New Zealand Design Awards
In plan, Longbeach Primary School, by Peter Beaven Architects, unfolds like a giant butterfly. Through its use of color and light, the building celebrates a child's sense of joy and fresh discovery and is perfectly scaled for its young users. Skillful planning and careful attention to detail in execution create stimulating spaces both inside and out.
"It is to be hoped that this piece of work will serve as a reminder to providers that educational buildings can rise above the mundane," said NZIA judges. "A rare mix of verve, vigor, and wisdom, this school will stay with the children for the rest of their lives."
In its eloquent passage from street to tree tops, architect Roger Dodd's House at 17 Royal Terrace, Dunedin, has created lasting and civilized connections with both. Its graceful street presence simultaneously acknowledges the public and encloses the private. Within, extensive glazing and dramatic projections allow interpenetration of the house and the densely wooded landscape.
Hovering on its steeply sloping, technically challenging site, a simple and relaxed plan unfolds as a skillfully modeled environment. Characterized by openness and closure, solidity and transparency, it offers "an eminently satisfying and deeply peaceful place to live."
Twenty-Five Year Award
This year's 25 year Award went to Mark-Brown Fairhead Sang Carnachan for Brake House (1976), Titirangi. Twenty five years after it was built, this house continues to impress, entertain, and comfort.
The 25 Year Award, part of NZIA's Award program since the late 1980s, brings attention to buildings that have lasting design qualities, but which are neither historic nor modern. This interesting and popular award often "flushes out" important buildings that have been previously overlooked.
From the initial impact of its beautiful site, landscaping, and planning, all executed with a sure architectural hand, the pleasure of Brake House unfolds. Essentially a series of pavilions, the house offers intimate connections with the surrounding bush, juxtaposed with stunning Auckland vistas.
Evident throughout is the influence of Asia. This originally reflected the interests of the photographer Brian Brake, for whom the house was designed, but it remains pervasive into the present day, and sits in perfect accord with the Pacific bush beyond.
The scale, detail, and spatial clarity of the building are not those of a grand house designed to impress, but of a house for living in intimacy with the environment. These are enduring qualities which time and appreciative owners are only improving.
"This house has substance and spirit that transcend image and plan," said the award judges. "It is a joy."
The Group, one of New Zealand's most influential firms, won the NZIA's highest award, the Gold Medal, in recognition of their role in the development of New Zealand architecture.
This award is given to a firm or individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the practice of architecture, demonstrated through the production of a consistently high quality body of work over time.
The Group's architectural philosophy, which remained clear and consistent throughout their work, was first articulated in their 1946 Manifesto, On the Necessity for Architecture.
Throughout the firm's existence, their buildings and pronouncements have advanced their philosophical position that the aim of architecture is the satisfaction of human needs and aspirations; that architecture is not only an art and a science, it is the means to achieve a civilized and cultured society.
This philosophy was put into practice beginning in 1949 with the establishment of Group Construction Company, which designed and built three seminal houses on New Zealand's North Shore.
The first two of these houses provided the opportunity for The Group to test and prove their thinking about the desirable qualities of a good, everyday house for a typical New Zealand family.
An open plan encouraged an informal and unpretentious lifestyle, in strong contrast to the arrangements, common at the time, of rooms connected by a hallway or passage.
Post and beam construction sought to achieve economy, efficiency, and elegance. It also referred back to one of The Group's fundamental principles, that true economies in building could only be achieved by using standard building components available with machine production.
The third house, Group member Bruce Rotherham's own studio/house, confirmed the innovative approach of the first two, but achieved greater openness, with a floating saucer-edged mezzanine floor and greenhouse-glazed south wall.
Apart from a square, rough-brick stair tower with wine cellar below and space for organ pipes above, the house had no interior walls. All of this richness lay within the simplest of gabled sheds. Today the house still offers a powerful architectural experience.
Setting a National Standard
Collectively, these three North Shore houses are unpretentious but serious buildings, intent on achieving the best result elegantly and with the greatest economy of means.
In 1951 Group Construction Company coalesced into Group Architects. Of the various houses The Group produced, the best remembered are the Catley House (1951), the Juriss House (1954), the Mallitte house (1954), and the Thom House (1954).
The Group's houses, and their approach to building, clearly expresses a philosophical and social vision, in particular the need to articulate an emerging sense of New Zealand identity.
The enduring quality and influence of their work owe much to the honesty, integrity, and enthusiasm which infuse it. The Group shows that these qualities are central to producing vital architecture that is capable of both reflecting and shaping a society and its culture.