Architect-designed homes in the 1940-60s

By the 1960s, architects were experimenting with a ‘New Zealand’ or ‘Pacific’ style featuring open plan living, indoor-outdoor flow and greater use of timber

During the 1960s there were more architects than ever before designing family homes. Over the course of the decade, these architects were to strongly influence the design and development of mass produced homes.

After the Second World War, New Zealand experienced a large influx of immigrants leaving post-war Europe, including architects who brought with them the principles of the ‘modern’ architectural movement. The philosophy of the modern movement included concepts such as that ‘form should follow function’, and materials should be used honestly.

In the post-war climate, the émigré architects as well as young New Zealand architects and architectural students influenced by new ideas, began exploring different architectural concepts. In housing design these included:

  • the creation of public, open-plan areas – kitchen, living and dining room spaces – separated only by screens or built-in storage units, and
  • incorporation of indoor/outdoor flow with large areas of glazing to reduce the division between indoors and outdoors.

This experimentation resulted in a housing style that was unique to New Zealand and was coined the ‘New Zealand vernacular’ or ‘Pacific style’ by a number of writers on architecture.

Although the actual number of houses designed and built following the concept of the ‘New Zealand vernacular’ was small, over time they have had a significant and ongoing influence on the style of the houses built in New Zealand – an influence has continued to the present day.

This influence resulted in, for example, changes in roof pitch, cladding and internal layout. It also meant that architect designed houses from the 1960s often appear to be more recent, since they are similar in appearance to mass produced houses of the 1970s. This influence can be seen in the web-based anthology of Christchurch housing design -

Towards the end of the period and into the early 1970s, there was a range of styles variously described in plan books of the time as colonial, American colonial, Cape Cod, ranch, Swiss, Japanese and English country to name a few.