The winner of the apartment design competition was announced today as S3 Architects.


There will be 25 apartments on just a 325m² site – something that in some parts of Auckland is smaller than the minimum lot size for a single house. They also say the intention is to have commercial tenancies on the ground floor but I’m not holding my breath for that part just yet.

Interestingly Mike Lee has called the design “cheap and shoddy” as well as saying

But councillor Mike Lee said such apartments were not big enough for families and its exterior was ugly and not appropriate.

“I can just see this getting mouldy. If we’re going to have highrise, they need to make it durable,” Lee said.

So this will get mouldy but a wooden “heritage station” located in a damp valley in Parnell won’t? It has to be one of the weakest arguments I’ve heard against having intensification.

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    1. yes I find the logic extraordinarily bizarre. A family car is too big for a single person. But that doesn’t mean we should rally against family sized sedans. Similarly many apartments will be too small for families. But that doesn’t mean we should regulate against small apartments.

      Someone needs to tell Mike: Nothing wrong with small apartments. Indeed, if people chose to live there then it’s obviously better than anything else they could afford. NZ needs to get over its housing snobbery, and fast.

      1. I don’t really understand how housing snobbery is possible here though. I’m from California, have lived in Korea, and have spent a lot of time in Australia (and live in Auckland now), and I have to say, of all those countries, New Zealand has by far the most damp, cold houses.

        1. Quite true, and also borne out by research. The UK is another country that has problems with damp, cold housing, but most countries have figured out how to solve these issues (and, of course, current building codes make them a lot less common for newer homes in NZ).

          1. We do somehow have a massive problem with reinventing the wheel and also failing to accept the blindingly obvious in NZ. Maybe it’s because of the emotion and perceived wisdom that comes with housing. Regardless, given that singles and couple are a large and fast-growing household type in Auckland, Auckland clearly needs more housing to suit them. Compact apartments in handy locations fit this bill nicely. And such housing threatens no-one’s quarter-acre paradise. Why can people just not see this?

            And then there’s the (related) issue of housing snobbery. The well-publicised NZ cultural cringe doesn’t seem to apply to houses, even when cold, damp housing is clearly failing people. How can we claim we’re doing better when we’re not?

            Needless to say, the standard of public discourse in this area doesn’t help. The media for starters need to do better.

  1. A wooden house in Parnell is easy to repair or paint. This block will be difficult (and so expensive) as it will require much scaffolding. Being an apartment it will also require body corporate agreement, not easy with 25 owners. Apartment blocks in Singapore (where I have been holidaying) are all concrete and stone which does not require maintenance.

    1. A single-storey wooden house also requires scaffolding to repaint. Plus it’s typically trickier to do as you have a lot of detailing on most wooden houses in Parnell.

      This will require scaffolding to paint/stain/clean etc. but economies of scale means a small team can get it all done relatively quickly once the scaffolding goes up. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if maintenance costs are pretty similar, and much lower per apartment dweller.

    2. The wooden houses in Parnell (that can be seen from the train), are on pretty steep sites, and will require scaffolding to paint. Concrete and stone claddings still require periodic cleaning, and the body corporate fees should be set to cover regular maintenance.

    3. A well set up body corporate will have provision and a plan to deal with expected maintenance, and should include a sinking fund for longer term more expensive items (like lift replacement etc). The agreement of the owners isn’t relevant for anything other than things outside such ongoing maintenance.

      Your house in Parnell won’t have such a plan and more likely to have issues with deferred maintenance. It’s an issue for our housing stock.

      1. Body corporate operation is hugely flawed. If I do not maintain my house, I suffer. If the Body Corporate cannot get agreement of the owners, everyone suffers. Low maintenance cladding at least reduces this problem.

        1. Yes see what I said though eh? The body corporate will have a plan in place from the inception of the building that will cover expected maintenance. There’s no agreement of the owners involved, they have no choice but to pay for this. Most body corporate issues you see are either with developer set up body corporates where the fee involved is too high and a management agreement has been signed that is hard to extract from, or the fee is too low and isn’t covering what it should, or there is a build issue with the building that requires unexpected expense. I’m not sure how you can say ‘Body Corporate operation is hugely flawed.’ based on this. What is the alternative for a multi dwelling structure?

          Also have you explored the technical details of the cladding product proposed for this building to ensure it isn’t ‘low maintenance’? Remember that that is not the same as ‘no maintenance’. The concrete building I used to have an apartment in was washed once a year on the outside by the body corporate and was painted once during the 3 years I was there (I suspect that was just timing- you’d expect that to be on a 10 year cycle).

  2. Can someone please explain how it is this site came up for redevelopment? It seems in a rather strange location, down what seems to be a light industrial street.

    1. It came up for redevelopment because Ockham bought it :-). According to Mark Todd from Ockham, one of the main reasons they bought this particular site was because it had three sides that couldn’t be built out, allowing for good and guaranteed views and sunlight.

      1. John is quite right. But stepping back a little further, this site is a classic SLOAP: Space Left Over After Planning, or more accurately the related SLOAR, with ‘Roading’ as the last word. This is part of the great land waste that is the principle result of the immensely stupid Dominion Road flyover. Great to see one small part of it return to productive use.

  3. Concrete base off the ground, as long as the wood is well treated / hardwood shouldn’t be any maintenance issues.

    How or Why was this design chosen though?
    What is the rationale?

    When trying to win a contentious debate about intensification from a (large) minority position was this the best (design) argument of the 5..?

    1. Without wanting to imply that I think this is the wrong choice, I would also be curious to know why this design was the one chosen.

    2. I was at the function last night where the judging panel discussed the competition… essentially, this design won because it was economic and didn’t bend the planning parameters too far (I imagine a lot of entries would have been culled based on these criteria), was innovative in the technology being used, allowed for public access through the site to the reserve on the other side, and was a good looking building which was also well laid out for the residents. The judges all seemed to be pretty agreed on it, and that included several architects, the developer, and a representative from the council who wasn’t there last night.

  4. Great choice, I did like this over the other 4.
    The wood compliments its surroundings well, and depending on wood used it will silver over time. The only other 2 claddings I can think of are alloy which corrodes over time and concrete whither pre cast walls or hardy board clad which just looks ugly and has been frashed in the last decade.
    Also its not obvious to each apartments location at first glance, the floor plan has been stagard the balconeys are not stacked directly above or below.
    I think we need to see more apartment’s like this throughout auckland.

  5. The aesthetic argument is weak, but by the scale of things the apartments look like they are repeats of the very worst of the now widely ridiculed Hobson Street shoeboxes, so the criticism that “…such apartments were not big enough for families…” is valid.

    Until we work out how to build AFFORDABLE 100 square metre or so family apartments for first home buyers there will always be a lot of opposition to this sort of intensification, if only because people will fear these apartments are tomorrows slums.

    1. Nonsense. Small does not equal slum. Small does however strongly correlate with affordable. Small well designed, built, and located apartments will not become slums but will remain sort after and valued residences.

      Affordable and big is an oxymoron. Certainly a range of sizes is desirable to suit all needs and pockets but it is an impossibility that a 100^2m dwelling can be made as cheaply as a 50^2m in the same location.

      Also remember that the trend has been and is of smaller household sizes, singles, couples, etc are the fastest growing unit. And we have a huge stock of big, and expensive, dwellings. So smaller, and inner suburb, is what the market is crying out for.

      Tomorrow’s slums are already here, out in the disconnected suburbs… go and look. And read the research out of the US; poverty is increasingly suburban: Transport poverty is the constant soulmate of housing unaffordability.

      Frankly I’m beginning to think it might be time for Mike Lee to move on, he’s done some important work, especially around saving the rail network, but his pronouncements on pretty much everything else are looking increasingly out of touch and cranky.

      1. +1

        It is incredible that someone who claims to care for poorer people can spend so much time working to lock them out of the housing market and making snobby judgements about the types of housing they may be able to afford.

        1. Mike Lee just seems to be a stereotypical banana now. Will always find something wrong – apartments are affordable but too small, apartments are big enough but too expensive, apartments look tacky, not enough carparks, too many carparks etc etc. Its like hes always searching for reasons not to like things now.

          1. Given his past achievements, Mike Lee is (or should be) a hero to all those who believe that Auckland needs better public transport and urban planning to go with it.

            But he seems to be detracting from his achievements lately with some odd statements. Kind of like a former star athlete who was a hero to many when playing, but who indulges in odd comments after retirement that makes fans question their legacy.

            The only reason I can imagine for these comments is that he was quoted out of context or order. In an odd way, I hope that was the case.

  6. Yes, Mike Lee is clearly being a prat – but what we are really missing here is a plan. Obviously the judges saw a plan or two, but we haven’t had that luxury yet. On a site so tightly bound as this, even if it does have views on 3 sides, I still want to see how apartments can fit i here comfortably, with room to live. We can’t judge this scheme over the others with any validity, solely on the basis of one promo pic.
    I think that many architects didn’t enter this competition because they, as I, honestly felt that the developers were just trying to be too greedy and squash too much on to a site that was too small…

  7. I am with Mike Lee. If you buy an apartment you have to have low maintenance on the outside or you will get screwed by the body corporate system. The very best I have seen is 1 Hanson Street in Wellington, they look ok are durable and fit the site well. I came close to buying one but decided on a house in Newtown as I can add value there. The apartment you just get cash-flow and an ever increasing liability for repairs.,174.777406,3a,75y,133.39h,90.97t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sFZp9NH4fnIXKmjeQBa9D6w!2e0

    1. if you buy an apartment, you know 1) what it’s clad in and 2) what the body corporate fees are. I’m not always in the buyer beware category, but in this case what is being purchased is perfectly clear.

      Personally I think wooden cladding is fine.

      Remember the trick with a building is not to make something that lasts forever, but something that can be maintained and replaced easily. Wood fits that bill: When these weather boards deteriorate, slap on some more. Provided there’s a cavity and an impermeable membrane in behind you’ll be fine. And if wooden cladding becomes too expensive, change to another product.

      1. Good to read a little more about those apartments in the Bob Dey link. From the sound of it, the timber panels are based on proven overseas designs. Any potential maintenance issues will have long ago been resolved in those overseas examples.

        And that really is the key – the big lessons in successfully building good quality apartments, large and small, expensive and inexpensive, have already been learnt in successful designs in a range of overseas cities. To give just one example, Nick R in his travels in Germany and elsewhere will have seen a range of apartment buildings accommodating a range of different size spaces successfully.

        All we, as a country, need to do is look and learn…..then implement into our city, with sound design and building competence. And if our local construction industry isn’t up to it, maybe our developers should be encouraged to import proven international building construction companies to improve our housing stock.

        I should add that this is no slur against S3 Architects, who from the artist’s impressions at least, look to have designed a nicely proportioned, crisp, yet homely structure. A structure that also has some clever ideas in building materials and sustainable architecture. Good luck to them and go well.

    1. Thanks for the NZIA link. 1 & 2 bedroom apartments, walkable to the city and parks, cafes, etc. I’d consider one, when the kids have left home. 🙂

    2. That propbd link is also an excellent read. It sounds convincing, in every way. Efficient, high quality housing – yes please!

    1. So someone pushing for less government involvement in people’s lives is complaining that a process set up to cut red tape and reduce regulatory hurdles to enable speedy development is concerned that they seem to be working? Amazing how the ‘right wing’ is fine for less regulation unless it directly involves them.

  8. Just wait until the owner of the workshop next door wants to build a 5 level building. All the new residents will be scrambling to fill out the objection forms. David Kirkpatrick once wrote there were two rules: “1. A person may do whatever he or she likes with his or her own property. 2. A person may prevent any other person from doing something that he or she doesn’t like on that person’s property.”
    I fully and freely acknowledge David’s claimed patent on that 2 rule plan.

  9. I loved the outward visual aspect to this design – looks fantastic! With first impressions being an important component the use of wood in this urban NZ environment is commendable.

    Look forward to seeing plenty of 20/30 somethings line up down the street at the Open homes. I am sure there will be strong demand for something modern, good quality and close to the City!

  10. Not sure what Mr Whaleoil is on about. The Huntley Ave site has 21m / 5 floor (17m/5 floors in 8c part) height limit under existing PM196 rules as of right. As a SHA Ockham have to comply with proposed Unitary Plan rules which are 16.5m height and 4 floors (plus new stud height, accessibility, affordable component etc. etc. rules). They will look at 6 floors as a Discretionary Activity – being the max before neighbours get involved – but it’s not a given. The Lion Place project is 7 floors within the 21m height where 5 is Permitted – Conrad weren’t interested in going SHA route as they could not do as much under UP. So Mr Whaleoil and the Huntly Ave locals are upset about the UP and Ockham when it will likely yield less and affect them less than a development under current rules. Very strange people.

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