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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.

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Collection

Kiwi Architecture

Curated by NZ On Screen team

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).

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Collection

Dunedin

Curated by NZ On Screen team

NZ On Screen’s Dunedin Collection offers up the sights and sounds of a city edged by ocean, and famed for its music. Dunedin is a bracing mixture of old and new: of Victorian buildings and waves of fresh-faced students, many of them carrying guitars. As Dave Cull reflects in his introduction, it is a city where distance is no barrier to creativity and innovation.

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Science Express - 1984 'Best of'

Television, 1984 (Full Length Episode)

From a pre-Mythbusters but post-blackboard and pointer era, Christchurch-produced Science Express took a current affairs approach to reporting contemporary NZ scientific research. Presented by broadcaster Ken Ellis this 1984 ‘best of’ dives beneath fiords to explore mysterious black coral forests; and looks at teeth transplants, efforts to stimulate deer fawning, and the STD chlamydia. Finally the show visits Wellington and Christchurch Town Halls to profile concert hall acoustics pioneer Harold Marshall, and his mission to attain perfect sound for listeners.

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Series

Whare Māori

Television, 2011

This 13 part Māori Television series looks at Māori architecture, exploring its unique buildings, history and its relationship to the communities it inhabits. Similar to the work that The Elegant Shed did in articulating a distinctly Pākehā architecture, Whare Māori broke ground for Māori design. Here architect Rau Hoskins takes on the David Mitchell interpreter role. Diana Wichtel in The Listener applauded: "beautifully shot local cultural history through architecture". 'The Village' episode won Best Information Programme at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and TV Awards.

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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.

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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.

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Whare Taonga - First Episode

Television, 2012 (Full Length Episode)

This award-winning TV series explored whare significant to a community, using the buildings themselves as a vessel for storytelling. Interviews delve into each whare’s design and build, and its cultural and historical significance. This first episode visits Whakatane to enter Ngāti Awa’s globetrotting meeting house, Mātaatua. After 130 years the building was returned home and restored, following a Treaty of Waitangi settlement. It reopened in 2011. The te reo series was made by the company behind architecture show Whare Māori. To translate, press the 'CC' logo at the bottom of the screen. 

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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.

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Whare Māori - The Wharenui (Episode Two)

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of the Māori Television series looks at the place of the wharenui in Māori architecture. Rau Hoskins explores the origins and meaning of the structure, and looks at some iconic examples: a replica pataka being built in Hamilton Gardens; te hau ki turanga (the oldest surviving example of a wharenui) controversially taken by colonial forces, now displayed at museum Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington; and Ngākau Māhaki at Auckland's Unitec — designed by master carver Lyonel Grant and replete with dashboard lights from 70s Holdens.