Monday, January 24, 2011

Build it and they will come

p83 Sumner used to be a sleepy seaside suburb but lately it seems to have become an epicentre of new Christchurch residential architecture. Why did you decide to build out here?

Walsh, John, and Patrick Reynolds.
Home Work :
Leading New Zealand Architects' Own Houses.
Auckland, N.Z.: Godwit, 2010.

You are smart people, and I don't think I need to point this out to you but, for the benefit of the hard of thinking: on 4th September 2010, epicentre ceased to be an appropriate metaphor for anything connected with Christchurch. Walsh and Reynolds' rather splendid Home Work was published on 5th November.

That aside, John Walsh's discussion with Kerry Mason, from which this remark comes, is revealing. Here's some more:

Architecture is a business, isn't it?
It is, above all else. You might like it to be about art, but if you have a practice, it's about running a business.

Christchurch is famously an old-school-tie city.
Traditionally, that has been the case, and there's no doubt that Miles and Peter Beaven, who were highly skilled, were also fantastically connected.

Did you go to Christ's College?
No, Lincoln High School. I think now it's more about what you are than what school you went to, but there'll always be some people in Christchurch who don't think like that. Rita is Canadian and she found it hard here initially because people would ask, 'what school did you go to?'

Is there an introversion that can handicap architectural projects in Christchurch? Debate over architectural proposals in the city seems to get quite vitriolic.
Sometimes I think why doesn't our city council, or whoever, say, let's go and get Renzo Piano to do something.' Get the best person in the world. The fees would be higher but the payback would be huge because the architectural pilgrims will come.
Of course architecture is a business, but nobody ever wants to talk about that fact. It is quite surprising to see it in print. Equally frank is the Christ's question. Someone told me of one Christchurch architect who did not go to Christ's but always wears black-and-white striped ties (unfortunately, I forget who it is or who told me; I am useless at gossip) in order to give the impression that he is an Old Boy. As for Renzo Piano, yes please; or they could get Frank Gehry to design something that looks as if it already has been struck by an earthquake. Then there is Zaha Hadid's Evelyn Grace Academy: two schools pushed together over a running track to nowhere (deeply symbolic of British government schools policy, if you ask me). Then there is EASTERN's House Awaiting Death, the sort of thing only a Japanese client could commission and expressing a sentiment you will not find in home and garden books.

But hold on, this is New Zealand. As Walsh and Reynolds record, Megan Rule was building herself a perfectly nice house in Mount Eden, one with a pitched roof and so on, when a neighbour came by and said 'how could you do this in a street of villas?'

Sigh. Answers on a postcard to the usual address.


Samuel said...

How weird that Christ's College should pop up in this post, after a recent debate on Danyl McLauchlan's holiday diaries about the origin of the word 'syrup'/'syruper'.

Protip: if the only substantive Google result for a slang term is Urban Dictionary, you probably don't want to know what it means.

Captcha: exuaft, in which all players float weightlessly off stage right.

Rusty said...

Do people still wear ties?

How odd.

Grace Dalley said...

If one wishes to be really pedantic, the _epicentre_ is over the centre. What's wrong with Sumner being a _centre_ of new architecture?

Rusty said...

Indeed, Grace. If they wanted to stick with the geological metaphors, they should have used the word 'Focus'. Which was probably a better word anyway. I suppose they could have used 'Hypocentre' but people wouldn't have understood that.