Houses always reveal a lot about their owners on all kinds of levels. A person’s home can show what things he thinks are important, how educated he is, what his “taste” is, how creative or practical a person is, etc. Some people may love colours, others love art and interior design, others love nature and gardens and so on, but deeper things like people’s values ​​and priorities in life are also revealed.

In New Zealand, most houses are built in new suburbs and are not designed by architects. In general, housing in New Zealand was based on the American model of individual houses on good-sized lots attached to large mega-malls and shopping centres. The result is a sprawling, car-dependent suburb that makes it difficult to develop denser, better-planned and sustainable suburbs after good public transport connections. Apart from the odd council planning guide, New Zealanders have complete freedom to express their architecture, but the style of these new areas is often conservative and bland. Homes are advertised with a “product-oriented” choice of materials and colours are often muted with greys, beiges and whites.

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Contemporary American style cityscape_©xiSerge

There are literally acres of grey roofs with the odd design element like a slate wall or colourful front doors, and they are located on winding roads with dead ends. In addition, New Zealand has high construction costs, which affect both the design of the houses and our choice of materials. It is intertwined with the widening gap between the “haves” and the “haves”. This happens all over the world, but especially in more capitalist countries and economies like the United States, with the exception of Scandinavian countries and a few others, where tax systems are fairer and aim to serve everyone.

New Zealanders are now increasingly focused on densification done well to create sustainably built, denser and more vibrant suburbs that combine good public transport, cycling and walking paths with an emphasis on community and inclusion – both culturally and environmentally. affordable terms. High-quality urban planning with good architecture, where the emphasis is less on products and profits and more on the community, plays a big role in this. The wake of Covid 19 has reminded us all of this sense of community.

The first architecturally designed houses in New Zealand in the 1820s and 1830s were of the Georgian era, with symmetrical facades and first-floor porches. Examples include Northland Broadcasting Stations and the Waitangi Treaty House.

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Georgian style house in early 1800s_©Ted Baghurst
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Treaty House_©NZ History

Late 19th-century architecture followed foreign developments, including Classical Revival and Gothic Revival styles. Houses were built of wood, brick or stone.

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Napier-The Public Trust Building_©denisbin

At the end of the 19th century, large houses were built, often with a wing of servants. Houses designed by architects in the early 20th century were often large-scale. Some had tables attached to the outer walls, reminiscent of European half-timbered houses. Wood panelling is used inside. James Chapman-Taylor designed Arts and Crafts houses that responded to industrial production and used handmade materials. Between the world wars, English architecture remained popular. American styles such as California bungalows and art deco began to influence the design of houses and apartment buildings. In the late 1930s, architects used modernist styles with flat ceilings, extensive glazing and spacious rooms. Austrian immigrant Ernst Plischke became famous for his modernist houses.

From 1937, the apartment buildings of the country were equally radical. Some architects have developed local modernism using exposed timbers and design references to huts and the Maori whale.

In the 1980s, architects designed post-modern residences with historical references, decoration and brilliance. More apartment buildings were built in the city centres and some older office or warehouse buildings were developed into apartments.

Elegant houses with clean lines and lots of glass were popular in the early 2000s. Although large houses with wealthy clients often attracted the most interest, architects were also interested in small, well-designed houses. Environmental sustainability was important, the houses were designed to be energy efficient.

Subsequent parts of New Zealand were hit worse than the others. The oil crisis of the 1970s and the Chernobyl meltdown seem to be repeating themselves, which should make urban planners, architects, engineers and politicians think. This is especially true for New Zealand, which is tasked with rebuilding the heritage city of Christchurch after two major earthquakes. The country is anti-nuclear, but owning a car is essential as there is no extensive train network. In terms of the country’s economy, the effects of the two Christchurch earthquakes and many aftershocks have been compared to 9/11.

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Christchurch after earthquake 2011_©The guardian
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Christchurch present day status_©The Guardian

According to reports, 100,000 homes need repair and 10,000 homes will have to be demolished due to liquefaction where soils have turned to quicksand. Engineers are faced with the nearly impossible task of building a ferry foundation for the city’s bedrock or finding a safer site for the new city of Christchurch. Today, Christchurch’s streets are busy after a period of continuous construction, first the commercial development of glass-walled office space and high-end retail, followed by social and cultural buildings that have either been renovated or replaced.



Deepshikha Chatterjee is a final year student of architecture studying in Raman Bhakta School of Architecture (UTU). Besides from her architectural background, she keeps keen interest in critic writing or writing in general. Her nerdiness is one of her special talents.