On the world stage

On the world stage add

You will have seen this Puhoi bach before. In 2017 it captured the imagination of the world. A viral sensation, the home has been viewed on social media channels like Archipro and ADNZ close to a million times. It was featured on Seven Sharp, Stuff.co.nz, archdaily.com and many more international architecture and lifestyle publications. It was also a 2017 ADNZ Resene Architectural Design Award winner. As a result of the design’s popularity, the designer received several hundred enquiries both locally and off-shore. In today’s Defign blog we explore how he handled the subsequent media attention, project enquiry and his advice to any designers looking to reap the benefits of an award win.

The design, also known as Back Country House, was the brainchild of David Maurice of LTD Architectural. He designed and built the secluded bush home for his family. Aiming for simplicity and to bring his young family together, he opted for a design that played homage to a typical kiwi back country hut.

David entered the design into the ADNZ awards program in the hopes of receiving peer recognition, however the resulting coverage and appreciation of the home was way beyond anything he could have imagined. He says one of the reasons for its fame is that it’s an easily understood design that people get straight away.

“The amount of coverage it has received was unexpected. I think the design works well in the setting and the architecture is quickly legible. The combination of a rugged exterior and refined and warm interior also struck a chord. There is obviously an element of romance with the seclusion and the outside baths, fire etc, but at the same time the house is modest in scale and the simplicity of the design means it seems achievable for the average person,” says David.

Though the level of interest has been astounding, David says any architect or architectural designer who receives media attention for an award-winning project should still be selective about the publications they work with and have a plan in place for dealing with the level of interest they might receive.

“Not all attention is good attention! Take time before working with any publication to see if it is the right fit for your business. Focus on the established publications with a large readership that are preferably within your target markets and/or publications that align with the values of your business. In terms of getting new projects off the back of any media, a large volume of enquiry can take up valuable time so it's good to get a process in place,” says David.

With several hundred enquiries received on the back of the media storm around Back Country House, David says only a dozen of those eventuated into a project for their business.

“This is why it's so important to manage the level of enquiry well because only a few will translate into real work. However the project and exposure has really helped to steer our practice in the direction that we wanted to head so I think it is important to make sure that the projects that you push into the limelight relate to the type of work you want to be doing in the future,” says David.

An unexpected twist was the amount of enquiry from clients overseas looking to build an exact replica of the Back Country House. David says if a designer is looking to work with international clients, it is worth considering whether to sell a design for licensed use.

“It’s important to consider whether you are prepared to work nationally or overseas. Pursuing an enquiry can be a time killer if it doesn't work out so it pays to set some boundaries. My experience has been that most overseas opportunities fizzle out because the time, distance and additional costs frustrate the process. It’s also worth deciding whether you want to sell your design for licensed use and for how much. This is common overseas, especially in the USA and Canada where a designer's plans are often bought and reproduced multiple times. However, be aware that this comes with risks around compliance, consenting and liability in offshore locations,” says David.

A strong believer that every design should be fit for purpose and created for its site, David struggled with how to manage the enquiry to build replicas of his design on sites unseen.

“In the end we have only worked with a couple of clients looking for a like for like. I think every site and brief is so specific that each project tends to take on a form of its own. However compact design and the use of natural materials in beautiful settings have been a more consistent theme since this project”.