Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An ordinary day in New Zealand

What might have proved a serious fire was averted by the prompt action of Mr T. Sheen. of Temuka. He occupies the tent and tarpaulin premises of Mr J. Brown and “baches" on the premises. At one o'clock on Sunday he had just removed a baking dish from his stove.This he placed on a shelf erected in a disused passage leading to what was originally an outlet to the dwelling house. A few minutes afterwards he noticed a smell of burning, and found that the paper on the shelf and on the adjacent wall had ignited, presumably from a spark left on the dish, and that the flames had already secured a hold on the lining boards. Mr Sheen was fortunately able to put out the fire, but not before some boards had been burned through. 
"Town and Country." Timaru Herald, 7 December 1897, 2.

Monday, January 27, 2014


A still, small suburban voice is raised in protest at motor sheds (local nomenclature: "garridge") which would give a town planner the shudders and which  make even the. unaesthetic borough councillor bite his lip. Still, what are you going to do about the man who is his own carpenter? He will accept from the hands of the builder the sweet little bungaloid love nest, pay his "twenty-five down," pride himself on the three-and-sixpenny spike on the roof, and the fivepenny green tile in the chimney—the charming tout ensemble of his thousand pounds' worth—and long for a "garridge." This he, of course, builds himself as near to the road as possible. Among his materials are one or two old motor car cases, a sheaf of corrugated iron (either new or not), six pounds of wire nails and other necessities. When he has done this thing he hales his neighbours with pride and babbles at the masterpiece which utterly destroys the beauty of the entire street. If he has a specially charming little home he not only builds a home-made "garridge," but he searches the country for the ugliest kind of stick obtainable to hitch his wireless wires to. He ties this eyesore to his sweet red chimney (with the fivepenny green diamond tile) with fencing wire or clothesline. His taste goes phut the moment the house is up and the concrete paths laid. "An Englishman's home is his castle"— heaven knows what his "garridge" is.

 Auckland Star, Volume LXVI, Issue 228, 26 September 1935, Page 6 


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

What I did on my holidays

I wrote a review of Pip Adam's I'm Working on a Building for Metro and I then wrote a feature about Jeremy Hansen's Modern: New Zealand Homes from 1938 to 1977 for The Listener.

Young Marble Giants:


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Johnny Helps his Boss Define the Modernistic Movement

To  many architects, in especial the conservative and cultured, Modernistic Architecture is a painful and mordant ebullition.

"This is perfectly dreadful," is their exasperated comment on seeing illustrations of certain current work in architectural journals. "Cannot something be done about it? Have all these fine fellows gone crazy?"

This remark  represents the conservative attitude of many enlightened gentlefolk toward the Modernistic Movement. They are apt to class all building which is not traditional, conservative and closely following precedent, as "Modern," whereas there are many types of the so-called "Modern" architecture, some fresh and inspiring like a breath of mountain air from the Canadian
Rockies, heavy with the scent of fir balsam, while others are redolent, alas! of the fumes of bootleg gin, stale tobacco, and devious haunts.

When, one bright morning, a letter came from the Editor of The Octagon suggesting an article on the Modernistic Movement, we became all hot and bothered. For a moment the ozone seemed gone from the crisp autumn air. A cloud stole athwart the face of the sun and a chill wind from the gray north whispered low and menacingly with muted breath and around the corner of the penthouse on the roof just above our head.

"Johnny!" we cried appealingly (Johnny's our associate and friend of long standing; we’ve weathered many a storm together, man and boy, through thick and thin, nigh on forty years, and we value his counsel highly), "what do we know about the Modernistic Movement and the so-called Modern Architecture?"

"Not a damn thing!" said Johnny.

"Then how can we write about it?" we replied triumphantly, thinking that would let us out.
"Write about it?" said Johnny scornfully. "Write about it! You don't have to know your subject in order to write about it. In fact I think it's often a handicap. Look at Kipling; he wrote a book about fishermen on the Grand Banks without ever having been there. Everybody thought it was great — and it was great — except to the few fishermen who read it. They knew. How many people ever read "Moby Dick" during Melville's lifetime? A few hundred maybe, compared to the hundred thousands who read "Captains Courageous."

Johnny paused to roll a cigarette. Outside the faint hum of the city, punctuated now and again with the staccato explosions of the Brobdingnagian warehouse van as it  slowly backed its way through the traffic into Bromfield Court with its daily cargo, drifted in between the parting bead and the pulley style (While not essential to a discussion on "The Modernistic Movement  this incident of the warehouse van illustrates our traffic problems and shows how even the commonplace events of the day leave their imprint on the character of our art). Like many artists who think deeply about the problems of art and life,Johnny likes to pause and collect his ideas while twisting bits of tobacco into little brown papers.

"Where were we ?" said Johnny vaguely.

"You don't have to know your subject in order to write about it. Sometimes it's a handicap — " we replied insinuatingly, hoping to gather some ideas.

"Precisely," said Johnny emphatically. He lighted his cigarette and strolled out into the draughting room where he soon became dreamy eyed over a sketch in pastel he was making on tracing cloth. Johnny lets his tracing cloth soak, in a pan of water over night, and in the morning while it is still damp, he stretches it over a sheet of  celotex that has previously been shellacked on both sides. This allows the tracing cloth to be fastened on with strips of electrician's tape, prevents the celotex from buckling, and at the same time gives a neat passe-partout effect. The dampened surface of
the tracing cloth takes on just enough of the hairy texture of the celotex to give a fine  "tooth" for the pastel, and produces a finished drawing that is the despair of those daughtsmen who are unacquainted with the process. We omitted to mention that the outline of the subject to be rendered may be traced on the tracing cloth before it is put to soak, care being taken not to disturb the lines which will, in spite of all you can do, smudge slightly in the overnight bath pan. This does no harm however, in fact it lends "atmosphere" to the sketch. While the sheet is still wet it may be pulled either to make the subject taller and thinner or broader and stouter, as if seen in a convex mirror; it may even be pulled diagonally. Johnny has produced some fine Matisse and Picasso effects in this way, and finds it very helpful in designing buildings on irregularly shaped lots.

We looked over Johnny's shoulder while he worked. Johnny never uses a porte crayon, he breaks the pastel sticks up into pieces about an inch long and lays on "washes" by using the crayon flat. When he achieves a sharp edge he puts in the lines and detail with deft touches.

Presently he began to talk again.

"The word 'modern/ the Fowler boys tell us, is derived from the low Latin 'modernus' or 'modo' (just now) . The erudite profundity of those two young men is amazing; what H. W. doesn't know about etiology, bibliolatry and the philosophy of causation, F. G. does, so between the two, there IS little if anything, about the King's English that escapes them."

"How about jazz," we remarked, "you won't find that word in the Oxford dictionary."

"Exactly, for jazz may not be defined and classified into its derivatives as are harmony and melody and rhythm and gamut and fugue and syncopation and stave and diatesseron and tonic and diatonic and supertonic and homophony and euphony and all the other phoneys and tonics, for jazz is all these, and more. It is like the shadow of a hovering kiss on the damask cheek of a crooning babe, or the first blush of a damsel's dream, or the pearl-tinted dewdrop as it quivers on the paper-white petal of the asphodel, or the moaning of the samiel in the mimosa canebreaks, or the wild sweep of the harmattan as it roars down the Old Calabar and beetling crags of Ashanti."

Johnny paused to light another cigarette.

"The Modernistic movement in Architecture is like a diapason of jazz bursting from the chrysalis of the older symmetries which the Greeks call taxis. It has infinite possibilities, amorphous, epicene, protean, aberrant, wanton, egregious, not to say bizarre, exotic and Cyclopean."

"You must have been reading Roget," we interjected.

"I have," replied Johnny, "and it's relieved my mind a whole lot since I saw a certain number of The Architectural Forum. Some of the categories, especially those on Abstract Relations and Precursory Conditions, are soothing to the soul."

"How about leaving off the cornice? Does that constitute Modern Architec-

"Yes and no," said Johnny, blowing a fat smoke ring which bore a striking resemblance to the abacus on the Treasure House of Atreus, son of Pelops and Hippodamia.

"I must learn to blow modernistic smoke rings, or be completely out-moded. They
say that's how Urban gets some of his swell ideas," Johnny muttered. "The omission  of cornices now," he went on, "is not exactly a new idea. The Egyptians didn't seem to find them essential. Look at the Pyramids, nothing to show where the building ends and the sky begins. Even the restorations of Perrot and Chipiez show little in the way of cornices. The Chaldees and the Druids and in fact all early peoples de- depended on wall decoration rather than mouldings for architectural effect. Look at George Howe's lovely Tyler house in Elkins Park, Philadelphia. There's nothing new in the omission of the cornice. The Dorians left off the bases on their columns. The omission of the capital which is the cornice of a pillar, is less frequent, and it is in this feature that the "moderns" who show nothing from the necking up, have gone a step beyond their predecessors, or maybe it's a step backward, who can tell? After all, we are but little children who, tiring of the toys the old folks have handed down to us — toys that have been resurrected from up garret encrusted with the dust of bygone years — have cast them aside, and in the first flush of our pulsating youth, attempted to build new ones in accord with our dawning complexes. The first attempts naturally enough are crude, but being our very own, we are inordinately proud of their originality (sic). This is to be expected and follows the law of evolution. We should be tolerant of the tender cotyledons and protect them from the stirquilinous
larvae that threaten the existence of the New Movement, but at the same time we should not neglect the fine burgeoning and flowering that still shed romance and beauty on the enchanted gardens of the past.

"I shall never forget the first view of Giotto's glorious Campanile. The photographs, with which one has been familiar since kindergarten days, show a cold, hard, black-and-white striped square tower whose outline seems anything but graceful, whereas in reality, the soft haze of a frosty Florentine morning, with the mists of the Arno mingling with the heavenly blue of the sky, the infinite gradation of pink and green, violet and rose marbles, opalescent whites and warm pearl grays, combined with the exquisite tracery and im.bricated mosaics, the whole relieved by a pushcart or two piled high with brilliant tangerines and a few picturesque urchins at the base, form a picture, the memory of which even the most marvelous creations of the 'Moderns' can not dispel."

The draughting room was singularly quiet. At first we thought everybody was listening intently to Johnny's words, letting them soak in, as it were, until we glanced around and saw the place was deserted. They'd all gone to lunch.

"Well," said Johnny, musingly, "I saw a design for a bungalow in The Architectural Record. It was in Albuquerque or Santa Clara, or maybe it was on the roof of a sixty-story office building. For all the world it looked exactly like my old bureau with the drawers pulled out, some more than others. It bore more resemblance to a problem in Descriptive Geometry, or a pile of empty crates in the yard behind Ed Weatherbee's corner grocery, than to a love nest. That was a most striking example of the Modernistic Movement.

"Modern Architecture may be evaluated  by the application of the same standards by which the Old was judged. Intuition or a cultivated taste are essential for the full appreciation of the harmonies of Karnac, the Acropolis and Rheims. It may be that the New simply astonishes by its seeming crudeness without evoking aesthetic emotion, whereas thoughtful analysis and the application of the laws of taxis and symmetry will dissolve preconceived intolerances and inherent prejudices. Both the Critic and the Artist must discard the notion that only so-called existing values are absolute. 'The dead hand of the past lies heavy on us all.' The possibilities of Art are infinite and by the exercise of a scholarly degree of pragmatism we may be sowing the seeds of a richer and more complex culture of the future. It seems a far cry from Corregio to Covarrubias; let's go to lunch!"

(From the A. I. A. Octagon) 
JANUARY, 1931, 89

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Additional Cables


The Baltimore Sun professes to have discovered that Mrs Charlton who was recently murdered in Italy, was the woman who killed Mrs Woodhilll with a champagne bottle during an orgy in a Maryland bungalow. A Mr Eastman, who owned the house where this latter tragedy occurred, afterwards committed suicide. A photograph of a group taken at the Bungalow clearly shows the face of a woman resembling Mrs Charlton, the woman being then known as Mrs Scott-Castle.

North Otago Times, 26 August 1910, Page 4
Found on Papers Past

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Architecture for girls

Why is the profession of an architect so neglected by the parents of girls when wishing to select a calling? For domestic architecture, who is qualified as a woman to judge of the requirements of a home? The other day I was the guest in a cottage on the bungalow style, costing about £1000. The architect had designed fine drawing and dining rooms, but the rest of the house was sacrificed to those rooms. The bathroom and pantry were in Egyptian darkness. My hostess was bewailing the fact that she herself had not inspected the plans, but just left, it to Theophilus and the architect. I know of at least one instance where a woman intervened. The reverend mother of a large convent would not accept the plans before she had made necessary alterations. The architect had made domestic conveniences a minor configuration, but she (wise woman) knew that the whole comfort of the home part of it depended on them being perfect. Now it is a perfect home in every detail. True, the entrance hall is not quite so magnificent and imposing as the original plan, but linen rooms and pantries and airy kitchens fully compensate for that.

 Money, and lots of it, is wasted by parents on girls in music who have no talent, and will never makes proficient musicians. Many quite young girls are clever at designing and drawing, and then, too, their education at an early age can be directed to the end in view - and such a fascinating occupation. There are two women architects in England, one at least earning a comfortable income. She designed a large building in Piccadilly, London. The field is such a wide one, and women architects, at least, for many kinds of buildings, we the most suited. Hospitals, nursing homes, private homes, are all crying out for improvement. Huge expensive entrance halls and small kitchens, dark pantries, and narrow passages in back premises are incongruous and unour [sic] leading institutions. "J.E.S.," in the Sydney Mail.

 "Architecture for Girls." Evening Post, Volume LXXIV, Issue 144, 14 December 1907, Page 15

Friday, October 11, 2013

Grow in a dynamic environment, go beyond average

The Importance of Personal Branding for NICAI Students

Date: Tuesday, October 15th
Time: 11am - 12pm
Venue: ALR1/421W-201

How can I stand out from the crowd and 'sell' myself to employers?
Personal branding is not something that is easy or comes naturally to all. This one hour workshop will give you a few tips and tricks to help you with your personal branding and help you to make a positive impression.

To attend this workshop please register and book on CareerHub

For more information about Career Development and Employment Services visit

How to Hit the Ground Running on Your First Day of Work
Are you ready to join high performing teams?
Due to popular demand we are holding another Graduate and Internship workshop to ensure you will be successful in a competitive workplace.
Don’t miss out on THIS workshop which will help your performance GO BEYOND AVERAGE!

• grow in a dynamic environment
• seize the challenges
• maintain a high degree of professionalism.
Grow your existing skill set and put yourself in pole position to create a career with no limit!

Date: Tuesday, October 15th
Time: 12pm - 2pm
Venue: TBC 

Register now at Auckland CareerHub

The workshop will include:
• Managing your and organisation’s expectations
• How to understand and work with different personalities and people in the workplace
• Effective internal and external networking
• Work place etiquette & communication
• Dress for success

Yours sincerely,                                                                  
Career Development and Employment Services
The University of Auckland

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Golf Girl

While I love a good critique of wealth accumulation and inequity, this song is not one; in fact, it is deeply racist. Because we all know who she’s thinking when we’re talking gold teeth, Cristal and Maybachs. So why shit on black folks? Why shit on rappers? Why aren’t we critiquing wealth by taking hits at golf or polo or Central Park East? Why not take
to task the bankers and old-money folks who actually have a hand in perpetuating and increasing wealth inequality? I’m gonna take a guess: racism. I don’t have to explain why wealth operates differently among folks who’ve grown up struggling because this shit has been explained already: If you grew up with holes in your zapatos you’d celebrate the minute you was having dough.
This is it. This is the state of progressive opinion; a music lover beats on the white girl who has the temerity to criticise rap culture. Of course the accuser might seem to be pretty white herself, seemingly no less white than the accused (although doubtless her Latin origins are a get-out clause to excuse her from whiteness and all it entails; I do recall dimly somebody once arguing dimly that Irish people were in fact black, so Flores is probably already ahead on points). But that is by-the-by. The point is, that Flores has accelerated powers of guessing: the white girl from the other side of the world (Devonport) must be a racist.

You see, to suggest that the conspicuous and grotesque consumption portrayed in rap promos is in any sense vulgar, alienating or morally wrong is in fact racist. In fact, it is deeply racist. Flores does not need to explain this; her argument has been explained already, to her eminent satisfaction. A link to the promo of 99 Problems is all she needs (yes, really). She probably does not need to remind anyone who disagrees with her that they stand to be condemned as racists themselves for the act of disagreement; such is the power of progressive thought. To recap: all their arguments are won and anyone who disagrees with them is not just wrong but evil. Fortunately, the world has people like Flores to name the just and the damned:
And while I’m less mad at Lorde (who’s from New Zealand) than I am at the New York Times – and more generally white liberal critics that have been so captivated by Royals‘ call-out of consumption that they didn’t bother to take the time to think critically about the racial implications of the lyrics – this isn’t to say that there should be no accountability for her. I’m thinking of fierce youth activists who get it, are doing the work, and from whom Lorde could learn quite a bit.

See, it is us white liberals again. Because, you see, unlike us, Flores has done critical thinking.  And, of course, the whole thing really is about her.

On a lighter note, here is a critique of the golf-industrial complex by Caravan.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The radio-ridden villas of the Sussex coast

They are all over England, these models of civilised buildings, and of later years we have been turning to them again in our convalescence from the post-war Corbusier plague that has passed over us, leaving the face of England scarred and pitted, but still recognizable. For ten or fifteen years we all had the pest-mark scrawled across our doors and the watchman cried nightly: ‘Bring out your dead!’ From Tromso to Angora the horrible little architects crept about – curly-haired, horn-spectacled, volubly explaining their ‘machines for living.’ Villas like sewage farms, mansions like half-submerged Channel steamers, offices like vast bee-hives and cucumber frames sprang up round their feet, furnished with electric fires that blistered the ankles, windows that blinded the eyes, patent ‘sound-proof’ partitions which resounded with the rattle of a hundred typewriters and the buzzing of a hundred telephones. In England we have an artistic constitution which can still put up a good fight; our own manifold diseases render us impervious to many microbes which work havoc upon the sounder but slighter races. We suffered less from the concrete-and-glass functional architecture than any country in Europe. In a few months our climate began to expose the imposture. The white flat walls that had looked as cheerful as a surgical sterilizing plant became mottled with damp; our east winds howled through the steel frames of the windows. The triumphs of the New Architecture began to assume the melancholy air of a deserted exhibition, almost before the tubular furniture within had become bent and tarnished. It has now become par excellence the style of the arterial highroads, the cinema studios, the face-cream factories, the tube stations of the farthest suburbs, the radio-ridden villas of the Sussex coast. We have had a fright – a period of high fever and delirium, a long depression, and now we are well on the way to recovery. We are again thinking of stone and brick and timber that will mellow and richen with age, and we have instinctively turned to the school in which our fathers excelled.

Evelyn Waugh, A Call to the Orders, 1938

Waugh, Evelyn, and Donat Gallagher. 
The essays, articles and reviews of Evelyn Waugh.  
London: Methuen, 1983, 216