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, March 27, 2015
Living in Paradox – a history of urban design across kainga, towns and cities in New Zealand by Garth Falconer
How can we develop better urban environments
for New Zealanders? Is it a straightforward matter of better planning and
applying more resources? Do we have to settle for second best? What of the
lessons learnt from those who have come before us?
This most handsome and superbly produced landmark book examines the contradictions that form
the design of New Zealand’s urban landscape. It analyses many of the various trials and pitfalls of the past,
and paints an exciting picture of the way things could be in New Zealand’s
towns and cities.
Over 500 pages long and eight years in the making, Living
in Paradox is an engaging and accessible book written by leading
urban design practitioner Garth Falconer,
who is known for public and private developments spanning the country,
including Auckland Plan (the city’s blueprint), the newly completed centre of
Hamilton and the new, rural destination of Matakana.
Falconer says he wrote the book out of dire need for substance
and design to inform the huge and unprecedented investment going into our urban
“There are alternatives to accepting soaring house prices,
congested traffic, a bland and illegible urban landscape, growing gaps between
different peoples, and complicated urban planning regulations,” says Falconer.
He suggests that there is assistance in dealing with urban
issues by developing a better understanding of natural systems and processes, employing
a tradition of informed and aspirational thinking, working actively to incorporate
an inclusive culture, making a project of focused identity building, together
with broad collaboration across all sectors and a commitment to creative
On Christchurch: “there are real concerns on
how long the rebuild is taking and the non inclusive process. Design
needs to be the driving factor in the rebuild, not short term concerns over
“Green and clean urban New Zealand is largely a marketing ploy not a reality –
it currently works for our second biggest income producer (tourism) but we shy
away from taking action in urban environments – where present comfort overrides
long term responsibility.”
On our relationship
with the land: “Though New Zealand has one of the world’s most complex and
dynamic physical environments, we continue to use clumsy and expensive ways of
retaining our foothold.
Our appreciation of natural scenery - which is the basis of
our cherished tourism industry - has diverted our attention away from better
understanding the country’s inherent dynamics and to design for their changes.”
On Auckland: “In
the future the urban phenomena known as Auckland will extend from Whangarei to
Hamilton and it will help to have good road and rail links.
“There is no silver bullet to solve all of Auckland’s
issues. The answers lie in providing more options, more flexibility and
more room for the future decisions. Solely limiting land supply and trying to
shoehorn people into apartments is poor design.”
Living in Paradoxexplores the dynamic and intriguing
story of this young, vigorous and intriguingly complex country. It is an
optimistic, far-reaching book which documents the rich history of earlier
visions, analyses many of the various trials and pitfalls of the past, and
paints an engaging picture of the way things could be in New Zealand’s towns
and cities. As New Zealanders’ are a highly urbanised population this book
provides a very relevant and much needed discussion. About the author:
Falconer is a
practising landscape architect and urban designer based in Auckland. Born in
the small town of Gore at the bottom of the South Island, he joined the drift
north at age ten, moving to Hamilton. Rather than choosing regular career-orientated
tertiary studies, he first gained a BA in geography and sociology at Auckland
University before by chance happening upon landscape architecture.
Completing post-graduate landscape architecture at Lincoln
outside Christchurch and faced with few job prospects, he worked in San
Francisco for Peter Walker and Martha Schwartz, then in 1988 formed Isthmus
Group along with three other graduates in a converted garage in Auckland. It
grew to be a leading practice nationwide. In 2003 Garth took a sabbatical,
completing a Masters in Urban Design at Oxford Brookes University in the UK.
Looking for more challenges, Garth left Isthmus in 2008 to form
a smaller practice, Reset Urban Design, based in central Auckland, which is
involved in a widening range of stimulating projects and initiatives around the
country. Garth is known for his design leadership of collaborative multi-
disciplinary teams creating strong public-realm projects from large scale to
the delivery of detailed built projects. Footnote: Be sure to read Chris Barton's thoughtful review of this new title in the April issue of METRO magazine. There are seven pages of book reviews in this issue.
Living in Paradox by Garth
Falconer | Mary Egan Publishing | published 18 March 2015 | 512
pages, flexi-bound | rrp.$75