Kiwis love Mid-century Modern architecture – increasingly we appreciate this as part of our architectural heritage, and such properties have become highly sought-after.
We owe it all to a devoted group of architects who forged ahead with Modernist designs in the mid 1900s to leave us a legacy of properties that still resonate today.
But these architects haven't been assigned to history – their work lives on to influence architects today, including the team at Herriot, Melhuish O'Neill Architects (HMOA) in Christchurch.
Architect Duval O'Neill says the firm is "completely immersed in Modernism in the office". "It feels very natural to us, even though other people are constantly amazed by it (the office)."
"Don designed the house for his parents, but it was a while before we found this out," says O'Neill. "And when I did, I just looked up the phone book and rang him up. We had a great meeting. He was able to tell me all about the house and we developed a really nice friendship. He was a lovely, lovely man."
The same earthquake damaged the O'Neills' own house, which was subsequently deemed uneconomic to repair. But its legacy was to live on. Cowey had already pointed the architect in the direction of the Macmillan Brown Library at the University of Canterbury, where he found the original plans for the house.
"Once we had the decision to rebuild, the design strategy was largely an initiative in maintaining the essence of his original design, while taking the opportunity to adapt it to more modern living. We didn't want it large, and we didn't want to totally mimic his design.
"We like to think that he would have approved of our moves to bring it more in line with the way we live now."
O'Neill says there are several reasons why Mid-century architecture is still loved by New Zealanders.
"There's a heightened interest in design generally. And Mid-century design has struck a chord with Kiwis, partly due to the critical mass of that type of architecture – people are noticing we still have a good quantity of these homes.
"We appreciate there is a real craft involved in the planning of these homes. There's a generosity of space and a (strong) relationship to the outdoors and capturing key views. More often than not, it's the simplicity that carries through to the built-in joinery that works so well.
HMOA has worked on numerous other projects, including the award-winning restoration of the Clifton Hill House designed by Austrian architect Ernst Killnan in 1965.
Originally a holiday home, the team transformed the tired holiday house into a permanent home, dealing with the challenge of the two major earthquakes along the way.
O'Neill also restored and enlarged the 1957 Pascoe House at Sumner.
With three young children, the Parks were in desperate need of space, so they engaged O’Neill to sensitively add onto to their home. Duval worked closely with builder Dave Owens and with landscape architect Craig Pocock on a design for the large garden.
The owners say they love the sense of space, the light, and the way you can’t tell from the street that this house is really something special.
"When we moved in, the house was filled with fantastic mid-century pieces. None of our old country-cottage furniture worked at all."
"It takes a keen eye to spot the join between the old and new; many visitors can’t tell it’s been extended. We’ve maintained the sense of scale and the garden views from the kitchen."
And it's that last sentence that sums up the holistic design approach that characterises Modernism – the house is at one, not only with itself, but with the immediate outdoors, the views beyond, and of course the path of sun throughout the day.
Colleen Hawkes, The Press, 04 June 2020