Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (36.19 MB)

Rethinking Facadism: The Contemporary New Zealand Villa

Download (36.19 MB)
Version 2 2023-03-13, 23:59
Version 1 2021-11-15, 06:14
posted on 2023-03-13, 23:59 authored by Wright, Hayley

The New Zealand Villa is a significant cultural icon of New Zealand. Its architecture encapsulates a rich story of New Zealand's colonial heritage, but preserving this legacy requires respect and understanding in the face of societal change. Presently, villa's are being 'modernised' by owners pressured to maintain the aesthetic 'respectability' of the traditional villa, while simultaneously demanding that their private realms reflect contemporary concerns. Differing expectations and conflict in architectural values results in an irretrievable loss of the villa's cultural integrity.

As the villa becomes permanently entrenched in New Zealand's cultural heritage, an 'authentic' depiction of the architecture becomes subjected to facadism. District plans and heritage rules indirectly promote the 'authenticity' of facadism; however the term authentic is presented to the populace under false pretences resulting in spurious imitation forced upon villa's. Facadism results in a Potemkin City; replicated façades, insufficient in and lacking appreciation for, New Zealand's architectural history. This paper questions facadism in comparison to historical and contemporary methods of architectural change. It aims to rethink the notion of facadism and communicate alternative ways of approaching change that is honest and suitable to the aging dwelling and to the occupational demands of contemporary life.

A methodology for assessing the New Zealand villa will analyse the social aspects of the traditional design through a contemporary lens. An analytical study will be conducted that will review the social and architectural attributes associated with the traditional villa and how it catered for demands and rituals of the Victorian society. It will evaluate the villa's position in contemporary society and focus attention to the roof as a horizontal facade. Principles will explore how the villa's traditional roof and planning attributes can be applied to contemporary lifestyle and cater for a changing occupancy.

A design phase tests the principles through various sites and scales. The desired outcome will present a developed prototype of a 'non frontal' villa designed for the contemporary family unit. It sets out to achieve this through a series of tests exploring how the designed principles can develop a conceptual depiction of a villa. The design outcome of this thesis presents two conclusions. First a contemporary typology of the spatial language of the New Zealand villa and, second, that the villa's facade in contemporary environments has become a three dimensional object with a horizontal nature that needs to be catered for in contemporary architecture.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Wood, Peter