The judges’ travelogue: Day three – Nelson, Christchurch, Invercargill

This week, we follow the Home of the Year 2021 judges as they embark on an ambitious architectural journey around New Zealand.

So far we have come across two projects that were designed and built in very close collaboration between family members and their friend/relative architect. There is a generosity of spirit in these two homes and I suspect it is brought about by an easy flow of communication, a desire to test ideas and materials and, in the case where the family built the place themselves, gentle attempts at spatial experimentation.

Interior nooks serve as office spaces and spare bedrooms but are also treated as de facto galleries. Privacy and openness are somewhat loose terms here and there seems to be a higher level of customisation. That client/designer ‘getting-to-know-each-other’ phase has been either fast-tracked or skipped entirely, allowing the design and build to become more playful from the onset. The result is less about business and more about art. It is about soul, moments of joy, and all those things that really matter.

Like one home owner explained (I’m paraphrasing here): we would prototype a little, step back and look, build a little more over the weekends, spend a month pondering it over, eating, drinking and then eventually we had a house. 

Yes, the process might have taken longer and the inconvenience of a perpetual building site is not for everybody, but this methodology and the resulting homes exemplify the importance of strong communication between designer and client.

Onto the next leg. At this stage of the tour, a couple of negronis were consumed while waiting for the America’s Cup final, and New Zealand wins the Auld Mug! We board a faulty plane and get transferred to another.

We arrive in Invercargill late at night and are all tired but excited about exploring The Catlins in the morning.

The streets here are empty and there is only a beautiful, yellowish crescent moon hanging from the sky above. 

Auckland to Nelson: 850kms

Nelson to Christchurch: 402kms

Christchurch to Invercargill: 465kms

Words Federico Monsalve

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