Thoughts from within the Christchurch Rebuild
Reality may be engaged subjectively by which one presumes a oneness with the objects of his/her concern, or objectively, by which a detachment is presumed.
Objectivity is the province of the scientist, technician mechanic, logician, and mathematician. Subjectively is the milieu of the artist, musician, mystic and free spirit. Citizens of modern cultures are inclined to value the objective view. Both modes of engagement are crucial to understanding and creating architecture.
Here within lies one of the biggest overwhelming and concerning problems governing the Christchurch city rebuild: Education
It resides in the role and responsibility of the individual designer or architect to articulate in a everyday language their ideologies to better define architecture itself. As it stands Christchurch Architecture lacks one defining asset…a voice. A compassionate architectural 21’st century visionary: An ambassador for Architecture. A potential genius who is able to connect to his/her pairs but also can communicate a respected singular vision to the wider public of Christchurch. A true leader. Ian Athfield has been displaced, perhaps Peter Beaven was possibly such a man tied to his craft, passionate, eccentric, resilient. He truley cared about architecture and its place in society. Unfortunately he is no longer with us. A huge void exists and is yet to be correctly filled.
Disappointment lies within the Christchurch Architectural educational fraternity. Here is the perfect opportunity to facilitate a truly outstanding pedigree of architectural designers/architects. As it stands there are only two educational courses available to nurture and develop the knowledge of architecture in the South Island. The CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology) or the Design and Arts College also located here in Christchurch. Currently the CPIT offers the stronger qualification of the two. They offer a 3 year degree (BAS Bachelor of Architectural Studies). This on completion provides you with a qualification where you can call yourself an Architectureal Designer. The CPIT Bachelor of Architectural studies degree is transferable into the post-graduate Masters degree offered through Auckland Univesity and Auckland Unitech (this is an additional two years). Thus maintaining a better pathway for students to carry on to become a fully qualified Architect if they so wish. The Design and Arts College only offer a two year diploma. The CPIT course has a solid range of teachers but lacks (like the architectural industry) direction. The roles are full but the curriculum is confused, old, and certainly lacks a extremely important emphasis on design and theory. A new vision for the head of department is needed. Why Canterbury University does not yet provide a post graduate masters degree in Architecture is somewhat confusing? Harnessing graduates from the CPIT and all over New Zealand would be the perfect scenario for a struggling university in a post-apocalyptic Christchurch set to reinvent itself. Logic certainly does not seem to be prevailing to deliver a finer more qualified architectural student for our developing city.
NZIA (New Zealand Insitute of Architects) – New Zealand’s leading architectural professional body, is an organisation that is often seen as being arrogant, whimsical or tired. The NZIA have more responsibility than any other group to provide stability, strength, intelligence, and direction for the architectural industry in Christchurch. During the rebuild phase in Christchurch the NZIA have struggled for a voice. This is partly due to the heavy handedness of an authoritarian National government closing the door, and partly due to international scrutiny establishing the viablity of the architects role in today’s society. The architect/designer has a lot to offer but may need to further explore greater versatility in a multidisciplinary dynamic way of thinking that the current market requires. The free market’s competitiveness has squeezed any creativity and vision that was left from was an already struggling industry. The ADNZ (Architectural Designers of New Zealand) have also been nowhere to be seen; keeping an incredibly low profile, perhaps languishing in the wake of the NZIA’s poor showing.
Conceivably a reinvention of the Architectural industry is whats needed. A commitment would require an inclusiveness; an open dialogue; a discourse with all groups working together for the greater good. Constructive cristism needs to be seen as a positive rather than a negative. Setting new principles and sustainable standards for a better way of living. An idealistic utopian view may be the best outcome for Christchurch. A dramatic reinvention is required. The industry for the most part over the last 20 years during the peak of international economical prosperity, has produced stale results at best and floundered great opportunities. Let us as a city not make that mistake again. Its only by correctly educating our young that they can educate the public. We have a very shallow architectural history here in New Zealand and because of this a lack of respect for buildings and spaces and their profound effect on our day to day lives.
For me it is interesting when engaging the public in discussing architecture. They often feel more comfortable when talking about historical sources and stylistic tropes this of course is not wrong but incredibly only a small sum of architectures many parts. More dialogue should be considered around more expressive, evocative, metaphoric feelings and meanings. Only from challenging and understandning this dialogue can we perhaps slowly start to move forward.
“A proper building grows naturally, and poetically out of all its conditions.” – Louis Sullivan
Although a talented photographer Nick chose to share a sketch from Architect Lebbus Woods, in his words “A true visionary” who passed away this year. Ed