Sweet recognition for Unitec’s architecture programme

Press Release – UNITEC

Architecture students and staff from last year’s ‘real world’ design and build special project have won a highly-prized industry award, for a dwelling that celebrates the virtues of the traditional Kiwi bach.Sweet recognition for Unitec’s innovative architecture programme

Architecture students and staff from last year’s ‘real world’ design and build special project have won a highly-prized industry award, for a dwelling that celebrates the virtues of the traditional Kiwi bach.

A Unitec team of 16 year three students collectively known as ‘Studio 19′, in association with their tutors Dave Strachan and Marshall Cook, from Strachan Group Architects and Cook, Sargisson and Pirie respectively, have won a New Zealand Institute of Architects regional award for their practical project – a two-bedroom holiday home in the Coromandel.

The award was given under the Small Project Architecture category at the Waikato Bay of Plenty awards, held in Mt Maunganui last Thursday.

The NZIA citation recognised the value of embedding real world learning within an education framework:

“Adventurous clients have benefitted from a programme set up to teach Unitec architecture students practical skills. Student teams designed and built the elegant, two-bedroom bach on campus, and then assembled it on the site for which it was intended. A success in itself, the project has also provided the participating students with a valuable introduction to New Zealand’s timber design and construction tradition.”

The project, offered as part of Unitec’s Bachelor of Architectural Studies’ teaching curriculum, ran throughout most of 2010, after clients Andrew and Shiree Morrison put their dream of a new family bach into the hands of the students and their teachers.

The students were asked to work on real world problems from the design and documentation phases through to construction, guided by a team of practising architects and celebrity builder, John ‘Cocksy’ Cocks.

Adjunct professor Dave Strachan says the strengths of the design were that it followed the principles so often preached. These are climate responsiveness, orientation to the sun, a very efficient thermal envelope, natural ventilation. The materials, mainly locally-sourced, were chosen to be low toxicity.

The building was also designed to be appropriate to its place.

“It feels like it belongs there. It’s definitely a modest building – not a Tuscan villa, or something huge with three-car garaging. It is of its place.”

The award was an endorsement of the department’s unique approach to teaching and learning.

“The jury was fizzing about the fact it had been put together by these students. It really is awesome, because it is our industry, through the NZIA, acknowledging that this is a valued form of architectural education. It is quite a strong statement. This is the first time a project designed and built by students has been acknowledged by our profession. And of course, it actually stands on its own architectural merits.”

Head of department Tony van Raat says the award is an outstanding achievement.

“The win in the local awards for this project is a reflection of the commitment made by Dave Strachan and his team of architects and builders to support the next generation of New Zealand architects. This kind of collaboration between highly motivated practices and education is a marker to where this particular school of architecture believes professional education needs to go – pushing forward into the community rather than pulling backwards into academic isolation. Students report that this is the best project they do in all their time studying with us. It’s a great way of working at all times and this win only underlines that the profession values it in the same ways that we do.”

A new team of year three students are currently working on a new home for clients in Waimauku.

ENDS

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