The judges’ travelogue: Day four – Southland, Otago

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

Quote of the day: “Invercargill streets are like those of Paris!” Home of the Year judge (name suppressed to protect the innocent).

We set off from Invercargill’s Dee Street on our way to Omaui, a small coastal town between Invercargill and Bluff. 

Young macrocarpas here lean dramatically, not as a way to battle but to go along with the prevailing winds. After we see a couple of houses here, we all agree that local architecture might like to emulate their ways and lean, hunker and protect not just its inhabitants but also their materials in a way that favours aerodynamics rather than monoliths. 

The discussion around sustainability has increased and we explore the need to move beyond the energy efficiency realm and bring carbon sequestration into the designer’s toolbox. 

Timber, timber, timber is a reoccurring mantra and so is embedded carbon, point of origin, and reducing the use of steel and concrete if and when possible. 

We visit a beautiful small bach in Southland whose architect describes some of the difficulties with building in such remote locations. Access to materials and craftspeople, high cost of transport, low consumer demand for specialist materials, which in turn make accessibility even more of a challenge. 

It is easy to pull back a little and realise that those are challenges that actually affect New Zealand as a whole, not just the south.

Our remoteness is a strength and a limitation but, as one of the judges said, limitations can be great motivators for innovative design solutions.

We are coming closer to making a few decisions about finalists and winners and some categories have proven difficult due to the sheer quality of entries. The incredibly affable and insightful jury has provided some energising banter about the state of our local building stock.

We finish the evening at Josh Emmet’s Rata restaurant with a good bottle of Nelson albariño and perfect seafood. We compare notes about some of the highlights of the day (one in particular which we found to be truly outstanding) and resolve to collaborate in the future to further the discussion about outstanding architecture. Watch this space. 

Invercargill to Omaui: 28kms

Omaui to Bannockburn: 260kms

Bannockburn to Queenstown: 67kms

Words Federico Monsalve

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