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I want to share: Balancing collective and individual needs in New Zealand urban housing architecture

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posted on 23.11.2021, 22:13 by Walshe, Genevieve

In 2016 I visited Sargfabrik cohousing in Vienna and was intrigued and captivated by the rich, diverse and friendly atmosphere within the semi-public spatial and architectural realm, which I thought would never happen in New Zealand. Sargfabrik led me to realise that the common realm of New Zealand urban housing architecture is impoverished. It can, and should, be better.  In the 1950s and 1960s, the Kiwi dream was focused on the acquisition of a standalone dwelling; New Zealand prided itself on being an egalitarian, property owning-democracy, supported by innovative housing policies. Today the ‘Kiwi dream is changing as home ownership is no longer a rite of passage for all New Zealanders. Despite rising income inequality and decreasing housing affordability, the contemporary Kiwi dream remains focused on ownership, due to the stability and security associated with this tenure type. If New Zealand is to address the housing equality issue it should investigate the potential of international models of tenure and ownership, such as co-operatives or the Baugruppe (building group) and Baugemeinschaft (building community) models, to allow increased accessibility to stable home occupation and ownership for all New Zealanders through diversity and flexibility of tenure type over time.  Today the contemporary Kiwi dream acknowledges the advantages and benefits of higher density housing models, such as increased security, lack of maintenance, centralised management, ability to ‘lock and leave’ allowing travel, and proximity to town centres. A New Zealand collective urban housing model can represent the contemporary Kiwi dream through a balance between collective and individual needs. Solutions to the New Zealand housing crisis must follow a movement towards flexibility, to accommodate demographic change over time and the DIY spirit of New Zealanders, add community connectedness, challenge loneliness and embrace the sharing economy.  This design-led research proposes that the common spatial and architectural realm can facilitate potential formation of community in New Zealand urban housing architecture. It argues that the Sargfabrik cohousing model can be translated and adapted for a New Zealand urban context. The differences in housing context between Vienna and New Zealand, and the architectural implications of these differences for New Zealand urban housing architecture, are extracted from the research. It argues that a new collective urban housing model can achieve the design diversity and flexibility of New Zealand’s preferred suburban housing and the rich atmosphere of Sargfabrik’s common realm. This occurs through questioning and defining the contemporary Kiwi dream. The ways international flexible tenure and ownership models could work in a New Zealand context are also considered.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Southcombe, Mark