VideosVideos

As shown on TV One
2007 New Zealand House & Garden
episode 4 "Open House"
Click to watch the video

InterviewInterview

Interview for OUR HOMES TODAY.
June 13th 2005
Howick & Pakuranga Times by Jasma Magill


An architect talks about the Modern style. Malcolm Taylor has been a registered architect for 15 years, and 8 years ago set up his practice, Xsite Architects Ltd, which employs 4 people. Award-winning Taylor and his team believes that architecture has the power to inspire the spirit, while meeting the practical requirements of human endeavour. Our Homes TODAY asked Taylor how inspirational desires in design can be married successfully with practical needs in modern homes being built in New Zealand today.

Q. The Modernist style of architecture has become very popular for people building contemporary homes in New Zealand. Could you briefly explain the main philosophies of Modernism, its appeal, and describe the materials it uses.
Modernism evolved out of the industrial revolution in the late 1800's and Architects interest in exploring modern materials such as glass. There was also social aspirations attached to the Modernist movement, which carried an idealism of creating a utopian society where the built form could transform lives. The house was seen as a utilitarian machine, built on a production line & mechanised to meet price, short construction times & systems of construction that limited one off designs. The general public now interpret Modernism as a minimalist "style" where much of the idealism and meaning has been lost to fashion and elitism. Elitism, in as much as steel and large expanses of glass come with a cost premium attached.

Q. Do you think this is a suitable style for the New Zealand climate and environment, for example, the expansive planes of glass? Can any adaptations be made to a Modernist house without compromising its integrity?
We feel the revived interest/fascination with houses that expand to the outdoors is inherently a "pacific house type", where we can shelter from sun & rain, but remain outside. Large cantilevered roof forms and opening doors that flow onto courtyards are very prevalent notion in the 1940's Case Study Houses of LA. These much later interpretations of the Modernist ethos carried the flame of hope for low cost houses after WW2, that respond to the Pacific Rim Climate. These houses where investigating new forms of construction & modulation of materials. Sadly developer generated housing companies took on the production line approach but the public response to Case Study houses was not positive. The bungalow and references to Tudor, Edwardian & Victorian house types prevailed. The answer to the second part of your question is yes. All building alterations are a re-interpretation of the original intent & purpose. If the client & architect can respect these original design decisions the Integrity of the building will have a greater chance of survival.

Q. What might some of those adaptations be?
Modernist design theory, watered down as much as it is, can be evident in existing homes. These are notions such as open plan living spaces. Adaptable spaces, such as hall ways becoming study nooks, ensuites open to the main bedroom behind sliding screens, and the focus on creating flexible outdoor rooms with sliding doors.

Q. Because modern architecture uses more glass, artificial methods of heating and cooling our internal environment becomes more necessary, especially in top-end designs. Is this the right way for design to go in the future?
I think firstly there is confusion between Style & theory. Modernist Architecture is not just about large windows & doors. Appropriate use of material is always necessary. Designing to the natural context, orientation, prevailing winds etc.
Auckland, Northland, Sydney, Brisbane, parts of East Asia, Japan and West Coast American all have a climate that allows us to explore "the large expanses of glass" solutions, where the transition space between inside & out is where we live. The maritime winds moderate fluctuations in temperature and the use of sun control & heat sink devices allow these houses to function far better than house design by pervious generations, State houses included. This could be seen as "Modern" but not Modernist Architecture.

Q. What has happened to 'eco-architecture'?
Rather than 'Eco-architecture' being a brand name, Sound 'eco' driven intent is used as yet another feather to the bow of issues that balance the whole design process. It is still alive however not elevated to a particular style

Q. Is the fact that we are looking back to Modernism a sign that we haven't come up with something new, or that its philosophies are enduring?
I feel that Modernism as a form of Architectural intent does allow Architects to explore more abstract issues such as light and variations of space, materials & textures, technology and artifice. As a movement it fundamental principles are about exploration. That is enduring at every level of design.

Q. Do you have any predictions as to what will be the next big thing in architecture?
The Lions Tour?

back to top