Design Review: Volume 3, Issue 1 (July-August 1950)
A Pictorial Survey of Housing in New Zealand — Conclusion
A Pictorial Survey of Housing in New Zealand
The use of large windows increasing in size until the whole wall became a window as in this house is characteristic of modern architecture. In this example the architect has integrated with skill this glass wall into the fabric of the house. Architect: T. F. Hough. Photographer: Sparrow Industrial Pictures Ltd.
As in most countries the contemporary New Zealand house is eclectic. The overseas architectural and home and garden magazines, which have a big influence upon the design of the New Zealand house, not only show the most interesting and exciting work of such internationally known architects as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Gropius, but a great variety of work which in most cases can only be regarded as whimsy. The photographs are typical examples of the contemporary architect-designed houses. These houses have all one thing in common: they are all different; different shapes in roofs, windows, doors and wall coverings. They have all been designed that way because society likes its houses so. Each house is an interesting piece of personal expression, but without regard for its neighbours or neighbourhood, resulting in a heterogenous collection of houses each intent upon impressing the passers-by with the wealth or good taste of the owner and ability of the architect.
In fact the architect designs few houses; the great bulk of houses are erected without his skilled directions. Then this demand, to be different, is expressed in whimsy and trivialities in the design of the houses which are on small individual pieces of land.
Thus all houses are different, but all streets, all suburbs, are the same, resulting in a visual monotony which is deadening. The ideal, it would seem, is a house standing in a large garden, free but different from its neighbours, and with several servants to take care of the house and family. This is, of course, beyond practically all as a reality. In place of this ideal a miniature house is built on a miniature section. This miniature stands free if only by a few feet, has front and back doors and entrance halls, has numerous small rooms all carefully partitioned, all opening off passages. These houses, usually without modern mechanical appliances, are costly, often draughty and cold, and there are never enough of them to go round. Some of the reasons for the lack of houses can be explained by the system and standard of construction. It is agreed page 14 that high wages and short hours can only be maintained in industry by systems of high repetitive production, but it is difficult to build this type of house by such a system. Housing in New Zealand has made some progress towards repetitive production, but is in the main still a craft industry.
There have been many attempts to introduce improved and cheaper methods of house building, all with little to show, because the house asked for is the miniature house based upon the ideals of another day. It is a house that belongs to the craft system of construction. The craft system can only meet the universal demand for houses by the working of long hours. But the hours of work today are short. There is a place in the houses of the wealthy and in the houses partly built by the owner, for craft construction and the individual design by the architect. It would seem that greater encouragement and direction should be given to those who, in their spare time, are able and wish to erect their own houses.
As towns grow larger the size of sections grows smaller; as wealth becomes more equally distributed the problem of designing one house becomes the problem of all houses. The great change that this must have upon the design of the individual living unit is now being realized. Architectural design will not be concentrated upon the isolated house, but upon the whole design problem of housing for the many. Instead of designing one house to be built once, the problem is the designing of one house to be used many times. The design of streets, and the services for streets such as light standards and bus-shelters, plenty of large and small trees, the contrasting of groups of houses, large groups against small, low masses against tall, and the use of colour. All this is mostly neglected, but it is upon such work that the architect should be employing his skill and knowledge.
Providing economically sufficient houses in this country is not in the first case technical, but social and æsthetic. If society will accept houses planned for the individual family based upon the social customs and production of today, not yesterday, then the overcoming of the housing shortage will be nearer of attainment.
This house has been designed for the family as a unit without straining for excessive privacy. It is less inhibited by the conventions and habits of bygone days than plan Number 2. There is only one entrance door but casement doors open out into the garden. Architect: A. L. Gabites.
“Has front and back doors and entrance hall, has numerous small rooms all carefully partitioned and opening off passages.” These plans are all to the same scale but note the miniature character of the plan compared with plans Numbers 1 and 3. Architect unknown.
This is an open plan but provides privacy to each member of the family when required. There are no passages and the minimum number of partitions. The floor area is 125 square feet less than plan Number 2, but has a spaciousness which is wholly lacking in that plan. Architect: Edward Stone.page 15
This is a more conventional use of window and bearing wall, but has been illustrated because of the pleasant relation between house, terrace and garden. Architect: G. I. Hole.
This house, erected some years ago, is derivative of the English cottage with its small windows and dominating tile roof. Architect: P. H. Graham. Photographer: Hall Raine.
“All houses are different but all streets and suburbs are the same, resulting in a visual monotony which is deadening.”