As the ideal of the Kiwi ‘quarter acre dream’ becomes more and more distant for many, we need to explore new ways of accomodating Auckland’s expanding population on the finite footprint of land within the city’s existing borders.

But it has become clear that this need for change doesn’t mean that there isn’t also strong resistance to change. Discussion often comes up against a lingering nostalgia for the suburban house and backyard, and it’s this ideal (which centres around the private ownership of land, as much as architecture) which has to be shifted, reconfigured, and changed if we are to find a balance between sustainability and our aspirations.

The ‘ideal home’ at the heart of this studio project is a space we believe will allow us to enact our ideal lifestyle and to be our ideal selves. But what is an ideal, and how can we go about changing one?

Any effective change needs to be built on a sound understanding of what is a complex tangle – the historical drivers, cultural contexts, and aspirations which accumulate over generations to form the attitudes toward architecture and the landscape which are held by individuals and communities.

This studio, set within The Lab as part of this triennial, presents a unique place for discussions like these – the disciplines of art and architecture feeding in from the triennial as a whole, each contributing their own ways of working. Resultingly, a certain optimism is partnered with varied understandings of these complexities, with the duo brought to bear on Hou Hanru’s prompt, ‘If you were to live here…’

Ideal Home(land) focuses the question of ‘if you were to live here…’ onto one piece of land, on one street, in one of Auckland’s inner city suburbs. The pinpointing of the ‘here’ to a local site grounds the project’s exploration in the specific needs and desires of the site’s potential residents.

Going beyond the idea that research is something carried out before the design process begins, this project is an active example of the design process as research. As the studio moves along, ideas will be visualised and tested out – making them relatable to all those who might be affected by these issues and inviting us to take part in the dialogue.

Written by Emma Ng.