Kiwi Architecture

The concept of the New Zealand home — and who has the means to own one — can be a contentious topic these days. Aotearoa's history is one of architectural innovation: occasionally born from abundance, often of necessity, and sometimes from crisis. The titles which follow range from visionary concepts in Māori architecture, through sheds and houses in suburbia, to town halls, high rises and whole cities, busy being reborn —all this, plus critiques of urban sprawl, and a cartoon hero fighting a war on mediocre architecture (in Four Shorts on Architecture).

668.thumb.png.540x405

Architect Athfield

Film, 1977 (Full Length)

Before he achieved worldwide fame as an actor, Sam Neill directed documentary films for the National Film Unit. This film examines the philosophy, early achievements and frustrations of one of New Zealand's most innovative architects, Ian Athfield. Athfield won an international competition in 1975 to design housing for 140,000 squatters in Manila, in the Philippines, yet struggled to gain recognition back home. This film culminates in Athfield's trip to the Philippines to pursue the project. Shooter John Toon later memorably shot feature film Rain.

The art of the architect   series one  episode eight thumbnail.jpg.540x405

The Art of the Architect - Episode Eight

Television, 2014 (Full Length)

This 2014 series looks at the role of architects on Kiwi building projects, as they respond to the challenges of budget, environment, site and client expectations. In this last episode of the series, host Peter Elliott asks if "architectural design can be financially achievable". He meets company Herbst Architects, and talks space, emotion and design for a steep Waiheke Island section, and a modular bach. Two fathers share the build of a John Irving-designed beach house; and a Point Chevalier house designed by A Studio aims for zero energy. Plus Elliott recaps the series' grand designs.

5760.01.key.jpg.540x405

Whare Māori - Kainga/The Village (First Episode)

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

This first episode of the award-winning Māori Television series looks at the influence of the idea of 'the village' on Māori architecture. Architect Rau Hoskins is guide; he ranges from traditional designs, such as Rotorua's Whakarewarewa thermal village, to Rua Kenana's extraordinary circular meeting house — with its club and diamonds decor — built on an Urewera mountainside. Hoskins ends up at Wellington's 26 metre high Tapu Te Ranga Marae, made from recycled car packing cases. The episode won Best Information Programme at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards.

4655.key.jpg.540x405

Four Shorts on Architecture

Short Film, 1975 (Full Length)

Director Sam Neill uses ‘Architect Man’ — a cartoon superhero trying to save Wellington’s buildings from mediocrity — to open this visual essay on contemporary Kiwi architecture. A montage of construction materials is followed by views on the high rise, woolshed, and Futuna Chapel. Renovation, DIY, prefabs and non-conformist design thinking are offered as hopes for the built environment’s future. Made by Neill when he was working at the National Film Unit, it was released in a shortened version (without the animation) in 1977, the same year he starred in movie Sleeping Dogs.

The street key image.jpg.540x405

The Street

Short Film, 1973 (Full Length)

This NFU documentary visits a street in a relatively new sub-division in Meadowbank in East Auckland to provide a fascinating slice-of-life look at the early 1970s ideal of raising a family and owning a house in the suburbs. The subjects are a largely homogenous group — pākehā couples in their 20s or 30s with school aged children and a stay-at-home wife. Issues canvassed include paying the mortgage, raising children, social unrest, promiscuity and abortion; but the experience of women as housewives and mothers in the suburbs is the underlying story.

Kaleidoscope   town planning thumb.jpg.540x405

Kaleidoscope - Town Planning

Television, 1985 (Full Length Episode)

In this 1985 Kaleidoscope edition, reporter Terry Carter meets many of those behind Auckland's 80s construction boom, and examines a cityscape where old landmarks are rapidly being demolished and replaced by mirror glass high-rises. Interviewees include property developers of the day like Mainzeal and Chase Corporation’s Seph Glew; a councillor who argues that commercial interests are dominating; and architect Ivan Mercep and interior designer Peter Bromhead, who critique the buildings’ architectural and civic qualities and their “Dallas TV set” aesthetics.

5328.thumb.png.540x405

Johnstone's Journey - Settling for Suburbia

Television, 1978 (Full Length Episode)

In this fifth episode from his personal examination of New Zealand at the end of the 70s, Ian Johnstone explores the then new suburb of Massey in West Auckland — the latest instalment in what seemed, at the time, like an unending march of urban sprawl (which had already produced seemingly far-flung suburbs like Otara and Porirua). For Johnstone, Massey is an "infestation of houses", bafflingly lacking in community amenities. By turns wry, considered and accusatory, this masterful performance would have made him few friends in town planning circles.

Housing in new zealand key.jpg.540x405

Housing in New Zealand

Short Film, 1946 (Full Length)

This 1946 film surveys New Zealand housing: from settler huts to Ernest Plischke’s modernist flats. Architect William Page bemoans sun-spurning Victorian slums with their unneeded “elaboration”. But more fretful than fretwork is a housing crisis that sees 26,000 families needing homes, with owning or renting out of reach of many. Michael Savage’s pioneering (but war-stalled) state housing scheme and newly-planned suburbs offer hope. Fed by wood and cement, NZ can build again with brio: “For a home is the basis of the simple things that make victory worthwhile.”

Open home   series four  episode 13 key.jpg.540x405

Open Home - Series Four, Episode 13

Television, 1995 (Full Length Episode)

This TVNZ show explores 90s grand designs, and the people who live in them. This episode from the fourth season sees Dave Cull quizzing husband and wife architect team Colin and Lindy Leuschke on the challenges of designing their Parnell home, and checks out a pimped up house trailer inspired by technology show Beyond 2000. Jude Dobson visits a Kiwiana classic: Fred and Myrtle Flutey's Bluff paua shell home; and Jim Hickey meets a Remuera reproduction antique importer. The opening titles are a showcase of computer graphics from the era.

5231.thumb.png.540x405

The Elegant Shed - Behind the Garden

Television, 1984 (Full Length Episode)

In this episode of the influential NZ architecture series, dapper tour guide David Mitchell looks at the 'Christchurch Style'. He begins with the humble baches on Taylor's Mistake's cliffs, before focusing on the Euro-influenced brutalism of Miles Warren and the "flamboyant" practice of Peter Beaven (earthquake victims SBS House, and Lyttelton Tunnel's "fifth ship" are featured); and the cottage's modern descendent: Don Donnithorne's post-war home. Warren intriguingly compares his process designing Christchurch Town Hall with Jørn Utzon's Sydney Opera House.

4345.thumb.png.540x405

The Elegant Shed - 'The Extroverts'

Television, 1984 (Full Length Episode)

With dapper architect David Mitchell as tour guide, The Elegant Shed was an influential six-part series looking for the local in NZ architecture. Here Mitchell looks at ‘The Extroverts’: a group of architects who transformed Wellington in the 70s and 80s. Ian Athfield and Roger Walker are interviewed about their projects (Ath’s sprawling hillside house, Walker’s Park Mews flats). He also examines the influence of Austrian emigre Ernst Plischke (Massey House), glass verandas (Oaks Arcade), and exalts in John Scott’s iconic bi-cultural building, Futuna Chapel.

Sunday   gaudi cathedral thumb.jpg.540x405

Sunday - Sagrada Familia

Television, 1992 (Excerpts)

The timeline for building Barcelona cathedral La Sagrada Família spans decades. Architect Antoni Gaudí died in 1926, when it was less than a quarter complete. In 1992 arts show Sunday talked to Kiwi Mark Burry, a longtime principal architect on the famed basilica. Burry talks about being won over by Gaudí at university — when Gaudí was out of vogue — working on the project remotely, and trying to understand Gaudí's intentions for a design that has evolved with time. Meanwhile narrator Ray Henwood waxes lyrical over images of the cathedral and other Gaudí creations.

12421.01.key.jpg.540x405

Aftermath - Triumph of the City (Episode Five)

Television, 2013 (Excerpts)

The fifth episode in this series about the Christchurch earthquakes looks at the mammoth rebuild the city requires. It explores the competing tensions faced by politicians, planners, developers and citizens to fix the past, look to the future and ensure a result that is as safe and liveable as possible, for an earthquake-scarred populace. This excerpt features cardboard models and state of the art visualisations, as it examines the development of the blueprint to create a smaller central city anchored by the Avon River. 

Lookout   the city and the suburb  part one  thumb.jpg.540x405

The City And The Suburb (part one)

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

In this two-part Lookout documentary from 1983, critic Hamish Keith explores how New Zealanders have housed themselves over the 20th Century. This first part builds to 1935: it begins in Auckland War Memorial Museum, with Keith asking how Kiwis would represent themselves if they were curators in the future. He presents the state house as the paramount Kiwi icon, and examines the journey from Victorian slums and Queen Street sewers to villas, bungalows and suburbia; plus the impact on housing of cars, consumerism, influenza, war, depression, and new ideas in town planning.

Lookout   the city and the suburb  part two  thumb.jpg.540x405

The City And The Suburb (part two)

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

This 1983 Hamish Keith-presented documentary is subtitled 'Housing New Zealand in the Twentieth Century'. Part two picks up from Michael Joseph Savage’s 1930s state housing scheme. Keith argues that as the emphasis shifted from renting to owning, middle class suburbia became the foundation of Kiwi postwar aspirations. He looks at changing demographics in the cities — as home owners fled on newly built motorways — and argues that the suburban ideal has become bland and out of reach, as New Zealand once again becomes a country of “mean streets and mansions”.

Antonello the architect key image.jpg.540x405

Antonello & the Architect

Television, 2007 (Excerpts)

The 17th century portrait St Jerome in his Study by Italian painter Antonello da Messina, intrigued Wellington architect Bill Toomath all his life. In 2002 Toomath designed and built a study for his house based on the painting. Toomath discusses this project, his architectural training and practice, and some of his clients. Time-lapse camera footage captures building progress, and the completed studio with replica desk emerges as a portrait of Toomath himself, and a tribute to architecture and ideas. Bill Toomath passed away on 20 March 2014. 

5918.01.key.jpg.540x405

The Gravy - Series Three, Episode 13

Television, 2008 (Full Length Episode)

In this episode of The Gravy Warren Maxwell employs the services of Wellington architect Gerald Melling. En route the Liverpudlian recalls his path down under, via underground publishing and scandal in 60s Toronto to designing punchy, idiosyncratic Kiwi buildings. These include the Signal Box house (Home New Zealand 2008 House of the Year) which lets the brake off the metaphorical possibilities of its Masterton location. Gabe McDonnell then looks at Richard Meros' obsession with Helen Clark, and its 'adaptation' for theatre by young lover/playwright Arthur Meek.

Kaleidoscope   auckland houses thumb.jpg.540x405

Kaleidoscope - Auckland Houses

Television, 1986 (Full Length)

In this 1986 Kaleidoscope piece, presenter Mark Wigley offers his take on grand designs in Auckland housing. Fresh from completing a doctorate at Auckland University in architectural theory, Wigley argues that New Zealand has "had a building tradition rather than an architectural tradition". He finds that contemporary houses (from a David Mitchell-designed house in Parnell, to a Paritai Drive mansion) are starting to explore potential beyond simple boxes, toward being works of art. Wigley went on to become Dean of Architecture at Columbia University in the United States.

Kaleidoscope   auckland high rises thumb.jpg.540x405

Kaleidoscope - Auckland High-rises

Television, 1986 (Full Length)

By the mid 1980s Auckland had shifted from city of sails, to city of cranes. In the lead-up to the 1987 sharemarket crash, it was in the grip of "an unprecedented building boom". This 1986 Kaleidoscope report looks at the demolition and development from an architectural angle, as malls and mirror glass transform the city. Interviewees include developer Seph Glew of the (ill-fated) Chase Corporation, and his architects. Architecture critic Mark Wigley rates the BNZ Tower an "insult", but says Auckland's "crude" new buildings have at least provoked debate about what the city needs. 

Kaleidoscope   architectural resorts thumb.jpg.540x405

Kaleidoscope - Architectural Resorts

Television, 1987 (Full Length Episode)

For this 1987 Kaleidoscope report, architectural commentator Mark Wigley uses Kiwi resort towns as fuel for an essay on local architecture. He visits Waitangi, arguing that Aotearoa should have followed the "rich ornamental example" of the Whare Rūnanga, instead of the restraint of the Treaty House. He praises Paihia’s "cacophony of bad taste" motels. In part two, he compares Queenstown and Arrowtown, and admires a gold dredge and the Skyline gondola. Wigley, then starting his academic career in the United States, would become an internationally acclaimed architectural theorist.