Fantastic Thesis project from Liam James McRoberts
New Zealand undoubtedly has an attachment to the Victorian and Edwardian Villa that is seen to sit within a complex love / hate relationship. These historic artefacts decorate and populate New Zealand’s oldest suburbs, and as much as we love their contribution to our built environment, the villa is also seen as problematic, specifically in regards to inner city intensification and how we respond to heritage beyond mere ‘facadism’.
This project addresses a very real and contemporary issue within New Zealand. Rather than superficially imitating the villa as commonly seen throughout New Zealand, this project has focused on the re-interpretation of the Victorian and Edwardian villa. This has been interpreted on two points, based around the underlying theme of integration.
Firstly, the Victorians had a particular interest and attachment to nature that stemmed from the growing body of natural science during the 19th century. This attachment was displayed in the ‘aestheticization’ of nature through meticulously well-maintained gardens and of course delicate timber ornament within and outside of the villa. Secondly, the villa is arguably New Zealands first mass-produced, prefabricated house, built upon contemporary steam powered machinery imported from the United States and England during the mid 1840’s. The Victorians took great pride in this industrialisation and the villa consequently became a symbol of their prosperity.
Re-interpreting these two points, firstly the ‘aestheticization’ of nature is argued to be somewhat superficial. Responding to an attachment to nature must be addressed beyond the ‘backyard’ and ornament, particularly when the common view with contemporary inner city intensification is the loss of the backyard or the ‘quarter acre pavlova paradise’ that is ingrained in Kiwi culture. Taking the Japanese spatial theory of ‘Ma’ the idea of the garden is interpreted as a space of ‘withdrawal’, influencing programmatic separations and spatial ‘betweenness’. Revealing private and public garden spaces that intend to promote a direct interaction with nature. Secondly, the integration of contemporary fabrication through CNC machinery and prefabrication techniques aim to promote a level of craftsmanship and prosperity that resonates with the New Zealand villa, while critically addressing contemporary sustainability issues in the face of global climate change.