Monday, November 30, 2009
As a follow on from my previous posts about New Zealand rural architecture and the preponderance of corrugated iron in the landscape, I’d like to touch briefly upon the use of this material in contemporary architecture. It’s something that Australian architect Glenn Murcutt treated very seriously and he more than any other architect, has given corrugated iron a new status that moves beyond the paddock.
House details,Christchurch I like Murcutt’s Australian work very much. It has a sense of place about it that is singularly appropriate given the fact that like New Zealand, the Australian rural landscape is dotted with practical agricultural examples of the use of corrugated iron that goes back decades. Like the French architect, Pierre Chareau, Murcutt has discovered beauty in apparent banality. He has turned out attention to the ordinary, to the things we walk passed every day without ever really seeing them. He has toyed with materiality, incorporating the iron’s linear aspect into his designs; and he has paid homage to simple things like the sound of rain on tin roofs that we all love so much.
House, Lincoln, Canterbury
House, Kaiapoi, Canterbury In New Zealand, a good many architects have used corrugated iron in the last ten years – some more successfully than others it must be said. I wonder sometimes, just when corrugated iron stops being a homage to rural vernacular and slips into the realms of pastiche, gimmickry and token gesture. The fact that it is light, strong, versatile and economic – all the qualities that have guaranteed its place on any good working farm – may also have seen it become ‘the cheap solution.’ I refer especially to inner city apartment blocks where sheets of corrugated iron scream loudly of ill-conceived design ideas and a lowering of material costs.
Apartments, Christchurch But I must not become sarcastic. There are also plenty of good examples of the sensitive, well-considered use of corrugated iron in modern architecture. They can be hard to find I’ll admit – I certainly never found anything riveting when I went in search of good domestic examples to photograph here in Christchurch. But maybe when the trendy, fashionable aspect of its use has waned, we’ll see serious architects taking this cultural icon and making poetry in buildings that celebrate the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
This church scene is made all the more complete with the addition of a nurse mannequin! It is after all, the Nurses' Memorial Chapel at Christchurch Hospital; and while I jest a little, it is actually a very beautiful little stone building with handsome timbered rafters. Turns out it is the only memorial built specifically to commemorate New Zealand women killed in the war. It is also believed to be the only purpose-built chapel commemorating nurses killed in the war, anywhere in the world. It was designed by Christchurch architect J.G.Collins and was built by William Williamson, who completed the task in 1927. One of its key features is the collection of stunning stained glass windows - eleven of them - including four important works by noted English glass artist, Veronica Whall (1887-1967). The central aisle carpet was designed by artist Nicola Jackson.
I was rather taken with this church architecture - apparently the work of one of Christchurch's well known senior architects - though no one seemed able to tell me who. It's St Andrew's Anglican Church in tiny Le Bons Bay on Banks Peninsula about an hour east of Christchurch. It replaces the original wooden church that I believed burned down. Certainly this very solid concrete sixties number isn't going anywhere too soon. I had wanted to go inside as some of the locals told me it was "very attractively retro" but sadly the doors were locked. Another time perhaps. In the meantime, I will try to find out who designed it.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
I drove over to Banks Peninsula to do an interview yesterday – to Le Bons Bay specifically, which is roughly 100km east of Christchurch and because of the steep, narrow, winding nature of the roads, it’s about a one-and-a-half hour journey. Heading east along the Summit Road, there are spectacular views in every direction and yesterday the weather obliged with the perfect sunny conditions that make looking down into Akaroa Harbour (a volcanic crater) a visual joy (above).
There are dozens of pretty bays on the peninsula - Port Levy, Okain’s Bay, Stony Bay, Pigeon Bay, Decanter Bay, Otanerito, Lavericks Bay and so on – each one reached via a thin, twisted vein of a road that drops down from the Summit Road through a powerful rock-strewn landscape.
Le Bons is one of the eastern bays and one of the last to be settled (in 1857), originally by the French and then by a Mr Cuff, who set up a timber mill to harvest the bounty of thick, native forest that still covered the hillsides. Ever since then, the bush has steadily diminished to make way for dairy, cattle and sheep farming. Originally only accessible by boat, Le Bons is still 'isolated' despite its being just a twenty minute drive from Akaroa and there are two tiny settlements – one prior to reaching the bay itself, which is still home to Le Bons Bay School, St Andrews Anglican Church, a public noticeboard, a walnut stall, the tatty remnants of the Peace Memorial Library dated July 19, 1919 (above), an old fire station, the old town hall (now a home) and a tightly gathered cluster of houses.
A mile or so on, down a side road, I found the very pretty Le Bons Bay Cemetery, dating back to 1862 and now neatly maintained by the Christchurch City Council. And then to Le Bons Bay itself – a typically turquoise peninsula gem that boasts a beautiful white beach, completely empty of people and known for its sightings of penguins and rare Hectors dolphins. There’s a public domain (with tennis courts), a short stretch of holiday baches and houses and some very handsome, giant macrocarpa hedges. Standing on the sand dunes, looking inland, it’s hard not to be awed by the drama of the peninsula landscape. There’s an ever-pervasive energy about the place – not just in Le Bons, but right across the peninsula and you can feel the power of the land. Maybe that’s to do with its turbulent volcanic origins and its layers and layers of history – generations of the same families have called the peninsular home for well over a hundred years and they all talk about the strong pull of the land. It's the sort of place I'd certainly like to call home.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
No? Then Let me redress that~!
I spent three days down in Southland last weekend and that's the perfect place to go 'hedge-hunting.' Located at the bottom of the South Island it's prone to very high winds and farmers all over the province have cultivated huge macrocarpa hedges to provide their animals with shelter. I snapped these three from the bus window as we were driving from Invercargill to Colac Bay - I loved the patterns formed by the die-back in the top image. I'll add these to my collection of hedge photos - now into its second 'edition.' I intend to maike a second hedge book soon - over the Christmas New Year period perhaps....that's a page from my first Small Book of Hedges up the top. Click on the word HEDGES in the label line below to see some of my favourite monster hedges in previous posts. Go on....you know you want to.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Street Corner, Edendale. Nov. 2009 Ajr Creamoata Factory, Milton. Nov. 2009 Ajr I rarely travel on buses - not because I have anything against them; it's just that I have my own car and I can get to places faster that way. But last weekend I not only took a bus ride, I took a very LONG bus ride - ten hours in fact, from Christchurch to the tiny southern coastal settlement of Colac Bay, which sits 45 minutes southwest of Invercargill at the bottom of the South Island.
Residential Street, Dunedin. Nov. 2009 Ajr
Dunedin Railway Station. Nov. 2009 Ajr When I'm travelling by car I always stop regularly to take photographs; when you're being driven by bus, you stop on the whim of the driver. But that wasn't going to stop me. I love taking photographs from moving vehicles. They're never perfect shots and that's what I like about them. There's a randomness, a degree of luck involved that sometimes spins out some real treats. And much to my delight, I discovered that sitting high up in a bus, you get an entirely different perspective on the landscapes and cityscapes you're passing through. So these are four shots of many that I snapped along the way. A tiny sampling of the architectural diversity and quirkiness that you see whenever you hit the roads into provincial New Zealand.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Anyone who has ever visited Birdling’s Flat will surely understand the peculiar urge some of us have to gather its flat, smooth stones and lug them back to our gardens, our windowsills, our ‘corners for special things.’ It’s as if these little greywacke ‘treasures’ express some innate response in us, a primitive response to a primitive environment.
Anyone who has not visited Birdling’s Flat may think this melodramatic. But until you have gazed upon the wild seas at Birdling’s Flat and watched the giant waves rise high, implode upon themselves and then batter the steep foreshore, grinding stones into smooth orbs, you have yet to experience one of Canterbury’s wildest beauties. Renowned for its dangerous seas and the raw forces of nature that have snatched away a good number of lives, it is a salt-whipped, blustery, unpredictable, relentless environment that draws people in and keeps them returning. Hypnotic almost.
Named after William Birdling (1822-1902), a Somerset farmer, who came to New Zealand in 1842 and later took up farming land in the area, Birdling’s Flat presents itself as a shabby seaside cluster of dishevelled baches set among clusters of unruly succulents, driftwood gardens, bright geranium patches and an unforgiving scramble of Coprosma scrubland. Forty-minutes from Christchurch it takes up its position on the long embankment that runs from Lake Forsyth to Kaitorete Spit, separating Lake Ellesmere from the Pacific Ocean. From the main road it seems bland and uninspiring but there are surprises. Avid rockhounds know it well. It’s world famous after all – for its sea-tumbled agates, ameythsts and other semi-precious stones – and any fisherman worth his salt, appreciates its reputation as a surf-casting destination. I’m told its “great for rig, elephant and sharks, especially when there’s a nor-wester and you’re using shellfish or crabs.” You can (apparently) land yourself a school shark or a bunch of red cod for the pan and “the kite-fishing is good.”
Aerial view of Kaitorete Spit. Ajr.2009 Early Maori also recognised its potential as ‘a food basket.’ An early pa established under the foothills to the west of Poranui (Birdling’s Flat) at the Horomaka (Banks Peninsular) end of Kaitorete Spit, was called Waikakahi, which means “the place where kakahi (fresh water shellfish) is found.” Historic relics and recent archaelogical finds indicate that Kaitorete Spit and the outlet of Lake Forsyth were once used extensively by Maori; and several sites of possible burrow pits and Pre-European kumara gardens are located near Birdling’s Flat. Today, And if you’re puzzled by the sombre red-roofed white bunker-like building set among scrub, all you need to know is that it’s home to the University of Canterbury Physics Field Station, a place that prides itself on its four different sorts of radar systems – a meteor radar system, a mesospheric radar system, an ionization radar and a tropospheric wind profiler. All very mysterious to the uninitiated (and uninformed) and adding somewhat to the impression that there is more to Birdling’s Flat than meets the eye.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I photographed these gorgeous cupcakes at the Royal New Zealand Show last week. So so pretty. They were too hard to resist. They're made by the very successful Christchurch company, The Cupcake Collection, who now have their own store on Colombo Street in Beckenham. They also make regular appearances at city markets and they have a loyal following - understandably! www.thecupcakecollection.co.nz
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I used to collect stamps as a kid. My grandfather was a passionate philatelist and every year every grandchild received First Day Covers. I wonder now what has become of my stamp collection. It’s possibly stored away in one of my cupboards with all my school books (and my father’s school books and my own children’s school books). (It’s safe to assume I am a hoarder).
All this was brought to mind last week when I saw these terrific new brooches by Auckland-based jeweller, Pauline Bern, which are part of a collection (called Collect) that includes thirteen brooches made from old postage stamps that are now showing at inform contemporary jewellery in Christchurch. Last year Pauline undertook the job of clearing her childhood family home and in the process, she discovered a large carton containing used postage stamps that had been collected by her mother and grandmother over five decades. They meticulously soaked them in water overnight, slipped them off their envelope remnants, dried them on trays, sorted them, labelled them and counted them. Most were passed onto charities for fundraising but it was perhaps fortuitous for Pauline that this one carton remained.
“That is the serendipitous story behind Collect, thirteen brooches that include fragments from the native flora stamp series, stamps that have travelled some distance within New Zealand, some time in the 1960s, arriving at an address in either Howick or Devonport,” she says in her artist statement. Collect follows on from Pauline’s earlier exhibitions, Gather, Sort, Scatter 2007 and Glean, shown at Fingers, Auckland earlier this year. All conceptually address the idea of “reconsidering and reconfiguring materials that have a former usage and meaning and shifting them into the jewellery genre.” In their new life, they gather new stories as they go out into the world adorning their new owners and ‘meeting new friends.’ Pauline is a senior tutor at Unitec NZ in Auckland and this is her first exhibition at inform. All images have been supplied by inform contemporary jewellery. www.informjewellery.co.nz
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
From the series of seven images by one of New Zealand's leading printmakers, entitled 'Homage to Max Ernst,' which is loosely based on the Max Ernst book 'Une Semaine de Bonte (A Week of Kindness) 1933. This is one of my favourite images in this short 'sub-series.'
Monday, November 16, 2009
I frequently find myself drawn to the edges of things – and you can read that any way you like – because it seems to me that the most interesting things in life happen ‘around the edges.’ That’s another debate though. In this post I’m referring to things architectural. Literally defined, edge refers to a border, brim or margin; or to a line along which two faces of a solid meet. In my head, it also refers to the visual impact of the edge of a building meeting its background, or its near neighbours. When I roam about a city – any city – I’m always looking for an arresting perspective, something that catches my eye and won’t let go. It may be a building in its entirety but more often than not, it is a slither of a building, a coming together of different component structures, different materials, of edges. It may be the shimmer of surfaces glinting in the sun, or a set of shadows draped over the side of a building. It may be the angular structure of a single corner etched against a brilliant or a gloomy grey sky; or it may be a close-up that better defines the materiality of a building.
I look for juxtapositions. I look for material harmony but equally, I relate to material contrast. I’m not about stylistic labels. I don’t care if a building is Victorian Gothic, Modernist, Post-Modernist or anything in between; what I look for is the symmetry (or equally the asymmetry); the details and their placement within the bigger picture. I look at edges and at the intersection of vertical and horizontal forms; and I fuss over reflections and shadows. It is around all those ‘edges’ that I find the greatest aesthetic pleasures. It seems to me that sometimes in the sheer bulk of a city - even the sheer bulk of a single building - people are blinded to the details, the intricacies and the little bursts of creativity that hover above them. If only people would look UP. If only they would take the time to really SEE.