Good design is an investment not a cost

With 24 years' worth of award-winning projects to his name, architectural designer Jason Higham values close client-designer connections, attention to context and sustainability

Multi-award winning architectural designer Jason Higham, of Higham
Multi-award winning architectural designer Jason Higham, of Higham Architecture, specialises in new homes and house alterations.

From a very young age Jason Higham loved drawing and colouring – a passion that lead to graphics & design in later school years.

The combined aspects of creativity and problem-solving in designing buildings and spaces particularly appealed and Higham followed that through to a diploma in Architectural Design at the Design & Arts College of New Zealand.

As one of the founding students of their architecture course in Christchurch, Higham enjoyed the ready access to, and tutelage of, numerous local architects and designers – from here, he decided he was especially drawn to residential architecture.

Fast forward to today and Jason Higham’s firm – Higham Architecture – has now been been in operation for 24 years.

"My firm is just me, deliberately so," says Higham. "However, for almost all of those years I’ve worked in a shared space environment of some sort amongst other designers and businesses, and continue to do so today." 

An early accolade sign of things to come

In the early years, the architectural designer took on a variety of projects, but now restricts himself to new homes and house additions/alterations – as that is where his true passion and expertise lies.

And this passion and skill is recognised and acknowledged by both his peers and the industry.

Having won an award for just his second-ever project, Higham has gone on to win more than 30 awards over the years – both national and regional – from an array of high-profile awards programmes, such as ADNZ, TIDA and others.

As part of a whole-house renovation, Jason Higham
As part of a whole-house renovation, Jason Higham of Higham Architecture repositioned the kitchen to the sunnier side of the home.

Design approach – context is key

“I think context is one of the most important aspects in design,” says Jason Higham. “Whether in terms of the site itself, the surrounding buildings & environment, the owner’s brief or even the industry challenges at the time – all are relevant and formative influences, whether it is a new home or renovation.”

Initial inspiration, however, always comes from Higham’s strong focus on building a relationship with the owner to best understand their desires, both functionally and aesthetically.

‘Why I love doing what I’m doing’

There are so many aspects to a project that Higham enjoys that’s it’s difficult for him to single one out.

“From the excitement of the first meeting with a new client, to the burst of creativity in initial concept design, to the unveiling of the walk-through 3D model, to collaborating with other consultants, to resolving tricky design details, to visiting the completed home or renovation every project and every owner is different – and that’s why after 24 years I still love doing what I’m doing."

Higham says that managing homeowners’ expectations is one of the trickiest parts of the process.

“For many, it’s the owner’s first time, and it’s not until they’ve been through it all first-hand that they understand how much time and work is involved, how many decisions need to be made, and how much value a professional architectural designer can bring to the project.”

For this Higham Architecture exterior renovation, cedar was
For this Higham Architecture exterior renovation, cedar was chosen for its visual warmth and natural harmony with schist. This was installed vertically to provide a balance in respect to the existing form of the house while adding a contemporary feel.

Sustainability is intrinsic

Reusing and repurposing an existing building is far more sustainable than building a new one, says Higham.

“I love breathing new life into existing homes through creative reuse and reconfiguration, and only adding on to them where necessary – sustainability generally, including Universal Design principles, forms an intrinsic part of the design process and has done for many years.”

Long term appreciation

The architectural designer feels each project is successful in its own right, whether it be large or small, old or new.

“There are projects of mine that are over 20 years old now where the original owners still reside in them and are still as enthusiastic as ever about the design and how it has enriched their living experience for so many years," says Higham.

“It’s pretty rewarding to receive this kind of feedback and helps endorse the old adage that good design is an investment, not a cost."

Find out more

To find out more and talk to Jason Higham, contact Higham Architecture

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