Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Acculturating Architectural Sublimity: Experimenting with themes of Japanese experientiality within New Zealand housing

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posted on 2021-12-08, 11:42 authored by Picot, Rachael Elisabeth Victoria

It has been argued that domestic architecture within New Zealand is increasingly dominated by international styles since the rise of modernism. According to Bill Wilson (the Group’s leader), there is a lack of understanding of foreign design principle within New Zealand modernist architecture, denying any psychological or spiritual connection within the home. This has caused a shift from what was considered a vernacular architecture to a hybrid of adopted building styles, imitated largely for their aesthetic value rather than any theoretical grounding. In New Zealand, a lack of national identity or sense of belonging within a home is said to be problematic. This thesis aims to help redefine a national vernacular and the experience of domestic space through the implementation of experientiality.  The design reconsiders domestic spaces through design-research methodologies derived from two early modernist architectural groups: the Bunriha (co-founded in 1920) with the locality of Auckland’s the Group (established in 1946). These were chosen as both groups provided manifestos for reviving each respective nation’s architecture (Japan and New Zealand) post war. The Group’s work is based purely on functionalism and economically viable solutions. It will provide the basis of architectural thought for the exploration of multiple design strategies within this thesis. While the Bunriha’s ideas are utilised for their experiential approach to modernist architecture. As The Groups’ Japanese equivalent, the Bunriha provides a successful precedent for mediating between new technology, experientiality and a vernacular style. The Bunriha’s design methodologies are extracted and appropriated to the Group’s vision for New Zealand modernism through multiple case study houses. The aim here is to introduce a new dimension of domestic architecture within specific sites chosen within Auckland. This intends to strengthen the relationships between inhabitant, home and landscape through several explorations.  The research led design results from a series of architectural strategies that respond to six design theories of shadow, reflection, permeability, materiality, interior/exterior relationship and construction. The first three are derived from the intangible considerations of Japan’s Bunriha, while the remaining respond to the tangible considerations of the Group. This is intended to transcend the preconceptions of a contemporary home through the reconsideration of intangible qualities and their value. It is proposed that this strategy will result in a heightened sense of self through the foreign concept of experientialism. The split between the different members of the Group meant a discontinuation of their early explorations of intangible qualities of space within a vernacular architecture. A continuation of their work will be intended through this thesis work.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Campays, Philippe