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Design Review: Volume 1, Issue 4 (December 1948)

The Demonstration House

page 8

The Demonstration House

During the present University vacation students of the Architectural Centre are to build a Demonstration House as their project for the 1948–9 Summer School. Work is already under way.

There are two primary aims. The first is to provide architectural students with practical experience in building construction. The second is to demonstrate to New Zealanders what good design can do to provide a good place to live in.

With 12,000 houses being built in New Zealand every year, few of which adequately provide for the needs of their occupants, and most of which destroy rather than add to their surroundings, the time is long overdue for an extensive improvement in the attitude of New Zealanders to house design. The improved standard brought about by the State Housing Department since its establishment eleven years ago has not been maintained. A fresh approach is needed, and this the Demonstration House sets out to give. Its audience is the New Zealand public.

The Design of the House

Eight groups of students, with the aid when required of experienced tutors, competed in designing the house. Their greatest challenge was the site—probably one of the most difficult in Wellington. The ground slopes away on three sides with a general slope to the south. Near the top a small man-made plateau is the obvious place for the building.

Then there were the needs of the family who are to live in the house. These lucky people will not be selected until the house is built, but it was assumed that they would be a well-educated and open-minded family free from preconceived ideas on houses. It was also assumed that there are already two boys with a third child on the way—not necessarily a boy.

The house, like the family, is not necessarily the minimum accepted to-day, but rather the minimum that should be accepted in a wealthy country like New Zealand.

Within 1,100 square feet of floor area it has been possible to provide three bedrooms, a large play area and general utility room and separate access to each room. The sheltered outdoor living space formed by the court, the segregation of sleeping from living quarters, and good lighting and ventilation to all rooms are particular points of interest.

Supply of Materials

Manufacturers and suppliers of building materials are competing for the supply of materials, most of which will be donated. The Master Builders' Federation is supplying a foreman, and generous assistance has been offered in many other ways. Three students to form the core of the labour force will work full time and be paid as labourers, but the main body of students will work in their spare time during evenings and week-ends, It is hoped that they will make the main contribution to the work.

page 9

The house will be open to the public for inspection for six weeks when completed. It will then be sold. Any profit will go towards the establishment of a School of Architecture in Wellington.

A reinforced concrete slab with parquet Yooring, unconventional timber framing, and a flat roof are the main structural features.

Permission to use vertical shiplap weather-boarding was refused by the City Council despite its successful use in State houses. So was the placing of vent pipes in internal ducts instead of against the outside walls.

The house is for leisurely living rather than for the hurry and bustle of the average city commuter.