We are a country of small builders, a lot of the big guys are gone. We are a country of great residential architects who understand our way of life. Auckland is working out its urban form for the future. Compact and high quality is the catch cry from the city leaders as the density increases. We are a culture of suburbanites and as we are required to increase denisty we look for ways of preserving this now miniaturised ideal, questioning how small can we go – 1/4 acre lot; 600sqm; 400sqm; 350sqm; 300sqm; Perhaps 200sqm is the minimum before the model falls apart with no yard left, the reduction function in the xerox fails.
Examples of all the above exist; if you design this out with some real market realities you get a plan that requires a yield of approximately 40 dwellings per hectare. Add some kiwi based urban design and inspiration and you get Hobsonville point, where the current master plan reflects the reality of the market struggling to accept any other form other than a suburban based model, even in one of arguably the best pieces of land for intensification in Auckland.
New Zealand is set up to realise this suburban model. Our builders are small in general a host of small scale builders building a couple a year. Our ownership aspirations our culture of brick and tile are for freehold titles, not unit or stata titles. Our banks reflect this with 10 percent deposits for freehold titles and 40 percent for others, making a lot of product unattainable. I would like to share an idea – actually part of a project – that I think can deliver true kiwi residential urbanism.
That idea is based on working with the freehold title that has lots of examples in NZ, a great inspirational track record offshore and is buildable by our builders. But it does present some consenting challenges and some new ways of thinking. Our site is in the mixed-use zone of urban Auckland, has a 15m height limit and a 2:1 FAR requirement. It looks to provide a traditional subdivision offering to the market built around a small scale street /lane at 12m wide and benchmarked off a number of inner city streets. Each site is a freehold title. All very traditional – the difference is what can be built!
The idea is no traditional terraces, no common or party walls but free-standing structures like commerical buildings with a 25mm gap; a true mixed use urban solution allowing residential and commercial use. The model is basd on the a series of case studies in and around Auckland and one famous offshore example - Borneo Sporenburg – where West8 developed a framework and design code for independent canal houses designed by various architects. The result was an amazing mix of Dutch architecture where open space was provided through a wide range of options; roofs, courtyards, hanging decks, 2 storey and 3 storey voids. Every one different.
I’ve been there and wondered if there was interest in this form in New Zealand. Sure enough, right outside our studio in Freemans Bay are a heap of examples of residential and commercial buildings (and mixtures of both) that create a similar outcome. We used some of these buildings as case studies to build up a library of forms and approaches.
This development model could start to break the typical suburban-based residential solution. Building at higher densities within a free holding structure is not reliant on a larger builder and instead attracts small investors and owners. It opens the door for innovative design-led solutions that showcase our excellent NZ architects.