SMC Design Studio


Having lived and worked for decades in the beautiful hills surrounding Christchurch, we have immense experience in working with the most difficult sites with steep topography and challenging geological and climate conditions. We are happy to share our expertise to convert your hillside land into a dream home with easy access and breathtaking views. 

Steep sites require special attention and respect. From architectural aspects of orientation, views and exposure to engineering challenges of access, foundations and earthworks, we will get it all under control while showing utmost respect and understanding of the site conditions and context. 

Assessing the Site Conditions

Each elevated site is unique and needs to be shown respect. Visiting the site and assessing its conditions is a vital step towards delightful architecture.

Understanding site constraints, such as topography, access, orientation, prevailing winds, views, neighbours, historic context, geology, hydrology, vegetation and climate determines the envelope of the future building.

At SMC, we love this part of the job, as it brings us the joy of an explorer, and the satisfaction of a researcher.

Conceptual Design

Once we grew to know you and understand the limitations and advantages of your land, we can finally step in your shoes and look at the design challenge from your perspective, while using all our expertise to create a concept design that is right for you.

Quick sketches, diagrams, 3d visuals and even paper models will help us communicate ideas and share vision.

Cost-effective Structural Solutions

With most of our architectural designers having engineering background, we know very well how to marry a multi-level building with the steep terrain with grace and structural soundness.

Being able to immediately see a possible structural solution beyond a vaguest architectural sketch, gives us a unique opportunity to offer bold architectural forms that are backed by strong engineering expertise while achieving goals of sustainability and cost-efficiency.

Unique Stairs

A hillside house almost always has more than one level and, as such, requires a stair or two. Some believe that a stair is just a utility. For others, it is even a nuisance.

We elevate a stair to a podium.

We celebrate it.

We design a house around it. You will be proud of your stair, and you will be tempted to use it again and again (and keep fit in the process).

Energy Efficiency, Passive House

Relatively new, the 'Passive House' term became quickly overused and even lost its meaning. For many people, Passive House simply means an increased amount of insulation. It is not that simple.

A truly Passive design should feature high thermal wall and floor mass, carefully oriented fenestration, effective shading devices, natural and mechanical ventilation and only then, the increased insulation.

Combined with energy-efficient heating solutions, such a house will be delightful to live in.

We offer an in-depth understanding of Passive Design principles and love to incorporate them in our designs.

Fully Detailed Design

Our experienced architectural and structural draughting team is proud of their work, especially when it comes to multi-level and multi-storey houses descending a spectacular hillside.

Fully detailed coloured drawings with 3d diagrams of the most difficult junctions are our trademark; needless to say, a well detailed project means faster work even on a most tricky building site.

A team of expert architects and engineers that work together to bring your visions to life!

We use technology to make the design process simple while leveraging our experience to ensure you get a truly special Hillside House Design.

New Zealand hillside landscape present a unique set of architectural challenges. Our engineering knowledge helps us to design aesthetic and functional hillside design that can withstand test of times.

Discover What Else We Design

From the very beginning, every project is approached from a holistic perspective.