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On education

The ideas-based design education I received at the Auckland School of Architecture had a strong influence on my career development. Although I didn’t end up practising, I went on to edit Monument magazine in Australia and then worked as a design editor for a magazine in the US. Jacqueline Khiu, New York

Put simply, we have a capacity to work very fluidly and iteratively between hand-drawing and digital craft. It sounds fairly mundane, but I think it represents something sophisticated about how we engage architectural thinking and practice. Byron Kinnaird, Melbourne

Because I received an excellent education in New Zealand I am open to the idea that there are multiple centres of architectural excellence (both academic and practice) all around the world, not just in the US or northern Europe.

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It was an education that encouraged self-directed design speculation, which has enabled me to direct a practice at the edge of the discipline. Greg More, Melbourne

The lack of fixed design methodology in New Zealand schools provided me with a fresh perspective in the conception and decision making of a project. French education is highly prescriptive and, as a result, very calibrated to a professional environment.

Alain Bruner, Paris

Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, New York

It was, perhaps, the openness of Auckland – the university and other cultural institutions in that city – as a site of debate that has been most significant for me. Stephen Cairns, Edinburgh

Engaging the diaspora

Keeping in touch with New Zealand’s active and mobile diaspora can actively shape the nation’s concept of self, Paul Walker proposes. Nobody knows how many New Zealanders live outside New Zealand. Since

has so far led to initiatives such as New Zealand Government support for

1979, an average of around twenty thousand citizens per annum have left the

KEA (Kiwi Expatriate Association, a business-focused network) and the World

country. Exactly what this adds up to is not clear. In 2007, the New Zealand

Class New Zealand awards for notably successful expats. But in Gamlen’s

“diaspora studies” scholar Alan Gamlen (who naturally works at Oxford)

view these efforts are disjointed. He has outlined three options for “state–

surveyed recent estimates: they varied from a conservative and strangely

diaspora” relations, from disinterest and disengagement at one extreme to

precise 459,322 New Zealanders abroad to journalistic projections of over

the conceptualisation of New Zealand as a “transnational nation state” at the

a million. Gamlen himself suggested that one in five New Zealanders lives

other. At the very least, he suggests, it needs to be acknowledged that New

overseas.1 Whatever the case, it appears that – probably with the exception of

Zealand’s population is now permanently transnational, and the state needs

Ireland – New Zealand has the distinction of being the developed nation with

to develop a coherent strategy with regard to this.

the largest proportion of its population living abroad. And the percentages for

If the government should develop consistent engagement with New

New Zealand university graduates and for professionals such as architects

Zealanders abroad, it follows that other institutions should as well. Some

are probably much higher than for the population as a whole.

are doing this – the universities with their developing international alumni

What, if anything, does this mean? We don’t know. Economists and

networks, for example – but the architectural profession is not. While

policy makers have been interested in the issue, however, because it

individuals who achieve significant international profiles – Brendan McFarlane,

probably means something, socially, economically and politically. Thus,

Mark Wigley – are rightly lauded, our survey found that a number of New

the boffins in the New Zealand Treasury have studied the matter in papers

Zealand architects abroad had been disappointed by the NZIA’s decision that

with such beguiling titles as “International Connections and Productivity:

its international membership would no longer receive Architecture NZ. This

Making Globalisation Work for New Zealand” (2009) and “Migration and

does not help the diaspora’s desire to keep in touch and, in turn, reduces the

Economic Growth: A 21st Century Perspective” (2006). The official scrutiny

prospect of engagement with the profession back in New Zealand. But both 2.2011 architecturenz 35

On sensibilities

I have long felt that much of contemporary New Zealand architecture seems hamstrung by a fixation with embodying national identity, from which it is difficult to escape design outcomes that descend into cliché or caricature. William Tozer, London

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A preference for opening spaces to the view; an aversion to ready-made building parts.

Tom Daniell, Kyoto

Growing up in Christchurch I was immersed in the great modern period of architecture; It surrounded me with a raw honesty; I fell in love with concrete blocks and natural timbers. I often look at my work and see a lot of understated Christchurch aesthesis in it.

Nic Owen, Melbourne

Weirdly, the light- and open-ness of NZ architecture is something that is always present. Especially in the UK, which has no light and more corridors and doors than a Kafka novel. Mark Campbell, London

Yes. It’s reflected in the specific combination of thinking and doing simultaneously ... or at least theory and practice bound inextricably. Russell Lowe, Sydney

Curiosity for other cultures. Collaborative working methods. My New Zealand architectural education underpins my approach to every job: giving critical and theoretical consideration to every project as it develops, maintaining a strong tectonic idea, designing from first principals, considering context, function and materiality. Sarah Crozier, Melbourne

the universities and the profession should be pleased with some of the results

and superior, too weak and too strong.” But New Zealand architecture’s

from the survey undertaken for this issue, no matter its limitations: many

geographical marginality is not its only significant structural condition. It is

of the two hundred or so respondents note the value of their New Zealand

something else important that seems to me to be signalled in many of our

architectural educations, or the value of their experience in New Zealand

survey responses: the scale of operations of New Zealand architectural

architectural offices.

offices, and the close (even if troubled) relationship of architecture to building

These references to New Zealand education and New Zealand office experience, and the occasional references by some of our survey respondents

practice in New Zealand shape architectural skills and perhaps focus careers in particular ways.

to a Kiwi work ethic (really?), or a Kiwi DIY willingness to give things a try,

Here I have in mind the role of two New Zealanders in the practice of

might be contestable, but collectively they perhaps point to some structural

Connell, Ward and Lucas, perhaps the most important modernist practice

conditions of architecture as a profession and as a discipline in New Zealand.

operating in England in the 1930s. Amyas Connell and Basil Ward both

These conditions have consequences for its prospects of global engagement.

trained in New Zealand architectural offices before going to London in 1924.

The most obvious of New Zealand architecture’s structural conditions is

In 1929, Connell designed High and Over, arguably the most important

distance from the putative metropolitan centres of the United States, Europe

modern house in Britain of the pre-war years. The practice of Connell, Ward

and Japan where contemporary architectural culture still appears to be made.

and Lucas went on to do a series of significant domestic and commercial

This is complicated by the way architecture itself is generally seen to be a

projects during a decade when it was hard to get anything built at all, and

marginal thing. Referring to this in an interview with the Australian journal

Connell found himself the spokesperson for the new architecture in public

Architectural Theory Review in 2002, Mark Wigley declared that “Architects

stoushes with Reginald Blomfield and other representatives of the British

are New Zealanders”: they operate from the margins and this gives them

architectural establishment. The practice dissolved at the beginning of

(New Zealanders and architects) opportunities to operate laterally and

World War II, though the partners each had significant postwar careers as

surprisingly. “New Zealanders exhibit a funny mix of modesty and arrogance,

well – Connell’s in east Africa, Ward’s in architectural education. Two brief

an arrogant modesty then, as if isolation makes us simultaneously inferior

commentaries written by Ward – one on the occasion of a 1956 retrospective

36 architecturenz 2.2011

Funnily enough I am now working on a building with a timber frame component – this is always seen as new/ alternative technology in the UK. I once tried to design some apartments in Dublin that had a more NZ flavour; it wasn’t so well received by the local planners. Strange they are all quite happy to have weird-looking NZ trees in all the front gardens, but trying to give the architecture a lighter/fresher/new-world (less boxy/less depressing) appearance was a bridge too far. Also nobody ever uses bifold doors. Jeremy Dunlop, London

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The influence of growing up and studying in NZ is unavoidable in the way I practise; it is an ingrained attitude to materiality, practicality and design. When I visit I am often interested by the level of ‘craft’ in the architecture of some houses I see both present and past. Antony Martin, Melbourne It is difficult to pick out influences that are specific to New Zealand. I suspect they include an appreciation of, and eagerness to celebrate, the pragmatics of construction and materials used honestly, a building well placed in landscape, the importance of shelter and the sun’s light and warmth. Matthew Morel, Sydney

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I think my work is influenced by having grown up and studied in New Zealand, in terms of attitude to spatial flow, openness, connections between interior and exterior, use of colour and a certain irreverence toward tradition or historical prescriptions. My partner in the practice is Finnish, and I find that we have a similar attitude to architecture and space (and use of wood!), which I put down to certain similarities between the two countries in terms of their relationship to the environment. Phillip Schöne, London

Yes. I still have a hankering for ‘The elegant shed’ and hope to this year get a ‘shed’ house project happening. Lester Naughton, Galway

elsewhere,” and thereby they know more of architecture in Europe than in survey of Connell, Ward and Lucas’s work, and another in 1966 – reflect on

other parts of New Zealand or in Australia. Patterns in the flow of publications,

his early experiences in the New Zealand offices of Louis Hay and Connell’s

information and images do not simply reiterate flows of human capital and

with Stanley Fearn, and how these influenced their later successes. Two

ambition; they complicate them. And their sum effect is indeterminate: what

substantive points emerge from these pieces. First, the culture of architecture

did those Wasmuth portfolios do in Napier other than entrance Hay and his

has long been globalised, through the dissemination of publications. Second,

pupil Ward?

the material conditions of architecture from place to place are nevertheless

There is no doubt that Hay’s interest in proto-modernism was unusual in

particular; but technique that is normative in one location may turn out to be

New Zealand – in 1920, it would also have been extraordinary in the United

full of innovative potential in another.

Kingdom. Ward makes this clear: “When I came to England, in 1924, there

On the first of these points, Ward claims that he was introduced to the

was hardly a sign here of the revolutionary movements of a bare twenty-five

early achievements of modern architecture in Europe and America through

years before.”4 But – turning now to the second key point Ward makes in his

Louis Hay, the Napier architect with whom he started working in 1919:

retrospective reflections – while the principles and the aesthetic language of the

“His [Hay’s] office was lined with books on ‘Art Nouveau’, also evidence

new architecture were on the whole little known in New Zealand, knowledge of

of Austrian Secessionism, the Chicago School and Louis Sullivan, but in

advanced building technique was common, derived from foreign publications

particular, Frank Lloyd Wright.”2 Notably, Hay owned the Wasmuth Frank

and motivated by the high labour costs typical of the country’s barely post-

Lloyd Wright portfolios that had spread knowledge of Wright in Europe.3

colonial economy. Ward wrote, “New Zealand was greatly influenced by

While the mediated character of modern architectural culture has been the

happenings in the new world and in particular, developments in America in

focus of much work by architectural historians in recent years, this reality

building and engineering techniques. It was usual to take American technical

was acknowledged in New Zealand a long time ago. Samuel Hurst Seager’s

journals and the American single storey house was in similar national

account of New Zealand architecture published in the RIBA journal in 1900

tradition, as was timber construction.”5 But it was the knowledge of concrete

concludes with the observation that the country’s architects “can learn week

construction in particular that Connell and Ward gained in New Zealand that

by week, by means of illustrated journals, what is being done in England and

they were able to put to great effect in differentiating their design work in the 2.2011 architecturenz 37

On connections

I often think about the luxury we have in New Zealand to live so closely with nature. As urban environments densify and become more sustainable, redefining this critical relationship becomes an interesting challenge. Skye Duncan, New York

I meet New Zealanders all the time in Melbourne. A large portion of my class (10–15%) is in Melbourne. Anonymous, Melbourne

I’m in contact with ex-colleagues, along with friends on a daily basis. We act as a support group. I am currently working on the design for a house in Northland for a fellow NZer living in London. Peta Drayton, London

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I read NZ Herald and Stuff on the internet daily, email friends and relatives regularly, visit NZ every few years. Anonymous, US, 48 years away

Our practice has three Kiwi directors – and all of us have lived abroad in cities that taught us to love intensity. In our experience, New Zealand often fails to capture that love and instead thinks about compression or vibrancy as a cultural affront. Jarrod Haberfield, Melbourne

From growing up in New Zealand around buildings and boats, I bring a strong desire for honest craftsmanship to my projects. With the trend in the US toward building ‘green,’ I realise that we New Zealanders have had that mindset since day one. David Berridge, New York

English architectural scene of the 1930s.

Gamlen’s most radical option for how New Zealand could conceive its

New Zealand architecture has always been conscious of its relationship

relationship with its diaspora, as a “transnational nation state,” “the diaspora

with architecture elsewhere. But rather than this relationship being a one-

is integrated deeply into New Zealand’s formal economic, political and

way flow from centre to periphery, the examples of Connell and Ward show

sociocultural fields. New Zealand depends on the economic and political

that it is something more complicated: motivated by their encounters with

contributions of the diaspora and the state cultivates it attentively, New

architectural modernism in publications that the flows of modernity had

Zealanders abroad are hard-wired into national governance processes.”

already brought to New Zealand early in the twentieth century, Connell and

Could the New Zealand architectural diaspora be likewise hardwired into its

Ward went to what they thought were its sources. They brought with them

design culture?

their almost incidental knowledge of modern technique; its effects in the hide-bound English context they found themselves in were quite unexpected.

1 Alan Gamlen, “Making Hay While the Sun Shines: envisioning New Zealand’s

The possibilities of such productive disjunctions are surely enhanced by

state-diaspora relations,” Policy Quarterly, vol 3 no 4 (December 2007)

contemporary globalism. Commenting on this in his 2002 interview, Wigley

2 Basil Ward, “Connell, Ward and Lucas,” in Planning and Architecture:

wrote: “The traditional centres have clearly diversified. For example, we have

Essays Presented to Arthur Korn by the Architectural Association, ed.

all learnt so much from the design craft of Spain in the last years but not so

Dennis Sharp (New York: George Wittenborn, 1967), 74.

much from their theory while the Dutch have inspired by writing countless

3 Peter Shaw, Louis Hay Architect (Hastings: Hawkes Bay Cultural Trust, 1998), 25.

books and the United States offered experiments in theory and almost

4 Ward, “Connell, Ward and Lucas,” letter to the editor, 208.

no buildings. Meanwhile there is [sic] new forms of attention to the global

5 Ward, “Connell, Ward and Lucas,” letter to the editor, 208.

positions of African discourse, of Latin-American discourse, Middle-Eastern, South East Asian, and so on. The so-called centres are now preoccupied with the so-called margins.” Wigley is describing here what Gamlen calls “transnationalism.” In 38 architecturenz 2.2011

Engaging the diaspora