Spatial identity

The winners of the Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects 2023 New Zealand Architecture Awards were announced in November. We explore some of the winning projects from the Housing and Alterations and Additions categories, along with a striking addition to the dunes of Piha that was awarded in the Small Project Architecture category.

See-saw Home

Design: Upoko Architects
Photography: Jason Mann

Citation: The jury were extremely impressed by the way this house is positioned on a very public and exposed site adjacent to the beach. The house actively engages with the street, while layering spaces for the occupants to maintain privacy; the main bedroom in particular has been skilfully handled, allowing for separation from the street and living spaces, but retaining sea views through an internal courtyard. Careful consideration has been given to how light and sun enter the house throughout the day, with pop-up roofs utilised to inject sun deep into the centre of the house. The screened internal courtyards allow for ventilation without completely opening up to prevailing winds, and maintain security while allowing for the flinging open of doors. Simple materials have been carefully detailed throughout, making this a small but generous and joyful home.

See-saw Home won a 2023 New Zealand Architecture Award in the Housing Category.

Omata Beach House

Design: Herbst Architects
Photography: Simon Wilson

Citation: The jury was impressed by this beautiful, carefully detailed home, which has clearly been designed with consideration of how it is occupied throughout different seasons and times of the day. The operability of the house allows for sun and wind to be modified in the living spaces. Internal courtyards provide a strong connection to the landscape, while maintaining privacy for those in residence. Highly crafted joinery is seamlessly integrated into the building and other materials selected provide a tactile reminder that this is a beach house, with local stone used for floors and robust timbers throughout. Small moments like foot washing basins located around the exterior hint at a thoughtful, well-used and practical family home.

Omata Beach House won a 2023 New Zealand Architecture Award in the Housing Category, and the Sir Ian Athfield Award for Housing.

Te Pae          

Design: Crosson Architects
Photography: Samuel Hartnett

Citation: Aotearoa’s wild West Coast has claimed many lives over the years, making a fit-for-purpose lifeguard tower a critical piece of the community’s infrastructure. With a history of their towers succumbing to the extremely harsh marine environment, form and material selection were paramount for the largely volunteer surf life-saving teams. The selection of black oxide precast circular concrete pipe sections stacked upon each other, not only deflects the wind, but provides a strong response to the context of the local black sands. A very functional and safe spiral staircase leads to the cantilevered watch house, its operable ribbon windows, like a pair of wrap-around westie sunglasses, providing views up and down North Piha’s rugged surf coast.

Te Pae received a 2023 New Zealand Architecture Award in the Small Project Architecture category, and the John Scott Award for Public Architecture.

Studio House

Design: William Samuels Architects
Photography: Simon Devitt

Citation: Studio House is a small and extremely well-considered home. Conceived as a relocatable and extendable dwelling, and located on family land, it allows its occupants (who were both designer and builders) to have the security of home ownership without the expense of land.The slipped planning of this dwelling eliminates circulation, and provides a sense of privacy for the bedroom and bathroom spaces within the small footprint. The deck becomes an extension of the interior space, both physically and visually. Significant storage is provided throughout, ensuring this house is an excellent demonstration of how to live small but generously. The ability to relocate this dwelling, or to add a third module in time, has been carefully and realistically considered in the design, adding future flexibility. It is a delightful project that illustrates how the ‘tiny house’ concept can be executed as a highly resolved architectural project.

Studio House won a 2023 New Zealand Architecture Award in the Small Project Architecture category.

Read more about the 2023 New Zealand Architecture Awards winners at

Latest video features

In the Coromandel, a home with a humble profile and a thoughtful design makes the most of a stunning location.

Built with awe-inspiring attention to detail, this Arrowtown home is a fresh interpretation of a familiar Otago rural vernacular.

This sculptural Northland bach is a perfect north arrow on a remote farm high above the sea.

With the sun on its bow and the community at its stern, this is a house in which the elements are always front of mind.

Trending articles

Design News

Meet the Interior of the Year judges

Entries are now open for Home Interior of the Year 2024 – a celebration of New Zealand’s best residential interior design and architecture.