Home/ Flux

Katie Braatvedt

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Letterboxes taken from Hillary Crescent January 2019, with 1:100 models of houses displayed inside. Photographed by Adam Bryce, set by author

When the detached house is in crisis and a generation of New Zealanders is in flux, what is home and how can it be (re)made?

Successive 20th century New Zealand governments promoted the detached single-family house on a quarter acre section in a garden suburb as the basic unit of town planning, and the nuclear family as the basic unit of our society. This normative suburban vision of house and home persists as a popular collective aspiration, despite its practical failure.

We find ourselves in a housing crisis, with increased levels of homelessness and overcrowding, alongside declining rates of home ownership and rent affordability.

Those who do not already own property are progressively more vulnerable to sudden changes in address, contributing to a widespread diasporic condition. Such precariousness, previously reserved for the marginalised and displaced, is now the millennial generation’s 'normal'. For refugees and millennials alike, ‘home’ is not necessarily localised to the house, but increasingly dispersed as a series of sites and objects scattered across physical and digital space.

What opportunities does this ‘crisis’ provide to reassess the meaning of ‘home’, and the role that architecture plays in a more distributed definition of homemaking?

Taking an Auckland site in transition, where 82 state houses are being sold and relocated to make way for a private development, I explore the political and ideological foundations upon which these houses were built, along with the pressures contributing to their imminent un-building. Rather than a radical rejection of the old, I adopt a durational approach to domestic occupation that enables multiple ideals to coexist.

Avoiding a 'tabula rasa' approach, both architecturally and ideologically, I ask what vestiges of state housing remain useful and relevant?  Built in and from the residue of a garden suburb is a series of personal and shared domestic spaces scattered through private, commercial and communal space. Considered as an experimental housing development funded by Housing New Zealand, the project celebrates state houses as enduring icons while challenging and reconfiguring their ideological foundations. The proposition is designed specifically for transience, fragmentation and distributed homemaking, but acknowledges nostalgia, familiarity and DIY culture as enduring ‘homely’ values.

Gael Ferguson, Building the New Zealand Dream (Palmerston North: Department of Internal Affairs. Historical Branch, 1994).

Kate Bryson, The New Zealand Housing Preferences Survey: Attitudes towards medium-density housing (Study Report SR378). Judgeford: BRANZ Ltd, 2017.

Phillipa Howden-Chapman, Home Truths: Confronting New Zealand’s Housing Crisis (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2015).  

 
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Flux: Isometric and plan documenting one year moving through four bedrooms. In increasingly transient times, the notion of 'home' may refer to an assemblage of memories rather than a fixed address.
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Stasis: Hillary Crescent remained unchanged from when it was built until 2019, when it was cleared for a new development. Left: Archive photograph of Navy housing at Hillary Crescent labelled 'Navy housing during tenancies', 1982, National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy, ER ‘GN 82 01071-01,’ supplied by Rachael Stallard, Photographic Archivist, Navy Museum. Right: Site photo, 2019.
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Nostalgia is considered an essential element of home-making. The production of memorabilia serves to encourage and facilitate the nostalgic associations between New Zealanders and the Ministry of Works state house.
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