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Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

I have recently succumbed to the tyranny of the pedometer. I need to move and get outdoors because the winter gloom of Southern New Zealand affects me quite a lot and sun and exercise helps. Thing thing is…exercise. In my much younger days I climbed and tramped and the thought of “artificial exercise” eg the gym, chills me. I have friends who walk and I am a fan of flâneury on the page at least, see here and here. Related to this, some of my favourite books relate to psychogeography, brilliant examples being Martin Edmonds’  “Chronicle of the Unsung” and “Dark Night: Walking with McCahon“. More recently I discovered WB Sebald whose “Rings of Saturn” which I cannot recommend strongly enough.

So can I walk with purpose in my small town, and is it big enough that I can also wander? Initially I am being guided by the 1970s books “Taieri Buildings” and “More Taieri Buildings” by Lemon and Bascand, and am trying to locate all the buildings still there that are within the build up area. Sadly some, like the old Flour Mill (in this photo just before its demolition), have been reduced to gravel carparks.

Recently on a night walk I managed to circumnavigate, by accident, the grounds of what was Holy Cross College, a former seminary. This photo was taken around 1900 I am guessing, as a new chapel was built in 1902.

 14829177314_4b62e7b393_b
DCC Archives, postcard in Taieri County Council Photograph Series. Photographer: AW Bathgate

And today I took this – from a similar position. You can see a former convent just in front, now a house.

 HC
Poor phone camera photo taken today of same view.

So yes….more to walk and write about. I am also excited to compare urban, rural and small town journeys. In Rebecca Solnit’s “Wanderlust: A History of Walking” she writes “In the country one’s solitude is geographical – one is altogether outside society….In the city, one is alone because the world is made up of strangers, and to be a stranger surrounded by starkest…is among the starkest of luxuries”.

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For most of last year I was immersed in geographic academia and geographical detail remains intriguing to me. This morning I chanced to hear just the beginning of a radio interview with Jake Gorst, director of Modern Tide, about modernist architecture on the East Coast of the US.. The first thing that struck me was his statement that Long Island was 100 miles long. I don’t know why this hadn’t registered with me in the past. But on reflection it makes sense, as many of my literary/arts favourites have some sort of connection to the island and yet I had never really connected.

Jackson Pollock lived and died there. The Pollock Krasner house in Springs in the Hamptons is now a study centre and museum of sorts.

Both Armistead Maupin and Edmund White’s (especially Forgetting Elena) stories of Fire Island.

Large parts of John Irving’s “Widow for One Year” takes place in the Hamptons also at Sagaponack. This is not an easy book but captures human nature so well like much of Irving’s writing

The wonderful book “Architect of Desire” about the infamous Stanford White was largely located at the Box Hill estate in Smithtown.

The decline of Box Hill led me to research the fading history of Long Island and I discovered this website about the mansions of Long Island and the architectural relics of its heyday.

The mansions of course bring us to one of the most know Long Island stories “The Great Gatsby” and I was surprised how close to New York in modern terms Gatsby’s Estate was. Wikipedia states that ” In this novel, Great Neck (King’s Point) became the new-money peninsula of “West Egg” and Port Washington (Sands Point) the old-money “East Egg”. Several mansions in the area served as inspiration for Gatsby’s home, such as Oheka Castle and the now-demolished Beacon Towers.

New Picture

Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby and I am sure there are many many others….

Finally Rufus Wainright’s song Montauk is also a great favourite

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Seeing is believing

I have had an eventful time. Last week I reluctantly sought help for a persistent visual disturbance through the miracle of a twitter friend who works in the eye department at the hospital to see help immediately. So after a scramble to find someone to look after the children I ended up in ED, diagnosed with a detached retina and had acute surgery* the next day.

My vision the past week, at best, has been something like the first 5-6 seconds of this

Which really makes you appreciate full vision. Also I am not allowed to drive for about a month, and as the only driver in the family that has also presented problems. However travelling by bus, however tedious enables you to NOTICE things. Even if sometimes you notice incorrectly (due to the poor eyesight) e.g. The man I saw walking a very large cat which turned out to be a labradoodle. Taking time and noticing is very good and I have realised that seeing is only part of things even though is stuffed up my plans to go to the local showings of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

An example of seeing &  feeling might be this video that I found on YouTube which completely captured my own recent visit to Seacliff. I think this video – and its only a video – also captures the feel of the place. Its hard to say as I’ve been there several times and it certainly has an atmosphere. Interested to hear if readers get anything from the video.

However, the visual is just out of my reach for now, as is a long term prognosis on my sight.

Now you may go about your business as usual. Someone once said to me that no one  wants to read about YOU, unless you are Steve Braunias.

*Getting eye surgery under a local anaesthetic is… “interesting”

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Home again

We are going through the house hunting process for the first time. Anyone that has done this will know what a minefield it is. My advice so far – “trust no one”.

I suppose it one of those times where you really begin to understand deeply what you like, and what you can cope with. Compromise, patience and all those things that I am not good at come to the fore along with the differences between  you and any significant other involved.

For us, another complication is the very small catchment we are looking in. I’ve always loved mid century modern but no case book houses here. In fact my favourite New Zealand houses were designed by Ernst Plischke and the number of houses he built/designed in Mosgiel or even Dunedin = 0 (please correct me if I am wrong)

There was one, a late deco beauty but a tad out of our price range and we weren’t quick enough. Can’t find a pic online but the bathroom gives you the idea

bath

So I find I am all about character and gardens…..and that soul-less beige 90s – present day houses terrify me.

Actually this shouldn’t have come as a surprise as my latest online obsession shows. I have become a little addicted to Pinterest which is basically online old fashioned scrapbook (as opposed to craft scrapbooking *shudder*). What my Pinterest shows me over time is a fairly well rounded picture of my tastes. I haven’t included art much but over all I’d say it is very telling. There is probably psychologists analysing people’s profiles now. It might also prove to be a valuable relationship tool (if you both had accounts) instantly showing up ‘chalk and cheese’ situations.

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I picked this book up at the library the other day. It is fascinating and the photography is very good.

Talling is also responsible for the book/website “Derelict London

If you Google “lost rivers of London” there are many other interesting bits and pieces, including a plan to revive these rivers.

Maybe I find it intriguing because I am currently blitzing through 13 episodes of “The Time Team” on DVD. I am history obessessed.

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It’s been a while.

I’ve been having some conversations about books lately and I’ve found myself drawn back to my bookshelves and re-reading The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family for maybe the 5th time. I am not sure why I like this book so much. It is quite well written; a memoir, history, and social commentary.  Also as it centres around Standford White, there is a lot about architecture, from quite a personal viewpoint.

Early on, the author talks about the proportions of a room at her childhood home , the Red Cottage.

Rooms conceived by architects usually convey a sense of relations between people, but the Red Cottage dining room was about internal experiences.”

I found it interesting this time around to read about the experience of architecture. I’ve been thinking a lot about our (my) relationship with the built environment and just with things generally since the Christchurch earthquake. I have no words but some of the best writing around on that topic I have read can be found by Philip Mathews here and Cheryl Bernstein here. There was also this Clairmont image posted on Facebook by son Orlando Clairmont Cathedral Attacked by Demons


Study for Cathedral Attacked by Demons Philip Clairmont (1972?)

Many thanks to Orlando Clairmont for permission to reproduce this image

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In March 1966, an essay by Colin McCahon was published in the journal Landfall in a series called “Beginnings”. It looks back over 40 years to his very early days in Otago and is often quoted, as it is one of the few written pieces by McCahon to be published.

In one section, he recalls some shops built next to his house in Highgate, Dunedin and of the influence of watching the signwriting being done on the window of the Hairdresser and Tobacconist’s store next door to Mrs McDonald’s fruit shop and dairy. McCahon writes that following this he “did a lot of sign writing. Our house was in white roughcast but the doors to various backyard ‘offices’ were of wood and offered surfaces well suited to poster painting.”

It crossed my mind that perhaps these little shops were still there and I had the McCahon house’s  Highgate address. I was very excited when I thought I’d found them, but the lovely people at the City Archives enlightened me to a newby researchers trap – the renumbering of streets. However the archivists were very happy to provide me with the following:

The McCahon house is apparently still standing, with some modifications, and is now XXX Highgate [several 100 numbers different the original address and at the far northern end of Highgate]. The shops which were beside it, with the owner’s house, have been demolished and replaced as far as we can determine. The information taken from the Valuation Rolls is as follows:

1923-4: Property bought by John K. McCahon
1926-7: William McDonald, the neighbour had a house and 2 shops on the site
1928-9: Annie McDonald occupant of neighbouring property with two shops
1929-30: McCahon house now owned by XXXX

Snooping further in the Stone’s Directories of the 1930s, in 1929 I found the first mention at this location of “Wm McDonnell, Hairdresser”. Gone again in the 1930 directory. Of course I gather you had to pay to be in the directory and with the crash of 1929 who knows what happened.

In the book “Above the Belt: A History of the Suburb of Maori Hill” by Jane Smallfield and Brian Heenan, there is a chapter on the ‘rise and decay’ of retail shops in this area and it notes that these small stores were still there operating as a fruiterer in 1961. Sadly there are no photographs to be found. I checked in the Hocken Collections and with Jane Smallfield and had no luck. Smallfield does clearly recall the shops when she lived in the area as a child though.

So I thought, as an exercise in crowdsourcing, wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could locate a photo of these shops – especially from the 1920s and with the signwriting in place that so impacted on McCahon. I mean somewhere there will be a photo surely. Maybe the descendents of the shops owners??

Oh and the white roughcast house is still there (and you can just see where the shops were next door – replaced by a newish house).


It must have been quite new when the McCahon’s moved in.

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