Contemporary House Styles of New Zealand

Contemporary House Styles of New Zealand

Understanding New Zealand’s contemporary house styles is useful for anyone planning to build a home, working within any aspect of the built environment, or just interested in the architectural world around us. Architect Gerald Parsonson talks us through some of the typical styles that relate to different regions and climates, and offers and insight into how they’ve come about.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team
Moetapu Beach House by Parsonson Architects sits at the bottom of a steep, winding driveway and looks out to Pelorus Sound. Its roof form helps ‘fold’ the house into the shape of the land around a small central courtyard area. Photograph by Paul McCredie.

How house styles relate to their locations

Historically, New Zealand has imported architectural styles from overseas and set our homes apart like ‘objects’ in the landscape, often with little relationship to the surrounding environment, the climate or the position of the sun throughout the day.

But, today, there are many different house styles around the country that reflect the differing contexts in which we live. Contemporary homes are more influenced by geography, climate and socio-economic factors, such as whether it is a permanent home or a retreat, located in the city or in the wilds, along with what the local history is, what materials are best suited to the area, and the local and personal preferences.

Over the years, groups of influential architects working in locally specific ways have popped up in pockets around the country. Examples of these are 'The Group' in Auckland, Walker and Athfield in Wellington, and ‘the Christchurch school’ of Warren and Mahoney Architects and Peter Beaven. Any short commentary on local character can only be very generalised and, in the spirit of generalisation, it is said that if you live in Auckland, people ask, ‘Where do you live?’; in Wellington, it’s ‘Where do you work?’; and, in Christchurch, it’s ‘What school did you go to?’ These views inadvertently filter into architectural area styles.

House on a Ruin by CoLab Architecture was built in response to the Canterbury quakes, when the previous heritage Seager-designed house was destroyed but its foundations retained to create a new type of Christchurch home. Photograph by Stephen Goodenough.

CONTEMPORARY HOUSE STYLES OF NEW ZEALAND

In the north of New Zealand, where the weather is generally warmer and less blustery, more time is able to be spent living outside. As a result, local architecture responds to this in many ways with softer, more natural and layered materials combined with living spaces that open to the outdoors. Lots of natural timber is common. A holiday home in the Coromandel bush overlooking the sea should be treated very differently to a house in the city. Many new architect-designed houses in the north seem open, casual and free and, maybe, this is a response to the climate and 'The Group' history. In Auckland City, there is more wealth and focus on business and this is reflected in the amount of grand houses.

Possibly, Wellingtonians are more left-leaning than other places, with emphasis on not being as ostentatious. In the Wellington area, weatherproof detailing for houses built on steep, narrow sites can drive certain ways of composing building forms, which may make them appear clipped, bitsier or more broken up. Outdoor rooms that can open up and close down are useful to provide flexibility in the varying and, sometimes, extreme conditions.

In Canterbury, there is a strong adherence to a sense of tradition, even if expressed in a modern way. Modern homes in the area still often acknowledge the Christchurch school of modernist architecture that arose in the mid-1900s, whereby they developed their own local style that emphasised an abstract, sculptural form that was strongly anchored in the Canterbury landscape, typically replacing timber with concrete blocks.

In Otago, summers can be hot and dry, but winters are cold, making covered outdoor spaces useful. There is a central Otago architecture, often used, that references the building forms of settler cottages―using schist, timber, and robust cladding materials combined with tray roofing. Many architects create very interesting versions of this typology.

Poured Pleats by Jack McKinney Architects is a heritage villa with a traditional gable that has been mimicked in its striking new addition that reflects the gabled rooflines of its Ponsonby neighbourhood. Photography by David Straight.

Pitched roof

The pitched roof form is the most common building form in New Zealand, as it is highly practical and an economical way of sheltering human beings. They can also be shaped in a myriad of ways to convey different meanings and have pitches at different angles depending on the climate and topography of the landscape.

Noel Jessop Architects' Floating Boxes are two interconnected boxes that appear to hover off the ground, cleverly angled to take in the local mountain view. Photograph by Amanda Aitken Photography.

Box form

Four walls, a floor and a ceiling―all at 90-degree angles. Inevitably, box forms have been a popular style of architecture since early human civilisation. They are generally and more efficient with space with a maximised floor area, although with newer computer programmes, they are developing an ever-increasing degree of sophistication.

Courtyard House by SGA spreads out across the landscape, located high on a hill with expansive views from Manukau Heads through to the Gulf Islands and the Coromandel. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

Landscape form

Within New Zealand’s varied environments, some contemporary homes aim to create a poetic synergy with their surrounding landscape by reflecting the individual nuances of the location―from tin miner’s huts to mountain ranges to winding rivers. They often follow the topography of the land and respond to surrounding views of neighbouring natural landmarks.

The form of Dorrington Atcheson Architects' Kawau House, hunkers into a steep manuka-clad site, following the contours of the hillside. Photograph by Emma-Jane Hetherington.

Layered

Houses can be layered in many ways―horizontally, vertically and materially―to relate the building to its context. For example, on a steep slope with an ocean view, a house can be split into several forms that stack up along the topography, creating vistas of the sea from each form. By comparison, on a tight urban site, the house would most likely be layered vertically. But, any home can be layered materially and structurally to create different dimensions and penetrations and overall richness to the form.

Patchwork Architecture's 100m² 10x10 House is supported on steel poles, with killer views of Wellington city. Photograph by Simon Wilson.

Stick

Timber is the most common building material around the Pacific Rim as it is easily available and relatively economical and inexpensive. Homes can be raised off the ground, lightly touching the earth, which works well on steep sites. ‘Sticks’ can also be used as cladding―weatherboards are one of the most common cladding types in New Zealand, or to create sun, wind and rain screening―drawing a lovely relationship with neighbouring tree trunks, which are a common feature around our homes.

The Robertson House by Bonnifait & Giesen Architects has an elongated folding roof that relates to the surrounding hills and vineyards. Photography by Russell Kleyn.

Folded – extruded form

A folded or extruded form is when the roof and the wall can be considered as one surface that is cut, shaped or folded to define spaces and create form, as well as opening the home up to views and providing privacy. Folded roofs can be a contemporary way of interpreting traditional houses styles in order to develop sympathetic relationships between buildings in a neighbourhood.

At Rawene House by Stevens Lawson Architects, timber-panelled walls merge into ceilings and floors, creating beautiful warm and flowing spaces―a peaceful haven in the city. Photograph by Mark Smith.

Wall

Walls define spaces, if you think about the floor plans of a house and how the walls define each room or space; thus, creating an arrangement or pattern for living. Walls, and the penetrations and windows in walls, are how spaces are edited and interact with each other and with the outdoor surroundings. By defining a house with walls that often fold into roofs and, even, floors, contemporary homes can become more like expressive sculptural forms.

Te Horo Bach by Parsonson Architects is a small economically planned fibro and batten-clad building that has its design roots partly in the New Zealand bach tradition, with an explorative use of form, colour and material. Photograph by Paul McCredie.

Parsonson Architects

Parsonson Architects was established in 1987 and is based in Wellington, New Zealand. The practice has focused primarily on individual houses and aims to produce work...

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Contemporary House Styles of New Zealand

Contemporary House Styles of New Zealand

Understanding New Zealand’s contemporary house styles is useful for anyone planning to build a home, working within any aspect of the built environment, or just interested in the architectural world around us. Architect Gerald Parsonson talks us through some of the typical styles that relate to different regions and climates, and offers and insight into how they’ve come about.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team
Moetapu Beach House by Parsonson Architects sits at the bottom of a steep, winding driveway and looks out to Pelorus Sound. Its roof form helps ‘fold’ the house into the shape of the land around a small central courtyard area. Photograph by Paul McCredie.

How house styles relate to their locations

Historically, New Zealand has imported architectural styles from overseas and set our homes apart like ‘objects’ in the landscape, often with little relationship to the surrounding environment, the climate or the position of the sun throughout the day.

But, today, there are many different house styles around the country that reflect the differing contexts in which we live. Contemporary homes are more influenced by geography, climate and socio-economic factors, such as whether it is a permanent home or a retreat, located in the city or in the wilds, along with what the local history is, what materials are best suited to the area, and the local and personal preferences.

Over the years, groups of influential architects working in locally specific ways have popped up in pockets around the country. Examples of these are 'The Group' in Auckland, Walker and Athfield in Wellington, and ‘the Christchurch school’ of Warren and Mahoney Architects and Peter Beaven. Any short commentary on local character can only be very generalised and, in the spirit of generalisation, it is said that if you live in Auckland, people ask, ‘Where do you live?’; in Wellington, it’s ‘Where do you work?’; and, in Christchurch, it’s ‘What school did you go to?’ These views inadvertently filter into architectural area styles.

House on a Ruin by CoLab Architecture was built in response to the Canterbury quakes, when the previous heritage Seager-designed house was destroyed but its foundations retained to create a new type of Christchurch home. Photograph by Stephen Goodenough.

CONTEMPORARY HOUSE STYLES OF NEW ZEALAND

In the north of New Zealand, where the weather is generally warmer and less blustery, more time is able to be spent living outside. As a result, local architecture responds to this in many ways with softer, more natural and layered materials combined with living spaces that open to the outdoors. Lots of natural timber is common. A holiday home in the Coromandel bush overlooking the sea should be treated very differently to a house in the city. Many new architect-designed houses in the north seem open, casual and free and, maybe, this is a response to the climate and 'The Group' history. In Auckland City, there is more wealth and focus on business and this is reflected in the amount of grand houses.

Possibly, Wellingtonians are more left-leaning than other places, with emphasis on not being as ostentatious. In the Wellington area, weatherproof detailing for houses built on steep, narrow sites can drive certain ways of composing building forms, which may make them appear clipped, bitsier or more broken up. Outdoor rooms that can open up and close down are useful to provide flexibility in the varying and, sometimes, extreme conditions.

In Canterbury, there is a strong adherence to a sense of tradition, even if expressed in a modern way. Modern homes in the area still often acknowledge the Christchurch school of modernist architecture that arose in the mid-1900s, whereby they developed their own local style that emphasised an abstract, sculptural form that was strongly anchored in the Canterbury landscape, typically replacing timber with concrete blocks.

In Otago, summers can be hot and dry, but winters are cold, making covered outdoor spaces useful. There is a central Otago architecture, often used, that references the building forms of settler cottages―using schist, timber, and robust cladding materials combined with tray roofing. Many architects create very interesting versions of this typology.

Poured Pleats by Jack McKinney Architects is a heritage villa with a traditional gable that has been mimicked in its striking new addition that reflects the gabled rooflines of its Ponsonby neighbourhood. Photography by David Straight.

Pitched roof

The pitched roof form is the most common building form in New Zealand, as it is highly practical and an economical way of sheltering human beings. They can also be shaped in a myriad of ways to convey different meanings and have pitches at different angles depending on the climate and topography of the landscape.

Noel Jessop Architects' Floating Boxes are two interconnected boxes that appear to hover off the ground, cleverly angled to take in the local mountain view. Photograph by Amanda Aitken Photography.

Box form

Four walls, a floor and a ceiling―all at 90-degree angles. Inevitably, box forms have been a popular style of architecture since early human civilisation. They are generally and more efficient with space with a maximised floor area, although with newer computer programmes, they are developing an ever-increasing degree of sophistication.

Courtyard House by SGA spreads out across the landscape, located high on a hill with expansive views from Manukau Heads through to the Gulf Islands and the Coromandel. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

Landscape form

Within New Zealand’s varied environments, some contemporary homes aim to create a poetic synergy with their surrounding landscape by reflecting the individual nuances of the location―from tin miner’s huts to mountain ranges to winding rivers. They often follow the topography of the land and respond to surrounding views of neighbouring natural landmarks.

The form of Dorrington Atcheson Architects' Kawau House, hunkers into a steep manuka-clad site, following the contours of the hillside. Photograph by Emma-Jane Hetherington.

Layered

Houses can be layered in many ways―horizontally, vertically and materially―to relate the building to its context. For example, on a steep slope with an ocean view, a house can be split into several forms that stack up along the topography, creating vistas of the sea from each form. By comparison, on a tight urban site, the house would most likely be layered vertically. But, any home can be layered materially and structurally to create different dimensions and penetrations and overall richness to the form.

Patchwork Architecture's 100m² 10x10 House is supported on steel poles, with killer views of Wellington city. Photograph by Simon Wilson.

Stick

Timber is the most common building material around the Pacific Rim as it is easily available and relatively economical and inexpensive. Homes can be raised off the ground, lightly touching the earth, which works well on steep sites. ‘Sticks’ can also be used as cladding―weatherboards are one of the most common cladding types in New Zealand, or to create sun, wind and rain screening―drawing a lovely relationship with neighbouring tree trunks, which are a common feature around our homes.

The Robertson House by Bonnifait & Giesen Architects has an elongated folding roof that relates to the surrounding hills and vineyards. Photography by Russell Kleyn.

Folded – extruded form

A folded or extruded form is when the roof and the wall can be considered as one surface that is cut, shaped or folded to define spaces and create form, as well as opening the home up to views and providing privacy. Folded roofs can be a contemporary way of interpreting traditional houses styles in order to develop sympathetic relationships between buildings in a neighbourhood.

At Rawene House by Stevens Lawson Architects, timber-panelled walls merge into ceilings and floors, creating beautiful warm and flowing spaces―a peaceful haven in the city. Photograph by Mark Smith.

Wall

Walls define spaces, if you think about the floor plans of a house and how the walls define each room or space; thus, creating an arrangement or pattern for living. Walls, and the penetrations and windows in walls, are how spaces are edited and interact with each other and with the outdoor surroundings. By defining a house with walls that often fold into roofs and, even, floors, contemporary homes can become more like expressive sculptural forms.

Te Horo Bach by Parsonson Architects is a small economically planned fibro and batten-clad building that has its design roots partly in the New Zealand bach tradition, with an explorative use of form, colour and material. Photograph by Paul McCredie.

Get in touch with
Parsonson Architects

Request pricing/info
Visit website
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Contemporary House Styles of New Zealand

Contemporary House Styles of New Zealand

Understanding New Zealand’s contemporary house styles is useful for anyone planning to build a home, working within any aspect of the built environment, or just interested in the architectural world around us. Architect Gerald Parsonson talks us through some of the typical styles that relate to different regions and climates, and offers and insight into how they’ve come about.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team
Moetapu Beach House by Parsonson Architects sits at the bottom of a steep, winding driveway and looks out to Pelorus Sound. Its roof form helps ‘fold’ the house into the shape of the land around a small central courtyard area. Photograph by Paul McCredie.

How house styles relate to their locations

Historically, New Zealand has imported architectural styles from overseas and set our homes apart like ‘objects’ in the landscape, often with little relationship to the surrounding environment, the climate or the position of the sun throughout the day.

But, today, there are many different house styles around the country that reflect the differing contexts in which we live. Contemporary homes are more influenced by geography, climate and socio-economic factors, such as whether it is a permanent home or a retreat, located in the city or in the wilds, along with what the local history is, what materials are best suited to the area, and the local and personal preferences.

Over the years, groups of influential architects working in locally specific ways have popped up in pockets around the country. Examples of these are 'The Group' in Auckland, Walker and Athfield in Wellington, and ‘the Christchurch school’ of Warren and Mahoney Architects and Peter Beaven. Any short commentary on local character can only be very generalised and, in the spirit of generalisation, it is said that if you live in Auckland, people ask, ‘Where do you live?’; in Wellington, it’s ‘Where do you work?’; and, in Christchurch, it’s ‘What school did you go to?’ These views inadvertently filter into architectural area styles.

House on a Ruin by CoLab Architecture was built in response to the Canterbury quakes, when the previous heritage Seager-designed house was destroyed but its foundations retained to create a new type of Christchurch home. Photograph by Stephen Goodenough.

CONTEMPORARY HOUSE STYLES OF NEW ZEALAND

In the north of New Zealand, where the weather is generally warmer and less blustery, more time is able to be spent living outside. As a result, local architecture responds to this in many ways with softer, more natural and layered materials combined with living spaces that open to the outdoors. Lots of natural timber is common. A holiday home in the Coromandel bush overlooking the sea should be treated very differently to a house in the city. Many new architect-designed houses in the north seem open, casual and free and, maybe, this is a response to the climate and 'The Group' history. In Auckland City, there is more wealth and focus on business and this is reflected in the amount of grand houses.

Possibly, Wellingtonians are more left-leaning than other places, with emphasis on not being as ostentatious. In the Wellington area, weatherproof detailing for houses built on steep, narrow sites can drive certain ways of composing building forms, which may make them appear clipped, bitsier or more broken up. Outdoor rooms that can open up and close down are useful to provide flexibility in the varying and, sometimes, extreme conditions.

In Canterbury, there is a strong adherence to a sense of tradition, even if expressed in a modern way. Modern homes in the area still often acknowledge the Christchurch school of modernist architecture that arose in the mid-1900s, whereby they developed their own local style that emphasised an abstract, sculptural form that was strongly anchored in the Canterbury landscape, typically replacing timber with concrete blocks.

In Otago, summers can be hot and dry, but winters are cold, making covered outdoor spaces useful. There is a central Otago architecture, often used, that references the building forms of settler cottages―using schist, timber, and robust cladding materials combined with tray roofing. Many architects create very interesting versions of this typology.

Poured Pleats by Jack McKinney Architects is a heritage villa with a traditional gable that has been mimicked in its striking new addition that reflects the gabled rooflines of its Ponsonby neighbourhood. Photography by David Straight.

Pitched roof

The pitched roof form is the most common building form in New Zealand, as it is highly practical and an economical way of sheltering human beings. They can also be shaped in a myriad of ways to convey different meanings and have pitches at different angles depending on the climate and topography of the landscape.

Noel Jessop Architects' Floating Boxes are two interconnected boxes that appear to hover off the ground, cleverly angled to take in the local mountain view. Photograph by Amanda Aitken Photography.

Box form

Four walls, a floor and a ceiling―all at 90-degree angles. Inevitably, box forms have been a popular style of architecture since early human civilisation. They are generally and more efficient with space with a maximised floor area, although with newer computer programmes, they are developing an ever-increasing degree of sophistication.

Courtyard House by SGA spreads out across the landscape, located high on a hill with expansive views from Manukau Heads through to the Gulf Islands and the Coromandel. Photograph by Simon Devitt.

Landscape form

Within New Zealand’s varied environments, some contemporary homes aim to create a poetic synergy with their surrounding landscape by reflecting the individual nuances of the location―from tin miner’s huts to mountain ranges to winding rivers. They often follow the topography of the land and respond to surrounding views of neighbouring natural landmarks.

The form of Dorrington Atcheson Architects' Kawau House, hunkers into a steep manuka-clad site, following the contours of the hillside. Photograph by Emma-Jane Hetherington.

Layered

Houses can be layered in many ways―horizontally, vertically and materially―to relate the building to its context. For example, on a steep slope with an ocean view, a house can be split into several forms that stack up along the topography, creating vistas of the sea from each form. By comparison, on a tight urban site, the house would most likely be layered vertically. But, any home can be layered materially and structurally to create different dimensions and penetrations and overall richness to the form.

Patchwork Architecture's 100m² 10x10 House is supported on steel poles, with killer views of Wellington city. Photograph by Simon Wilson.

Stick

Timber is the most common building material around the Pacific Rim as it is easily available and relatively economical and inexpensive. Homes can be raised off the ground, lightly touching the earth, which works well on steep sites. ‘Sticks’ can also be used as cladding―weatherboards are one of the most common cladding types in New Zealand, or to create sun, wind and rain screening―drawing a lovely relationship with neighbouring tree trunks, which are a common feature around our homes.

The Robertson House by Bonnifait & Giesen Architects has an elongated folding roof that relates to the surrounding hills and vineyards. Photography by Russell Kleyn.

Folded – extruded form

A folded or extruded form is when the roof and the wall can be considered as one surface that is cut, shaped or folded to define spaces and create form, as well as opening the home up to views and providing privacy. Folded roofs can be a contemporary way of interpreting traditional houses styles in order to develop sympathetic relationships between buildings in a neighbourhood.

At Rawene House by Stevens Lawson Architects, timber-panelled walls merge into ceilings and floors, creating beautiful warm and flowing spaces―a peaceful haven in the city. Photograph by Mark Smith.

Wall

Walls define spaces, if you think about the floor plans of a house and how the walls define each room or space; thus, creating an arrangement or pattern for living. Walls, and the penetrations and windows in walls, are how spaces are edited and interact with each other and with the outdoor surroundings. By defining a house with walls that often fold into roofs and, even, floors, contemporary homes can become more like expressive sculptural forms.

Te Horo Bach by Parsonson Architects is a small economically planned fibro and batten-clad building that has its design roots partly in the New Zealand bach tradition, with an explorative use of form, colour and material. Photograph by Paul McCredie.

Get in touch with
Parsonson Architects

Request pricing/info
Visit website
Done tagging
Full screen