RIP David Mitchell

New Zealand architecture has lost a treasure this week with the death of David Mitchell.



There will be much written about David by people much closer to him than I, but I would like to talk about his personal influence on me.

David was ahead of me at the Auckland University School of Architecture where even then, he was well known as an original talent and articulate speaker. Even as a young man, he was able to express his passion about architecture much better than most. He was not part of a particular group and the individuality of his voice had a great influence on me.

Architectural debate was a very enjoyable part of the mid to late sixties in Auckland, but because finance minister Muldoon had turned off the building industry taps, upon graduation I could not get a job, so I came to Wellington. The work Ath and I were doing at that time was considered a bit mad in some circles. But more enlightened commentators like David talked about us ‘extroverts’ who made a positive difference.

He interviewed me outside our doomed Wellington Club building on the Terrace for his 1984 TV series The Elegant Shed which came after his seminal book on New Zealand Architecture. I have always been grateful that to have this work talked about in such an intelligent manner.

Not content to be anchored to an office desk, David, with his life and business partner Julie Stout, travelled the seas. Somehow they designed and got built various art galleries whilst rumoured to be moored in Hong Kong or other such exotic location. But his heart was always in New Zealand. He and Julie energetically and enthusiastically built many wonderful houses for themselves. These will live on as contemporary whare boldly providing future directions for New Zealand architecture.

I last saw David at last year’s 100th School of Architecture anniversary. He was the perfect after dinner speaker – a proud alumni delivering a relevant, insightful after dinner speech which also showed off one of his other great traits – he had a great sense of humour.

You are gone but not forgotten my friend.

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