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Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

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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An update on my ‘Who Cares’ story regarding the old Dunedin Art Gallery at Logan Park.

There was a hearing regarding plans for it yesterday. It was written up in the Otago Daily Times here. I should have said in my other post, that the original building from the 1925 South Seas exhibition has already had its ‘wings clipped’ with several bays lopped off. The council wants to remove more bays and other additions to make way for expansion of the University Oval cricket ground. It seems that the compromise for doing this is the restoration of what’s left.

What is sad, is that as a Category 1 listed building, it should never have been altered as it has been, but I am all for making the best of what we have left now.  This is a lesson in getting buildings listed and the differences between category 1 & 2.

On this point, I have to note that the UFS building that I wrote about with its extensive cultural and interesting architectural history is not listed with the Historic Places Trust at all. I hope to remedy that.

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