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Coastal villages: a model for 21st century cities


Coastal villages: a model for 21st century cities

While many holiday-goers scour web pages for baches to rent over the summer few will be thinking of small and sleepy coastal villages, like Te Horo on the Kapiti Coast, as models for the twenty-first century city.

However a forthcoming research paper entitled Interiors in the Land of the Great Outdoors by Sam Kebbell, a Victoria University lecturer and partner of Wellington architecture firm Kebbell Daish, argues that there are many things about life at the bach that our cities could do well to learn from. The paper is due to be published in the Australasian academic journal IDEA.

Kebbell’s paper follows a visit to New Zealand by American academic Richard Florida who explains in his recent books, The Rise of the Creative Class and more recently The Flight of the Creative Class, that the thriving cities of today are those that encourage a culture for experimentation and free thinking. Florida argues that such cultures are diverse, egalitarian, mobile, loosely structured and highly social - like the bach culture that New Zealanders are desperately trying to defend as the new rich creep along the coastline with their closely guarded and ostentatious mansions.

On the subject of ostentatious mansions posing as baches Kebbell says, “Some new baches are completely over the top: more like architecture’s answer to boy racing than thoughtful homes to build the culture of the beach.” Kebbell, and business partner John Daish, designed Kebbell’s family’s bach, which is rented out for weekends, at Te Horo Beach. In keeping with the spirit of the low key seaside community it is a modest but sturdy little block house perched on the side of a sand dune.

For many New Zealanders coastal villages will bring back fond memories of relaxed holidays at the bach: doors left wide open, friends and family coming and going, communal games of beach cricket, and barbeques rolling from one to the next. This is the dying myth of bach culture as it was in the second half of last century: a culture that may be more relevant to the twenty first century city.

Kebbell’s paper argues that while bach culture is an escape from urban life, the habits we form there may well stand us in good stead as we continue to build New Zealand cities that must compete on the world stage. We can transport our tendency for exploration, resourcefulness, flattened hierarchies, social diversity, and an attitude of sharing at the bach, to pockets of the urban environment where these things are also enormously valuable: socially and economically.

The current fascination with coastal property may yet take another turn – towards the city.

For further information about Interiors in the Land of the Great Outdoors by Sam Kebbell, see


Te Horo Bach designed by Sam Kebbell and John Daish, 2001

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