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.
“Here is a taste of the best and worst of Backch@t 2000…goodnight.” Presenter Bill Ralston introduces this reel of outtakes and highlights from the Gibson Group arts series. The creative sector's issues of the day include installing Len Lye’s Wind Wand, arts funding, and arts patron Denis Adam’s thoughts on Te Papa’s arts displays. Ralston, reporters Mark Crysell and Jodi Ihaka, and film reviewer Chris Knox all get tongue-tied; there’s a tiff between two architecture panelists, brief appearances by Ian McKellen and Miriama Kamo, and opera singer Jonathan Lemalu hits a low note.
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.
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.
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.
This edition of the 1987 Inspiration series on Kiwi artists looks at potter James (Jim) Greig, and his search for the “spark of life” found in clay. The Peter Coates-directed documentary visits Greig’s Wairarapa studio to interview him and his wife Rhondda, also an artist. Greig’s influences are surveyed: the work of Kiwi potter Len Castle, nature, orphanhood, and Japan (where his work achieved renown). The film captures the visceral process of making large works for a Wellington City Gallery exhibition. Greig died of a heart attack, aged 50, while this film was being made.
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.
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.
This TVNZ ‘home show’ explores 90s grand designs and their architects, renovation dilemmas and Kiwi personalities in their houses. This debut episode is presented by actor Jennifer Ward-Lealand and builder (and future Dunedin mayor) Dave Cull. Ward-Lealand visits architect Roger Walker in his pastel pink and green Tinakori Road home, intros a “70s Cinderella” bathroom do-up, and drops in on DJ Kevin Black’s arts and crafts-style mariner’s cottage. Cull tests a non-stick frying pan and a barn house. Date stamps include denim shirts and a saxophone theme tune.
Sam Neill moved from directing at the National Film Unit, to becoming one of New Zealand's most internationally successful actors. His resume of 60+ features includes lead roles in a number of local movies, from a man alone in breakout feature Sleeping Dogs to an unusual reverend in Dean Spanley.