Reductive Rich - Negotiating an Architectural Language for Waikanae
I am interested in the architectural language and built fabric of cities and regions. On an exchange to Munich, I was confronted by two approaches to the city - the rich quality of work by Sergison Bates and Caruso St John; and the autonomous approach of Diener and Diener. These architects have made simple geometries convincing through rich detailing, ornament, and materiality. They create compelling buildings but the materials and construction techniques they use would be too expensive for most New Zealand housing projects. This experience caused me to critically consider the condition of New Zealand’s built fabric.
The Waikanae township in the Kapiti Region, has a deficit of rich architectural language and a bland sprawling suburbia. Its population is expected to grow 35-45 percent over the next twenty years, placing increased pressure on housing and suburban margins. Both the New Zealand Modernist and Postmodern traditions responded to the issue of housing density in suburbia, but both the austerity of Modernity and fragmentation of Postmodern formalism have been criticised. Considering the approaches of the European, Modernist and Postmodernist traditions, and with the benefit of new technologies, how might an architectural language be negotiated to contribute a rich alternative and more urban fabric for Waikanae?
This alternative was explored through design-led research. I carried out three major sets of experiments, which build in scale. Section one, Rich, experiments with details through a set of carefully crafted models and drawings. These explore layering and composing irregularities in abundant New Zealand materials. In section two, Local, the details are built upon in aesthetic, spatial and tectonic systems to develop a housing scheme. The scheme is reflected against the European, Modernist and Postmodernist architectural traditions and reveals issues of developing for ‘the house’ and for ‘the region’. Section three, Negotiations, attempts to reconcile the façades language to face the region. The final design proposal, 'reductive structures, richly clad', is presented as a negotiation of architectural traditions across the scales of the detail, house and urban.