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Story: Domestic architecture

Architects have only designed a small proportion of New Zealand houses, but these have influenced the design of many other dwellings. New Zealand domestic architecture has often followed international trends.

Story by Julia Gatley
Main image: The Signal Box, Masterton

Story Summary

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19th century

New Zealand’s first architecturally designed houses, in the 1820s and 1830s, were Georgian, with symmetrical facades and ground-floor verandahs. Examples include mission stations in Northland and the Treaty House at Waitangi. For the rest of the 19th century architecture followed overseas developments, including classical revival and Gothic revival styles. Houses were built in wood, brick or stone. Grand houses were built in the late 19th century, often with a servants’ wing.

Early 20th century

Architect-designed houses at the start of the 20th century were often grand in scale. Some had boards fixed to outside walls, resembling European half-timbered houses. Wood panelling was used inside. James Chapman-Taylor designed arts and crafts houses, which reacted against industrial production and used handcrafted materials. Between the world wars, English architecture remained popular. American styles such as Californian bungalows and art deco began to influence the design of houses and apartment buildings.

Modernism

By the late 1930s architects were using modernist styles, with flat roofs, expanses of glass and open-plan rooms. Austrian immigrant Ernst Plischke became known for his modernist houses. From 1937 blocks of state flats were similarly radical. Some architects developed a local modernism, using exposed timber and design references to shacks and Māori whare.

Late modernism

In the 1960s Christchurch architects, especially Miles Warren, Maurice Mahoney and Peter Beaven, dominated domestic architecture. Their houses were often split into two or three smaller pavilions, and Warren’s were known as pixie houses. Wellington architects Ian Athfield and Roger Walker’s buildings featured many small spaces instead of open-plan rooms, and were nicknamed Disneyland or Noddy houses. John Scott, of both Māori and Pākehā descent, drew on the whare and the woolshed in his designs.

Postmodern and neo-modern architecture

In the 1980s architects designed postmodern dwellings, with historical references, decoration and glitz. More apartment buildings were constructed in central cities, and some older office or warehouse buildings were developed into apartments. Slick houses with clean lines and lots of glass were popular in the early 2000s. While large houses with wealthy clients often attracted most interest, architects were also interested in small, well-planned houses. Environmental sustainability was important, with houses designed to be energy-efficient.

How to cite this page:

Julia Gatley, 'Domestic architecture', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/domestic-architecture (accessed 22 July 2017)

Story by Julia Gatley, published 22 Oct 2014