An Architect on the Road

On November 11 2016 I was awarded the NZIA Gold Medal. I believe this is what you get for working 45 years of 60 hour weeks. I felt honoured.

One of the things that come with this award ,as well as a very heavy round medal, is a book, and an enjoyable obligation to undertake a roadie trip around the country delivering a one hour illustrated talk at each of the eight NZIA branches, as an entree to the main course which is the annual ceremony of the Branch Awards.

Before the trip began and Inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s recent tour of NZ, I had a black T-shirt printed naming all the places and dates of the tour on the back with the Gold Medal logo on the front.

I prepared for quite some time beforehand by selecting projects about which there was a points to be made. I sorted through hundreds of images. I penned an outline script. I wanted to talk about banality, beauty, beaurocracy, the spectrum of housing, cost effective construction, architectural education, mentoring, and design legibility. I wanted to present with passion, joy and a touch of humour.


So off I flew for the first gig on March 17 at the Trinity Wharf in Tauranga. There was a good turnout. Signing copies of the book after my talk, I felt like a rockstar. However I made the mistake in trying to cover 45 years of projects in one hour. After 1½ hours I had to rush to a close.

Be less rambling and more focused was the message I learnt.

April 26 saw me in Auckland in Gordon Moller’s new ASB Theatre. Nice place but a lot of empty seats. My mates that are still alive from our 60s’ class were there along with a lot of students. The traffic at 4.00pm on a Friday afternoon in Auckland deterred most I suspect.

Then on May 5 in Nelson, I was at the beautiful new Suter gallery extension. My stories had gotten more polished and I signed a lot of books. My girlfriend Moerangi came with me and we had a good look around New Zealand’s sunniest city.

My fourth outing was on May 19 at a lovely new art gallery in Hastings. I had got a bit better at presenting by this time, by concentrating on fewer and more meaningful stories.  I still took over an hour long but nobody left. I was happy and it was great to meet former employees and local practitioners.

The fifth talk was at the Art Gallery Theatre in Wellington on Monday night May 16. As a home town lad, this was expected to be the best attended of the eight. It was, indeed so much that people were turned away and I had to perform a return show again the following Saturday May 20, after doing Palmerston North the night before.

‘You were very irreverent’ said a chap I met in the lobby. ‘You weren’t irreverent enough’ said another just behind him.

A student wrote a very nice blog about the talk.

Then May 24 at Christchurch at the recently re-opened, and award winning (on the night), Christchurch Arts Centre. Most of my mates outside Wellington were there and much merriment and imbibing ensued.

On June 9 the tour finally ended high over Queenstown, at the magnificent Skyline. I think by now I had finally got the right balance between the delivery of stories presented with humour and information with the time available.

The next morning Moerangi and I took ourselves off in our Jucy rental and drove to Glenorchy. The road is said to be one of the best road trips on the planet.

GlenorchyThrough a place called Paradise, we had an unforgettable excursion by jetboat, foot and 4 wheel drive bus deep into the Dart Valley. Not a building in sight but at the end of a long speaking tour about them, I deserved a break from them.

Stuart Gardyne, the 2015 Gold Medallist said ‘I finally got it right in 2016 with my last talk’ I don’t know who this year’s recipient will be but I will certainly go along to hear him or her.

There are so many different perspectives in our business.

I’d like to thank the NZIA,in particular Daryne Begbie, for all their work in ( I think) making my tour a success.

It was a fantastic experience to see the breadth of beautiful built designs, especially in the regions, produced this year, and it was a great way to recharge the batteries.

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