Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Worship: A History of New Zealand Church Design - what a stunner ! A totally gorgeous piece of publishing.

Worship: A History of New Zealand Church Design
Bill McKay and Jane Ussher please

Published 2 November 2015; Godwit; RRP $85.00

The most beautiful book it has been my privilege to hold and read this year? Almost certainly. A totally gorgeous piece of publishing.

Although congregations have been dwindling in recent decades, we have probably taken it for granted that the bricks and mortar of our iconic churches will always be a familiar part of our communities. We rely on these churches to be there for our weddings, baptisms, funerals and key dates on the religious calendar, just as bygone generations have done. Churches haven’t just been places of worship, they are also repositories of the memories and stories that define us as individuals, as families and as members of wider society. Churches have historically been the social hubs of the community.

But, many churches around the country today have never been more vulnerable. The fate of these architectural, cultural and social touchpoints very much hangs in the balance as various communities grapple with the eye-watering costs required to meet the new earthquake strengthening requirements.
It is with considerable urgency, then, that we record some of our architecturally-significant and diverse buildings for posterity.

Bill McKay, one of our leading architectural historians, and award-winning photographer Jane Ussher have collaborated to present Worship, a stunning, unique and very special celebration of the history of New Zealand church design over the past 200 years. Together, they thoughtfully explore the history and diversity of church building in New Zealand.
Worship brings together early country churches, grand cathedrals and striking modernist designs in a unique survey of some of our most compelling landmark buildings.

The selection ranges from humble little wooden country churches to very grand architectural statements such as those found in the South Island’s historically affluent communities in Timaru, Oamaru and Dunedin.

Jane Ussher has a particular eye for rich detail, as we saw in her beautiful and award-winning book Still Life: Inside the Antarctic Huts of Scott and Shackleton.

Through her lens, she captures the human touches and the array of decorative features that tell a social history of a church and its congregation: the embroidered cushions, velvet kneelers and vestments; the rich carvings and exquisite tukutuku and kowhaiwhai panels of our Maori churches. Jane finds those personal, intimate details that we often look for when we visit churches as tourists, seeking a better understanding of the local community and culture.
It is a magnificent and enduring contribution to our architectural, historical and religious conversation.

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