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Bradnor Road

The Perfect Recipe

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Architect Cymon Allfrey questions whether the pressures of a post-quake environment is changing the design process.

What makes one home more interesting than another? The specific property, raising this train of thought is an award-winning home we designed here in Christchurch, which has gained both local and international attention. It got me thinking: why this home, and not others?

From the outset this property was special. The site was well orientated for the sun, boasted fantastic established planting and was private and peaceful, despite being on a waterway.

As well as the site, this was a project in which the clients were completely engaged and hands on, from beginning to end: bringing their own tastes, flavours and preferences to the table. Flavours and ideas which were intrinsically aligned with ours, ensuring every decision was informed by the same aspirational aim.

The initial ‘rule’ set in place, was that everything was to be timber. It became a narrative that we could all connect with, embrace and understand. During the design, engineering, and construction processes, this narrative formed the basis for a collaborative, team project. Right down to the furnishings and finer details, everything was derived from this ‘rule’.

It was the perfect recipe. Everyone who touched the design, or was involved in its construction was working towards the same vision. Which dovetailed into the success of the build.

So why can’t we achieve this every time? In the post-quake environment, the design sector has been placed under immense pressure to get onto the next project. As an architect, we draw inspiration from the uniqueness of the site and our clients’ values, needs and requirements. Influenced by current fashions and techniques, these ideas are then aligned with innovative design concepts. However, with the next project always there on your heels, these design concepts are explored through a series of projects’, rather than simply focused on one.

Pre-quake we often would take contemporary design concepts and experiment with them in different ways. From design to design we would test and play with theories, creating multiple designs centered around one concept over three to four years, each with unique and varied results. Now however, we no longer have the luxury of time to spend exploring these theories. Although our designs continue to be bespoke and original, the theories behind them have gone from being tested over years, to months.

This is not to say that we aren’t diligent around creating solutions unique to our clients and their site, simply that there is no letting the pen get cold between designs.

Perhaps what made this particular project stand out was that the nucleus of the design was central only to this one house. The intense and unwavering dedication to timber was a unique requirement, which achieved not only the clients’ needs, but established a warmth and relate-ability that translated beyond the three dimensional structure.

Without intending to, the property has perhaps identified a style of architecture and a use of materials that we can call our own. So much of the architecture we see now is nouveau modernism in style, devoid of detail and colour, almost clinical in its final form. And while this home also falls into this architectural style, the use of natural materials adds a distinct Kiwi flavour to it.

There are other aspects of the home which captivate: single level, a seamless transition between inside and out and large open living spaces. A snapshot into how we, as Kiwis, want to live. Perhaps forging a step forward in our quest to uncover our own, uniquely-kiwi, style of architecture.

Published in Metropol Magazine

Published on Thursday, December 1st, 2016