Great architecture shapes the way we live. Not only does it orderly arrange our own reality, but with thoughtful consideration it can enhance our awareness of what else surrounds it.
This agility and sense of place is something Oli Booth learnt to appreciate ever since spending holidays around New Zealand, staying in tramping huts or family baches. “Perhaps being a younger country, we seem to be quite fluid in how we approach design,” he muses. “Less driven by style and more a responsiveness to our own culture and landscapes. It seems to be creating some special results.”
Having appreciated the arts and architecture while at high school in Waikato, the designer went on to study at the Victoria University of Wellington and worked for architecture firms in Auckland, before going out on his own in 2016.
“Starting a business on your own at 26 is always a challenge,” he reflects. “But it seems to be a lot more common these days, so it’s great to be able to share those experiences with people in similar positions.”
As with his approach to life, Booth’s designs are contextual. In responding to the environment, and the routines of its inhabitants, he can draw out the special moments and relationships that make a house a home.
In particular, Booth is drawn to projects that are collaborative and in their own conversation with the landscape. “I love designing with clients across different contexts,” he says. “Letting these elements shape your design is always a real pleasure.”
And it seems homeowners are responding — his practice has a range of residential projects across breathtaking New Zealand locations lined up for this year, including from repeat clients.
As New Zealand housing inevitably becomes more populated, Booth hopes to alleviate our collective anxieties around crowding, quality and liveability. “We seem to be at a crossroads of trying to use existing models of density and affordability (which is pretty grim at times) and we are now trying to show how these spaces can in fact be beautiful and smart.”
A prime example of this is Booth’s recently completed home, which he worked on with his partner, and fellow designer, Libby Elmore. Putting his philosophy into personal practice, the Grey Lynn house has been an exercise in designing efficient, considered spaces that still feel generous. What could be more welcoming than that?