Reinventing the Party Wall - For Quality City Living
The party wall is a commonly used building element that is rarely exploited to its full potential due to structural and legal complications. The party wall was introduced in the 16th century as a strategy to increase density and reduce building cost by removing the unusable spaces between houses. However in New Zealand the party wall became associated with poor quality housing, lacking privacy and added legal complications due to its extensive use by the government and developers in social and budget housing. There are many other benefits to the party wall that are being utilised more successfully and creatively in other areas of the world; resulting in a more diverse set of outcomes than New Zealand’s economical approach. These strategies are yet to be exploited in New Zealand, yet there is no reason why they cannot be utilised in high quality homes. This research aims to reinvent the party wall as a strategy for increasing the density of inner city dwellings while improving the quality of the built environment.
There is an existing relationship between density, quality and the party wall that effects how designs develop. The strong relationship between density and quality has already been recognised, resulting in councils taking action by altering design guides and city plans. Equally the potential to increase density through the use of the party wall has also been recognised and is becoming more predominant in recent New Zealand developments. The area that is yet to receive significant focus is the relationship between quality and the party wall. This thesis therefore focuses on the relationship between quality and the party wall to develop a strategy that increases the quality and density of the city through utilising the party wall to its full potential.
Through the analysis of current party wall practice and precedent designs, current party wall strategies being utilised are revealed along with areas in need of improvement. These strategies are then abstracted and analysed to discover emerging forms, repeated uses, consistencies and quality attributes. Furthering the investigation into the reinvention of the party wall, these findings later contribute towards a toolkit of approaches that are utilised to improve the outcome of a New Zealand party wall designs case study. The adaption and application of the data found is applied to five building designs on a central Wellington site. The design process explores new combinations of forms, spaces, activities and architecture to mitigate undesirable party wall effects and improve upon current party wall practice.
The design outcome of this inquiry is a dense, qualitative, and practical architectural response to the New Zealand housing conditions that changes the boundary of a site into a desirable architectural element of the home through the reinvention of the party wall. This reinvention of the party wall introduces a new aesthetic, increases the quality of the built environment improving the profitability of land, increases density and consequently creates a higher return with no loss to amenity. Therefore the research output of this thesis is significant as it aids in preventing the escalating negative connotations connected with inner city living, providing recommendations for dense, high quality, and cost efficient inner city housing strategies in New Zealand.