Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Friday, November 02, 2012
BIG HOUSE small house - launched by noted architect Julie Stout
Julie Stout's launch address:
As an architect, I must admit
to days of feeling caught between economic black holes, a mountain of
regulations, a stream of professional development obligations demanding we must
know more about…everything, and clients who can’t believe it costs “How much?!”.
There are dark days when you can’t help but believe that architecture’s craft
is threatened. That good architects are heading the way of the Swiss watch
makers; smart, well-dressed but increasingly squeezed out by the larger forces
However I read this book …. and I feel optimistic
This book is a portrait of
Firstly what hits you are
the spell-binding images of the country. No wonder holiday homes feature so
strongly. From the mercurial seascapes of Northland, the pohutukawa swing on
the Coromandel, the red pointillism of Hawkes Bay apple orchards, the spume
swept roughness of Punakaiki to the magisterial Southern Alps, the landscape is
the silent star of this book.
In Patrick’s eye the
buildings and their settings are transformed, not merely recorded.
I asked David Mitchell, my
resident Methusla, “What did architects do before Patrick?”
“We took our own photos” he
replied,” or if it was a big job there was always Sparrow Industrial
I can’t see Mr Sparrow
taking these pictures.
I know a scheduled visit
from Patrick (right) strikes terror in most. The messiness of daily life that an
architect has to accept, nay, nourish, in a house has to be purged out of sight
only for Patrick to arrive, comment on your paintings, put half your furniture
out the door, frown and mutter, “Well we will see what we can do.” like some
psycho-spatial plastic surgeon.
But ladies, it is all worth
while. You will never look so good.
In a book that has a
staggering number of good recent work, (60 buildings!) Patrick manages to
portray the individual character of each project and its place. He gives
dignity to the everyday and a wealth of complexity is relieved along the way
with simple plays of light and dark and detail; a deckchair in the snow, a
plane overhead. I am particularly beguiled by the double page portrait of
Bergendy Cooke’s house on p 143, subtly different to the one on the cover. The
brooding brown presence of the house
nearly full frame, the monochromatic mountains with their wintery windswept
streaks of snow , the bare trees, the
bleak composition counter pointed by a golden square of light in one corner, a
glowing Chinese lantern in the dark centre and a pale yellow ball left out in
On explaining the challenge
of architectural photography in New New Zealand Houses Patrick summed it up
the object, struggling to make hard matter sing, wrestling with the medium to
make something interesting, something beautiful, perhaps even truthful, go on
in that little place in the dark.”
And that is what Patrick
does so brilliantly, he captures that something – with all the nuances of light
time and serendipity - that escapes the rest of us amateurs.
Don’t be fooled into
thinking this is just another picture book! No no no. Have a good look through
it first to satiate the eyes then sit back and READ it.
John Walsh (right) is not an
architect- John Walsh is a writer.
He sets out in his
foreword. “Some dwellings were designed by big practises which employ dozens of
architects and others by small firms whose principals spend their working day
with only the cat for company.”
I found myself laughing out
loud at the little riffs John would get into at the beginning of his
accompanying essays; the link between black boxes and Nubian cattle herders, the
sartorial habits of architects, flying into Wellington.
He is on his own journey
with architecture literature and he is taking us along too. Alberti’s sage
advice from the 1400’s “ Do everything
possible to obtain commissions only from the most important people, who are
generous and true lovers of the art” is
woven into the story of the serenely simple Waipatiki Beach House, HawkesBay.
And John has made sure he is
in good company. To round out the delights of this book, he has along top
writers from academia – Andrew Barrie, Bill McKay, Tommy Honey, Tony van Raat,
Sam Eichblatt, Min Hall, Michael Barrett, and the consistently good architectural
commentator Jeremy Hansen, who each bring a fresh insight to their project.
“Houses are only extensions of people. They are nothing in them selves”
wrote my particular favourite writer, Robert Woods-Kennedy in 1953. And so it
is to the people involved in the contents of this book that we turn.
I quote again from
the upper-middle class is the only group which build large numbers of houses,
it is obvious that modernists must be upper-middle class. And this leads to a
view of that group as split- as containing a large conservative sub-group, and
a small INNOVATING sub-group. The upper middle class family in the innovating
sub-group is responsible for most of the progress in architecture” It forces
the expression of new patterns of living, and of new technical advantage. It is
the fashion of architects to conceive of themselves as leaders in this respect.
But an honest examination of their role would seem to place them in the
category of a partner in a team composed of client and architect. Where fine
architecture is the goal, the client is exactly as important to the result as
is the architect.”
No pressure. So thank you
for playing your part in advancing modern civilisation.
In the land of the blessed,
I am heartened to see that in the main, people (that’s you clients & architects
) are striving to live in some harmony with the land as borne out in this book.
The majority of the houses in this book are still very much landscape
orientated, be it beach side or in sub-urban arcadia.
In his foreword, John Walsh
discusses the architectural shifts from 5 years ago with its predecessor New
New Zealand Houses and I look forward to a future volume displaying more urban
residential architecture and innovative technology as we start to tackle the
challenges of urban density and sustainability.
But for the moment- we are
still able to bask in arcadia
And this book is a great
record of this slice of time we all share.
I heartily commend Random
House for continuing to publish these books and am delighted to see the publishing
collaboration with the Architectural Publications Trust, of whom I was an