Distance no barrier to achieving inspiring architecture

Whether planning a new home in Canterbury or further afield, a consistent quality design process should be achievable. Architect Craig South suggests distance need not present any impediment to success.

Given all the advantages of connectivity in today’s world, overcoming distance to achieve great architecture is a challenge that architects can readily embrace provided they have the right client-focussed systems and practices in place.

At South, we approach each new project with the same high level of care and attention. We are committed to ensuring everyone can access our unique style of architecture, regardless of site location. While we are based in Christchurch, we can design for sites throughout New Zealand.

Wherever the site, the fundamental steps required to achieve inspiring results remain the same. We do not treat a project involving a distant site any differently than a site close at hand. In either scenario, site visits are of key importance so as to gain first-hand experience of conditions such as sun and wind exposure, local weather and other factors that could influence design decisions. Equally important is the need to gain a clear understanding of the client’s priorities and their lifestyle aspirations. We also try to keep in mind architectural vernacular as this can sometimes vary quite significantly from region to region.

Not all design work at a distance involves new home projects. For example, some people may require help to upgrade or update an existing holiday home. Again, our process involves getting to know and understand what’s on site and spending time with the client to ensure they get the best possible result.

While much can be achieved online or through video-conferencing, we find there is no substitute for meeting with clients in person as they fine tune their brief. We would never expect a client to draft a brief from scratch and send it through to us. We also like to meet directly with clients when presenting design concepts as we believe the best architecture evolves out of a personalised process. There are exceptions to the rule but, where possible, regular face-to-face meetings are always a key part of how we work with clients. If this involves having to take a flight or two to meet with them, then that certainly presents no barrier for us. It only requires a little flexibility on our part to accommodate a day or two’s travel out of the office, (and we always make sure to offset our carbon emissions).

Logistics are a big part of the equation for designing at a distance. We like to seek out good relationships with builders, consultants and local councils at the locations where we will be working to make sure we have a sound appreciation of associated build costs as well as local planning rules and regulations. Ideally, we also try to source local office space where we can meet with those involved in the project.

Sometimes we work not just with distant sites but also with ‘distant’ clients who live elsewhere in New Zealand or even overseas. Having robust processes in place, including good communication plans, ensures design work can proceed smoothly, no matter where either site or client is located.

Published on Thursday, February 6th, 2020, under The Architecture


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