Monday, February 18, 2019

New Book - John Scott Works

John Scott Works is a major new book and exhibition project on the work of the acclaimed architect John Scott. The project is a visual response to Scott’s work, capturing over more than twenty of his known and unknown buildings, it is in part a celebration of one of New Zealand’s most important architects and a timely and necessary acknowledgment not only of his work but also his place within a wider cultural context..
More here...

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John Scott Works: David Straight

John Scott Works is a personal visual response to the work of acclaimed New Zealand architect John Scott. Photographer David Straight explores the essence of Scott’s work – from intimate images of architectural details and moments, to ideas rooted in te ao Māori which are found in Scott's work. It is a celebration of one of New Zealand’s most important architects and a timely acknowledgment not only of his buildings but also his place within our wider cultural context.

Objectspace, 13 Rose Road Ponsonby, Ponsonby, Auckland
Thursday 14 February to 24 March 2019 10:00am – 4:00pm.
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Tributes to John Scott 21 March

Join us for an evening of creative responses to the life and work of architect John Scott. Curated by poet and writer Gregory O'Brien, Tributes to John Scott will feature eight responses to the beloved late Māori architect. Join us for a selection of musical, poetic and written responses, fast paced and ranging in form, celebrating Scott’s lasting impact on architecture in Aotearoa.

Objectspace, 13 Rose Road Ponsonby, Ponsonby, Auckland
Thursday 21 March 2019 6:00pm – 10:00pm. Free event. Bookings here

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Werry • Francis Houses John Scott

"This book provides a photo essay on two houses by New Zealand architect John Scott (1924-92); the Werry House and the Francis House, which sit side by side.

They are late works in good condition, but have slipped from memory and today are largely unknown.

Our intention was to focus on just a few things in these buildings; doors and windows, gutters and eaves and thresholds between interior and garden.

These simple facts of building are common to almost every house, so commonplace in fact as to barely register in discussion of architecture today.

However in Scott's hands these facts became ideas, ideas which he returned to throughout his life."

Designed & produced by Mary Gaudin & Giles Reid

Softcover booklet
210 H x 148 mm
36 pages

Edition of 200
ISBN 978-5272-2468-1


Free worldwide shipping

More here...

Mary Gaudin is a New Zealand photographer living in France

Giles Reid is a New Zealand architect living in England

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Death in the Family

In September 2016, the John Scott−designed Visitor Centre at Āniwaniwa, near Lake Waikaremoana, was demolished by the Department of Conservation [DoC], despite vigorous protests from the architectural community and despite the building’s classification as a Category 1 Historic Place. The former Urewera National Park Headquarters was only 40 years old but had been empty for nearly a decade. DoC claimed that the building was an earthquake risk and that it had watertightness issues, but both claims were disputed by independent engineers and architects.


Gone, like some beloved uncle, only worse. Not a natural death, but first a decade of neglect, then despatched unceremoniously by bureaucrats. John Scott is best known for his churches, particularly Futuna Chapel in Karori, Wellington, and Our Lady of Lourdes in Havelock North. But in the 1970s he designed a small gem for the National Park Board for use as its Urewera headquarters. He used a difficult site and built a reverential and intimate tribute to the bush and to the Urewera.

I grew up in a John Scott house and have had a lifelong interest in his architecture. I have photographed many of his buildings and made pilgrimages to his churches and public buildings, from Waitangi to Westport. Māori mythology is full of tricksters and mischief-makers. I think Scott is one of them. A shapeshifter. Scott’s work is cheeky, full of good humour and wit. He subverts conventions and pokes fun at the conventional. These are the qualities I like in his buildings.

In 2004 I drove the 750 kilometres from Nelson to Lake Waikaremoana to revisit the Āniwaniwa Visitor Centre. It was a long and winding trip. The bush in the Urewera is primordial. There is something ominous about this place, unwelcoming, its history uncomfortable for Pākehā. The Centre was several kilometres’ drive around Lake Waikaremoana towards the Āniwaniwa Falls, tucked in the bush off the road. To the side was a sheltered entranceway – a waharoa – that led to an elevated concrete walkway towards the back of the building.

The walkway was narrow in parts, then opening out onto larger balconies and up two series of steps to the door. Scott wanted you to enter through the bush, to be up in the trees, to hear the birds, feel the rain, breathe the air and smell the earth. Any other entrance would have been more practical but this way you understood the meaning of the building: it is both a tree hut and a church in the forest. At the top of the last set of stairs you were greeted by a round window and, to the left, wooden doors, painted orange. The windows had orange and yellow trim and wooden flaps for ventilation. The flaps and colours were common to many Scott buildings from the 1970s. Inside was an entry hall with vaulted wooden ceilings and black rafters. The spaces interconnected like a series of tents, each with windows of different shapes: square, rectangular, arched, and the round one in the entrance. All of them looked back out to the bush. The Visitor Centre was not a Māori building. It was a modernist building with Māori references. This is true of most of Scott’s work. His is an architecture to bring us together; it is about our similarities rather than our differences.

In traditional Māori architecture everything has meaning. The whare tipuna is the ancestor, the ridge pole is the spine, the rafters, ribs, and the maihi, arms. The building is the person and is rich in cultural symbolism both inside and out – the tukutuku a flounder, a stairway to heaven. Modernism abandoned the symbol. It is architecture where the wall is just a wall, where the structure is exposed and it means only to hold up the roof. It is concrete, not spiritual. Nothing is meant to be symbolic; the building is a machine. Modernism is architecture un-adorned – the building without baggage.

Scott’s buildings are intimate, and it’s an intimacy that is often lacking in modernist buildings. His work is warm in spirit, the volumes are human in size, the details subtle and simple. There are no grand gestures; the elements are integrated and complete the whole. Not only are the windows and walls well proportioned but also the size of the spaces, the heights, the light.

Scott’s subtlety and simplicity is not universally appreciated, particularly, perhaps, by politicians and bureaucrats. The lack of easy-to-read symbolism might be the flaw with the Visitor Centre. It was largely devoid of symbolic meanings, and those Scott included were new and hard to read. The windows were different shapes. Were they eyes or a mouth, a karu or a waha, or just windows? In a church the elements are easier to read; they all have names: the nave, the altar, the steeple, celestial light.

The process for developing the historic displays at the Centre was fraught and is still a sore point with Ngāi Tūhoe. The Park Board was staid and couldn’t find a place for genuine iwi input. Tūhoe offered to provide carvings for the building but this offer wasn’t taken up by the Board and the pou in the Māori gallery was left bare. I liked the naked pou.

The Park Board commissioned Colin McCahon to paint a mural for the Centre, to capture the spirit of the Urewera. There are ironies and contradictions in this choice and from the start the mural was controversial. Tūhoe wanted changes to the text and when it was installed staff thought it was overpowering. The Urewera triptych was stolen by Tūhoe activists as a protest in 1997 and returned almost a year later, adding to its fame. I’ve always found the mural a powerful piece of art. In the building it was like another window out to the spiritual past. It was also a statement about the here and now. Ko Maungapohatu te Maunga. Ko Tūhoe te iwi. Tau cross and five-pointed star, dark and brooding sky, stubborn bluffs: more modernism although this time with plenty of symbolism.

But the painting is problematic. The Visitor Centre was built to tell the story of the Urewera, but it was inappropriate for the Park Board to tell that story. In hindsight, it was probably wrong for McCahon to tell that story, too.

There is one word on the Urewera mural that encapsulates the essence of the issue. In the bottom right-hand corner McCahon has written “Their Land”. By “their” McCahon means Ngāi Tūhoe, and immediately places himself and the viewer as outsiders here. This painting needs to read “Our Land” but McCahon can’t paint that because although the Crown “owned” the land (had confiscated it) that wasn’t what he meant. The land was Tūhoe’s, the story was Tūhoe’s and the painting needed to be painted by Tūhoe and read “Our Land”.

This is fundamental to the cultural issues around the Visitor Centre and Tūhoe’s relationship with it. Tūhoe didn’t want those who had dispossessed them of their land to also take and tell Tūhoe’s story. Ngāi Tūhoe didn’t want the Visitor Centre as part of their Waitangi settlement. For them it was a symbol of colonial oppression and cultural misappropriation.

It surprises me how hard all this is, how far apart the world views are. It still surprises me how stubborn Pākehā are about learning te reo Māori, how our national day is still mispronounced.

Of course, there are tensions and history and baggage, but that is true of any meaningful journey. The cultural tensions added to this building, placed it at the heart of New Zealand’s developing biculturalism. If there wasn’t disagreement and conflict, there would be no progress. Scott’s building was part of that and part of our ongoing struggle to become bicultural. Heritage is important to us because it records difficulties overcome, journeys made, struggles resolved. Unfortunately, the history of the Visitor Centre at Āniwaniwa was not left to play out to its proper end but cut short somewhere in mid-life, demolished in the heat of the moment.

When I first visited in the 1980s I took two photos of the Centre: one of the McCahon mural inside; the other, the exterior from the road. In 2004 I was still using a film camera, with a 28mm lens or a 35mm tilt-shift and I took a roll-and-a-bit of film, perhaps 30 photos, which in today’s digital terms seems like way too few. Now that the building is gone and photos are all we have left, it seems a wasted opportunity. We have lost a building that is important to New Zealand architecture. Our architecture. Scott’s genius is that he created buildings that relate to this place, to us. He referenced our buildings: the barn, the woolshed, the wharenui, and he created, perhaps more than any other architect, a New Zealand vernacular.

It is gone because we lacked the goodwill and the cultural maturity to see the importance of the Āniwaniwa Visitor Centre and to appreciate its place in our architectural and cultural history.

Craig Martin
September 2016

From here...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bush House Hokitika

In summer the neighbour’s pigs drove my parents crazy and they dreamed of an escape from the flies and the stink. They had fallen in love with the West Coast on a South Island tour a few years before and acquired a madly cheap ten acres of cut-over bush south of Hokitika. They commissioned architect John Scott, who had designed their home and pottery/workshop in Hawkes Bay, to design a small cottage they could build themselves as a getaway.

My mother Estelle had boundless ideas and my father Bruce’s usual role was to moderate and then implement them. They were a good team and achieved remarkable things through this combination. The Hokitika house is one of them.

I had been on the first South Island trip, my last holiday with my parents, when I was fourteen or fifteen. We visited some wonderful places: Punakiaki, Okarito, Gillespies Beach, the glaciers further south.

When I returned a year or so later to prepare a building site in the newly acquired section I thought they were mad. The large trees had been milled forty-odd years earlier and the bush was slowly regenerating, but it was also riddled with gorse, as were the paddocks for miles around. Anywhere you cleared or scratched the surface new gorse would sprout. To my adolescent eye it looked like a mess and hard, thankless work.

John Scott designed a simple, two-story cottage, with extra detailing for inexperienced builders. Bruce made a balsa wood model of the studs, joists, beams and rafters to get an idea of how it all fitted together. He also bought an old Bedford truck to cart our gear from Ngatarawa, near Hastings in the North Island, to the section by Mirror Creek near Lake Mahinapua in the South. We drove in convoy in the family car and the truck, with a new coil required for the Bedford in Levin. The further south we drove the less traffic there was and the friendlier the waves from the locals.

Great architects should design small buildings because there they can show best why architecture matters, why design matters, why ideas matter. The bush house is shaped like many barns or farm sheds up and down the West Coast with a pitched roof and no real eaves and added windows, but it is full of great design, of beautiful spaces, of textures and contrasts, light and colour – full of the essence of good architecture.

Most of the materials were sourced locally, the timber from a small mill at Ruatapu a few kilometres around the road. The cladding is corrugated iron which remained shiny and unpainted for almost decade. The windows, stairs and kitchen joinery were made by a joiner in Hokitika.

I was seventeen and between school and teachers’ college. The 1974 Commonwealth Games were about to start in Christchurch. The weather on the West Coast was exceptional that summer with rain only once or twice in six weeks. We lived in a tent and had a long-drop in the bush and an outdoor shower. Power was connected to a builder’s pole on the driveway but we had limited power tools: a skill saw with a cross-cut attachment, a drill and an electric jug.

We laid out the foundations before Christmas, finding the levels with an ancient dumpy level and poured the concrete slab on Christmas Eve.

A surprising number of people called by for a look and to lend a hand. Fellow potter Peter Stichbury came while we were nailing in dwangs and re-named them noggins. More qualified friends helped sort the plumbing and wiring. School friends of mine came past in a hippie van and Estelle put a pottery-for-sale sign out on the road and sold the odd pot to passing motorists.

Bruce did most of the building with support from Estelle and me, and later my brothers. Estelle also cooked, painted and provided safety advice while we climbed ladders or pushed up walls. I fetched and carried and held and nailed. I enjoyed working with my father; we are good problem solvers together.

After six weeks of living in a tent with my parents I had had enough. The roof was on, building paper wrapped the framing and the windows were about to go in. I flew out through Christchurch the day the Games started and back to my friends in Hawkes Bay. My older brothers helped get the house water tight and the interior was completed over the next year or so.

We notice our mistakes more than our successes in things we make. Some regrets take years to get over, like the lack of an electric plane to even up the house’s floor joists before the floor was laid. But the quality of the build is much better than amateur and the building has warmed and softened over time. There are no architraves or scotias, the plywood lining fitting almost up to the window edge or the end-rafters with a small gap of timber showing. This is a regular John Scott detail and gives the interior a simple but elegant finish. It also requires a degree of care and craftsmanship by the person cutting and fitting the ply because you have nothing to cover over the gaps.

John Scott’s detailing and joinery add quality to the bach. By today’s standards John was extravagant with native timber and much of the joinery is rimu and generously proportioned. Downstairs the floor is brick tiles with electric powered underfloor heating and upstairs matai tongue ’n groove.

Upstairs is a simple rectangular space with a living area at one end and a bedroom at the other with a kitchen bench in the middle. Over the bench are open shelves and a glimpse of the stairs and the tall window below. The roof is gabled with exposed rafters and the ceiling is matai sarking. I remember nailing it on six metres above the ground using a chisel banged in the rafter to lever it tight.

The stairwell is behind the bench and the bathroom is on the landing halfway between the floors. Dividing the living area and the bedroom is a wall that extends from the landing to the roof. This wall is perfectly proportioned and is the work of an architect paying attention.

In my teens I built models of John Scott houses: My parents house in Hawkes Bay, this house, the Brown house in Napier. I found it difficult to imagine the buildings in three dimensions until I made the model. I found it remarkable that Scott was able to imagine the spaces he was designing, the volume, the proportions. This is what makes an architect, of course, and it is what John Scott gets right in his buildings: space, proportion and size.

The bush house is compact and clever. The stairs at the lower level provide volume to the bedroom above, and the tall window at the bottom of the stairs is a delight, a favourite. The windows out to the bush are almost square and generous. At tree height the birds come and visit, bellbirds and tui and a kereru that does acrobatics to strip the last of the kowhai flowers before starting on the new leaves.

John Scott suggested the colours of beech leaves in a stream for the cottage and so the bedroom curtains are red and primary yellow in the lounge. Yellow, orange and green trim is also used on the outside sills and flashings. There are other touches of colour with hand-decorated tiles by Charles Holmes in the bathroom and an orange vinyl sink bench downstairs.

The house is a perfect getaway, it has everything you need for a holiday with added pleasure from the aesthetics. It is a place to read and write, to eat and drink, to listen to the rain or the distant sea polishing the rocks on the beach at Ross. After forty years the architecture is still fresh, the ideas and solutions still delightful, the wood mellowed and the house settled in the bush.

Craig Martin
August 2015

Friday, September 2, 2016

Response from Nick Bevin


DoC press release announcing the beginning of the demotion of John Scott's building at Aniwaniwa on Monday 5 September. The lies that DoC continue to use to justify their stance need to be highlighted.

Some of my comments on the DoC press release as follows:

1. DoC have not provided any evidence that they have considered "all practical options" .

2. Wairoa District Council did not 'condemn" the building and the council has admitted that the notice they issued to close the building was issued in error and were prepared to remove it.

3. Information obtained under an OIA shows that the " substantial amount of money trying to maintain the building" is less than half the cost of the demolition. DoC had documented an expenditure of $ 82,000 from 2005 to 2011.

4. DoC failed to act on the expert advice given to it from 2005 as how to improve and maintain the building. If they had it would be in far better state than that which they have knowingly allowed it to fall into.

5. The building has been deemed by two independent engineers NOT to be earthquake prone.

6. The actual cost of remedying the building has been shown to be in the order of $ 350,000 to $ 500,000 and NOT the 2010 estimated cost of $ 3 million that DoC continues to maintain.

7. DoC have yet to provide any evidence that they "explored a number of options over the years' to find another use and/or owner for the building.

8. There has not [been] any evidence, seen or heard, to suggest that DoC made any serious and/or sustained attempts to seek "proposals from parties interested in repurposing the building'.

9. The statement that DoC have all the appropriate permits is misleading. They actually do not need any permits (resource consent nor building consent) as the Wairoa District Council have been deficient in executing their mandate under the RMA to take listed heritage Buildings into their district plan where they are afforded much more protection than a Heritage New Zealand listing ever can.

10. The proposed use of timber salvaged from the building is focussed on the 4 x 1 matai ceiling sarking. No calculation has been done as to whether there will be enough material once salvaged for the new building. My calculations show that there will not be enough material that will survive the salvage and remachining that is required.

11. Given the reinforced concrete sub floor and floor structure of the building and its remote location the costs for demolition will inevitably exceed those quoted by DoC. This is tax payers money being spent here. What is the real bill here?

Old Visitor Centre to be dismantled - DoC

Media release 2 September 2016

The Department of Conservation begins the dismantling and removal of the old Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre next week.

DOC Operations Director Meirene Hardy-Birch says DOC has considered all practical options for the old building since it was condemned by the Wairoa District Council, vacated and closed in 2008.

“This has been a difficult decision as so many parties have an interest in the building. We have had to balance those interests and it hasn’t been easy.

The 41-year-old building had weather tightness and stability issues for many years. Prior to its closure in 2008 the Department spent a substantial amount of money trying to maintain the building including re-roofing and re-cladding it, which was unsuccessful.

The 2010 estimated cost to bring the building up to current building standards and refit it for use was around $3m.

“We have explored a number of options over the years. We even sought proposals from parties interested in repurposing the building without success.”

The Department is now working with the Te Urewera Board and Ngai Tūhoe to enact the spirit of the Te Urewera settlement.

We are also working with Ngai Tūhoe in Te Urewera to ensure the spirt of the old building is bought into the new Wharehou currently under construction.

DOC have all the appropriate permits to dismantle the building, Hardy-Birch said.

Dismantling of the John Scott designed and DOC owned building at Waikaremoana marks a new era of visitor experience at Waikaremoana.

Some architects have opposed the move, as they are concerned for the legacy of the acclaimed architect of the building John Scott.

Chairman of the Waikaremoana Tribal Authority Lance Rurehe, respects these views but is equally determined to truly reflect a tangata whenua personality to enable a genuine Te Urewera Waikaremoana visitor experience. “Te Wharehou o Waikaremoana is merely that beginning.”

The Department is working with Te Uru Taumatua on the proposed development of a new Te Wharehou o Waikaremoana, with visitor information, located at Home Bay adjacent to the Waikaremoana Holiday Park.

Tūhoe and the Department of Conservation have partnered on the new development, with Tūhoe requiring a lake side location and setting to house heritage and visitor information, café, and overall connectedness to landscape, nature, lake, history, community and tangata whenua. A place for the whole whanau.

Chair of Te Urewera Board and Tūhoe - Te Uru Taumatua Tāmati Kruger said: “The Tūhoe investment into the new build exceeded that of DOC’s as a feature of Tūhoe leadership and influence in the new Tribal owned Visitor Centre. Or put another way, as designers of the new build Waikaremoana people will be free to express their world in the unique way they choose to do that.”

“Timber from the old visitor centre will be used in the new Wharehou. This will be a foundation upon which the visitors will come, and collaboration will occur. We all have a wish for the collective memory or wairua forged from relationships that have occurred through the old whare as an endowment in the new Wharehou,” he said.

An Auckland company will start the process of making the site and building safe onMonday September 5 before dismantling begins. The cost of dismantling the building, transferring the timber, removing, salvaging and disposing of any material at an approved landfill, and restoration of the site will cost around $180k.


NZIA re Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre 2/9/2016

It is not good news that I have to share on the Visitor Centre, Aniwaniwa. Having just been to a meeting with representatives of DoC (A/Director General Bruce Parkes and Mervyn English) I have been advised of the following:

- DoC will be issuing a media statement later today confirming its decision to demolish the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre
- Demolition work will commence on Monday 5 September 2016
- The demolition work will continue for 5-6 weeks
- DoC are implementing the decision of the Te Urewera Governance Board to demolish the building

Despite efforts to raise the serious shortcomings in the decision making on this building, which I know many of you are intimately aware of:
- Council’s decision to declare the building insanitary and earthquake prone
- Council’s inaction to see the building included within its District Plan register
- DoC’s 2011 call for expressions of interest, not widely or actively promoted by DoC
- Inadequate level of investment by DoC in the ongoing maintenance of the Visitor Centre for much of its existence
- DoC’s claims on the state of the building and extent of repairs/maintenance required
- Lack of urgent and immediate attention by DoC in maintenance issues as they arose
- The due consideration of the national significance of the architect John Scott and the Visitor Centre’s history and heritage in the decision making of DoC and Te Urewera Governance Board
- The definitive decisions of the Te Urewera Governance Board, despite other settlement claims in train and the Visitor Centre an asset of the Crown and not exclusively the Tūhoe or the Te Urewera Governance Board
- The lack of consideration by the Crown and the Te Urewera Governance Board in potentially ‘gifting’ the Visitor Centre to another party, which has occurred elsewhere - Great Barrier Island.

The NZIA will be advising all members of the decision today through the Bulletin. Other action includes alerting the media and seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Finlayson.

I’m sorry that I don’t have better news on this issue. The NZIA is however sincerely gratefully to everyone who has contributed, time, ideas, expertise to protect and conserve this national treasure.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 Aniwaniwa petition

Sign the petition here.

The Department of Conservation Deputy Director-General Mervyn English has advised in a court affidavit that the demolition of the Āniwaniwa Visitor Centre is imminent.

The visitor centre is a significant part of New Zealand’s modern architectural legacy, listed by Heritage New Zealand as a Category One Historic Place, and is a place of outstanding cultural value to New Zealand.

In 1969, Te Urewera National Park Board commissioned acclaimed Māori architect, the late, John Scott to design a headquarters at Āniwaniwa. Three years before its 1976 opening, a Tūhoe Trust Board member expressed pleasure that its concept and design embodied so much of the Urewera spirit and history of Māori occupation.

The following points are relevant to this petition:-

  • The building is of significant cultural and heritage value
  • The building is not earthquake prone based on two engineering reports
  • If the building is insanitary (leaks), this is due to the mismanagement of the facility by the Department of Conservation.

The Department of Conservation has not followed the requirements of the Te Urewera National Park Management Plan in making its decision and has not considered all parties with an interest in the building. The Department of Conservation has not advertised its intention to demolish this heritage building.