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Cityscape catches up with CoLab Architecture’s Tobin Smith and Blair Paterson to discuss the relationship between fashion and architecture.

Urban Cottage Image: Stephen Goodenough

Co Lab architects

As architects we are always a little hesitant to associate architecture with fashion, as, unlike fashion, architecture should be timeless, and not based on vogue or fad. The term ‘on trend’ is one that resonates in the ear of an architect like fingernails on a blackboard, as it implies an idea-less-permanent. With this said, and whether we like it or not, the relationship between architecture and fashion is far more relevant than we may think. In the purest sense both are based on structure, shape and beautifying basic necessities – i.e. clothing and shelter. Both are heavily influenced by climate, culture and individual identity, and both can also illustrate a balance between necessity and luxury.

International movements in architecture and fashion have often been influenced by one another, and some of these influences are more clearly illustrated than others. Art Deco, for example, demonstrates a period when architecture, clothing, jewellery and furniture were very much aligned with one another. With such a strong and easily identifiable aesthetic, the timelessness of the architecture can be subject to a similar lifespan as the fashion.

As we’ve found our design feet in New Zealand, we have evolved a style of architecture that is unique to our local context and climate, somewhat free of outside influences. Materiality, sustainability and contextual sensibility take precedence over simply mimicking worldwide movements in trend. This considered architectural language is translating through our interior spaces to the textiles and furnishings being used. Furniture designers are aligning with this ethos of creating pieces that express a quality of thought and production and celebrate relevant tones and materials.

The architecture within our own practice tends to be intentionally simple. We are drawn to forms that are strong and rational, free of unnecessary detail or stylistic complexity. Our colour palettes tend to follow these same basic principles – black, white and natural material tones. These principles translate to the fixtures and furnishings we are also drawn to. For us, good design pieces should sit in harmony with one another, irrespective of age or style. Quality pieces, like good architecture, should never date. Fortunately we have a wealth of local designers and suppliers that can aid these selections.

Supporting New Zealand design is important in our work and tends to influence the furnishing suggestions we put forward. One of our favorite brands that features in a number of our projects is Nonn, designed by Cameron Foggo, son of Belle Interiors’ Colin and Marj Foggo. Cameron’s designs express contemporary ideas based around timeless forms that complement our architecture. Having a local supplier in Belle Interiors means that each piece can be specifically customised to suit each project in its scale and material selection, giving people the opportunity to complement their interiors or perhaps express their own personality if they’re more daring.

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