With the bones of a beloved family home and budget restrictions from quake-insurance, this architectural design was going to be tough. Architect Andrew Mitchell discusses
An architectural design built within quake-insurance restrictions
Liz and Ian bought their two-storey home in Fendalton, Christchurch, in 1978. They moved across town from one leafy suburb to another, to a house designed by Armson, Collins and Harman architects. The quakes that hit Canterbury twisted two internal chimney stacks, which warped the 100-year-old arts-and-crafts-style homestead. Pebbledash cladding was ripped from horizontal wooden lathes and bricks were blown out into the rooms.
For a short time afterwards, Liz and Ian, now in their 70s, lived in a tent at their daughter’s house, then rented when they realised that the insurance and building process would take a while to sort out. Five years and 42 days to be exact.
When architects Andrew Patterson and Andrew Mitchell of Pattersons took on Liz and Ian’s rebuild, they knew the couple’s strong connection to the original home would be an important factor in design. It was a home in which the family had created more than three decades of memories. Liz and Ian’s insurance policy was for a ‘like-for-like’ replacement, but they needed evidence to prove that the original house was architecturally designed. “It’s unique that there was a house that we could see and walk through,” says Mitchell. “It’s our new interpretation of the memory of the house.”
Q&A with director Andrew Mitchell of Pattersons
What was it like working within an insurance budget?
We approached the project by focusing on quality rather than quantity. The floor area is slightly smaller than the original house, which allowed residual budget for finishes and bespoke detailing. The local construction industry was being hit with significant cost escalations as we designed. As we tweaked the house to reduce cost, the market construction costs kept going up. Thankfully, prices flattened off enough to push go.
Was it helpful being able to wander through the original house?
The house was in the process of being red-zoned and experiencing it allowed Ian and Liz to physically describe to us what each space meant to them. It’s unique to have a house already sited as a benchmark for the future design. The lower floor had taken the brunt of the earthquake impact and couldn’t be saved. Seeing how much the site and home meant to Ian and Liz invigorated us to create a new beginning and memories for their future.
How did your work on the Christchurch Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre influence the design?
We learned a lot from that project, including how white steel and glass buildings sit wonderfully in a garden landscape. The framework of Ian and Liz’s garden falls within English traditions of a more formal approach, which tied into what we were doing for the visitor centre at the time. For the interior, we chose white because we wanted the house to form a backdrop for Liz and Ian’s art collection.
Words by: Anna Frances Pearson. Photography by: Sam Hartnett.