Walden’s Triumph

During the hustle and bustle of the pre-Christmas social season, one of the stand-out social occasions for me was to celebrate the work of one of our country’s outstanding educators. Dr Russell Walden, a long-time staffer at Victoria University’s School of Architecture, has clearly been making the most of retirement.

In December he launched his most important (but hopefully not his last) book. ‘Triumphs of Change: Architecture Reconsidered’ is published by Peter Lang AG in Switzerland and is almost a life’s work for Russell. It has Charles Jencksian’ opus, but without that polemicist’s pretentiousness. A triumph in itself.

I want to include him in my blog about ‘beauty’ because he truly believes that the real task of our profession is to promote beauty and repudiate ugliness.Two days after the camaraderie and vinos at the School of Architecture, Russell circulated a moving email to his many friends:

I quote a portion: I spent so much of my life wanting to lecture with direction, passion and joy. I hope NZers will begin to understand why my public commentary in NZ was so critical. I can’t stand ugliness in Architecture.

Te Papa is a camel (a horse designed by a committee) to Russell. He had the courage to say so, and on public television.

Even though Russell doesn’t see Calatrava’s work as reminiscent of the bleached rib cages of dead animals, and that he speaks of Athfield and myself in the past tense (we apparently died around the mid-nineties) I do celebrate his great passion for architecture. He is a great lighthouse for generations of architecture students who would otherwise drift on to the reefs of apathy.

Though his light may be dimming, his passion and enthusiasm are not. In my view, he deserves wide recognition as one of the few enduring architectural educators in our young architecturally emerging country.