Wednesday, February 6, 2008


On Monday, I made it Wellington after an incredibly beautiful ferry ride from the South Island. The weather was a bit rough, but going through the coves and sounds there is quite a wonderful experience. It was a true New Zealand experience with a full truck of sheep right below the deck we were sitting on. Ahh, the sites and smells of New Zealand.

I met with a couple of architects who work for Melling Morse Architects ( who do a lot of pretty cool housing designs that are often affordable, yet beautiful. Their office is situated on an alley with one of the partners living in a sweet box/loft that has been basically been mounted on top of on older building where their office is. Their works consistent of a fairly regular palette of materials used in many different ways: Monterey cypress, which grays and weathers over time, cement board, and corrugated metal. Apparently, this material that I was inquiring about on the previous post was originally used in ballast for ships, as each sheet could easily be moved by two people and stacked deep. It is currently one of the most affordable building materials, as concrete and masonry are still quite expensive, which is another reason many of the houses are raised above the ground on pillars as opposed to solid foundations.

In terms of affordability and allowing ease of expansion, many of their projects are based off a module of 900 millimeters (3 ft). Typically, houses are being built for around NZ$3000/sq.meter or US$238/sq.ft if my conversions were right (when is the rest of the world going to catch up with the forward thinking US measurement system?). Many of their projects are coming in around NZ$1800 or $US142/ sq. ft. Most of this cost is in materials, as land isn’t so much of an expense as in the US.

I was able to visit a couple of their projects and related ones in and outside of Wellington. Their little Havana project was a fascinating housing conversation, converting the top floor of a Spanish colonial building to an open street with lofts and smaller units opening out into it. Another project originally served as eleven low cost housing units for battered women. Once again, the palette of materials served to offer a contextual, but innovative approach.

As Allan Morse, one of the architects put it, you have to have a dream to make it work. If you don’t have a dream as a motive, then all you get is architects showing off without any real social solution. Dream big, and then you work back from that. I am grateful to their hospitality and continued good work.

More soon related to farming, farm houses, and the challenges of living in state housing. And more pictures soon.


Jen said...

The link for Melling Morse is incorrect...try the following:

The designs are fabulous...

luke w perry said...

thanks, jen. i will put a link next to it. still have my US-centric hat on. i will change it and respond to your other comments soon. thanks for reading!