking, bike storage and similar things are well lit, open and easily accessible.”

In a current project Matz Architects have designed in Auckland’s Te Atatu, eleven buildings spread over the site, accommodating nearly 100 separate dwellings. Here, the focus is on ensuring all buildings have access to views of a neighbouring park, the central communal courtyard area, and a purposely designed lack of car parking; instead, private lockable and waterproof storage areas for bikes and scooters.

Higher density design is an emerging concept in New Zealand, but one we are about to see a lot more of, and in the process our own unique vernacular will no doubt become clear.

Have a look at some of Matz Architects’ projects on ArchiPro here for some inspiration on the future of New Zealand living.

Te Atatu Rd
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