What are the top five architecture trends of 2015?
Architects design houses to fulfil specific design briefs, not to set trends. But changing lifestyles and new technologies and materials do encourage changes in design direction.
And by the time a new house is ready for occupation, or winning architecture awards, these changes have been in progress for considerable time.
Here's our pick of the top five architectural "trends" we have noticed in new homes this year.
TIMBER ON THE INSIDE
Timber has appeared everywhere this year, notably in plywood wall linings and ceilings. Different grains in similar tones are often teamed to create a point of difference.
It's an informal look that initially appeared in New Zealand houses between the 1940s and 1960s. More recently it reappeared in beach houses and is now specified for city houses as well.
But it's not just plywood. Timber veneers – a more upmarket look – are also giving new homes a warm, crafted feel, with some designers saying this is a natural response to our "increasingly digital lifestyle".
Timber veneers are often teamed with the crisp look of stainless steel to create a dramatic warm-versus-cold aesthetic.
New home builder Lockwood has featured solid pine timber interior walls for many decades. And while the Scandinavian-style blonded finish has been dominant over the past few years, the Coromandel franchise opted for a return to the au naturel look for one of its show homes – a move sparked by client interest.
Split-level interiors are helping to define different areas within flexible open-plan spaces. This is usually caused by a need to maximise the footprint of a house. But it is also due to the demand for separate spaces for children and a home office that are still visually linked to the kitchen-family living area.
Mezzanine areas are also popular with families, with children's bedrooms often grouped around a central "play zone".
Prefabricated panels have been a feature of many new houses in 2015, with the percentage expected to grow quickly. Prefabrication fast tracks new builds and helps to keep costs down. It is also an eco-friendly alternative, helping to minimise wastage and reduce the number of site deliveries.
There are several different types of prefabricated panels, including precast concrete, and composite panels with a sandwiched insulated core. More recently, lightweight cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels have been used to provide improved earthquake protection.
Warren and Mahoney recently used CLT panels manufactured by XLAM in the construction of three high-end townhouses in Christchurch. Architect Daryl Maguire says that although the cost of timber is higher than other materials, huge savings are made during construction.
And in keeping with the first trend above, the design team chose to deliberately showcase the timber by exposing it in the ceiling, selected walls and floors.
OFF-FORM OR BOARD-FINISHED CONCRETE
This is exposed concrete that retains the marks of the formwork used in the pour. While this is not a new idea, increasingly we are seeing it feature on new homes. It is all part of the desire for architectural "honesty", whereby materials and structural elements are left exposed.
Grand Designs New Zealand showcased a novel take on the idea when Southland farmer Lachlan McDonald commissioned scored precast concrete panels for his new farmhouse based on the construction of a milking shed.
Off-form concrete wasn't limited to exteriors, however. This year is also appeared in several NZIA award-winning houses, including a Grey Lynn villa renovation by architect Malcolm Walker of Xsite Architects.
ANY COLOUR, SO LONG AS IT'S BLACK
This was the year for black – exteriors, interiors, kitchen appliances, tapware – black is everywhere in contemporary architecture.
On house exteriors, it is commonly seen in pre-weathered zinc cladding, black Colorsteel corrugated iron and black-stained cedar boards.
Inside, black walls are teamed with wood veneer. Black also appears in furniture accents, again paired with timber.
And for 2016? Expect to see more of the above, along with an increasingly sculptural approach to design, both inside and out.