Gary Lawson – Works in progress

Lucas Doolan Lucas Doolan

Lucas Doolan

What are some of the higher density housing projects already underway in Auckland? In The Lab this week Gary Lawson of Stevens Lawson Architects shared three projects the firm is currently working on, highlighting a range of possibilities.

At Hobsonville Point Stevens Lawson has designed a neighbourhood of 39 medium density houses as part of a larger development. Like the site that the students in the Ideal Home(land) studio are working with, the aim is to accommodate a few different types of residents. The second project is a series of 12 mostly stand-alone townhouses, once again as part of a larger development. The final project Lawson discussed is an in-fill house on a small and difficult section in inner-suburbs Auckland.

Although the third project is a unique piece of architecture which necessarily responds really strongly to its landscape, Lawson stressed the time-cost differences between this one-off, bespoke piece of architecture and the Hobsonville Point houses. In order to accommodate a growing population housing needs to be accessible – and for the most part, that means affordable.

Lawson didn’t linger on the relationship between architecture and green spaces at Hobsonville Point, but it relates to some of the solutions the students are proposing (although on a slightly larger scale). Like the Hepburn Street site that the students in this studio are designing for, accommodating different groups of residents on one site comes down to making decisions about which spaces should be shared spaces. Privacy has for a long time been equated with wealth and luxury as part of our existing vision of the ‘ideal home’. How can the option for privacy be maintained even as space is condensed?

While there are small amounts of landscaping around each house at Hobsonville Point, the neighbourhood has been designed around shared green spaces. This proposal reconfigures the symbolism of the ‘threshold spaces’ – something that many of the students have been looking at. Where the picket fence at the street boundary of the property may once have been the symbolic meeting place of neighbourhood and private residence, neigbourhoods such as Hobsonville Point move this threshold right to each front door. The back and front yards are pooled between the houses to create a larger, communal green space – this shared space is now a neighbourhood meeting place, and a place for building community.

Emma Ng