Saturday, April 11, 2015

I am, etc., Substantial

TO THE EDITOR. Sir. As a comparatively recent arrival from the Old Country, I write to complain of the very poor character of the private houses of Auckland and its neighbourhood. Wood and galvanised iron may do for the early days, but after some 60 years of settlement it says very little for New Zealanders to continue the weather-boarding and canvas and paper order of architecture. We have at present fine specimens of the packing-case order, the barn-door, i.e. the lean-to, and other shedifices. A solid, well-built house, with any real architectural merits, is as rare as a dodo. In short, sir, not to mince matters, the homes of the New Zealanders are poor shoddy affairs, like the precious Government now in office. ''It will last my time" seems to be the idea. Look at the Admiral's house now being built! Wood— nothing but wood.  Are we a wooden-headed lot ourselves? Again, look at the Auckland Club in Shortland Street! What a fraud! Brick external walls, boards, and canvas and paper within: and this, I find, is common in many so-called brick houses. Such places are a scandal to the colony. Is this some more of the wonderful "progress" we hear so much about, but fail to find? What are Auckland architects about? We hear a great deal from the Government about our wonderful prosperity and the wealth of the country, but I cannot see any evidences of it in the homes of the people. Cheap and hasty seems more like the state of affairs to my view. Look at the houses in Australia, say, in the suburbs of Sydney, like Mosman's Bay, well-built, red brick houses, with red-tiled roofs, each one a distinct and pretty design, well worth owning, and a comfort to live in. If we must have wooden houses, at least let them have lath and plaster inside of external walls, and both sides of dividing walls, instead of boards and canvas and paper. In the South Island plaster is very generally the case. With boards and canvas, anything above a whisper is heard from room to room and this for bedrooms is indelicate, if not indecent, as sounds of all kinds are heard with absurd plainness. At hotels, if one is a light sleeper, one may be kept awake all night, as I myself have been, by persons snoring or coughing. Some of these hotels are simply large sounding boards, and seem positively to magnify sound. They might well be termed microphone hotels. Look at the extreme danger of fire, too! It is pretty evident that the chief reason why fires are more frequent in Auckland than in other parts of the colony is this wretched canvas and paper work. I go so far as to say it is a disgrace to the age and the place. For goodness sake, let the architects and builders help to rouse people up to the building standard of other places, and to forsake the packing case order of architecture. These buildings are a poor investment for capital.—

I am, etc., Substantial.

"New Zealand Domestic Architecture." 
New Zealand Herald, 
3 June 1901, 7.

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