The multi-talented photographer, architectural graduate and writer reports on living through the seasons in a modernist classic. (p.98).
How did you come to live in a modernist gem like this?
I noticed the advert on Trade Me and got in touch with the owner Ken Davis. Ken wanted tenants that would really appreciate and respect the house and we wanted a place we could be truly proud of, one that inspires us on a daily basis.
Bill Toomath had previously worked with IM Pei and Walter Gropius. Can you see that lineage in the house?
Toomath adopted many of the modernist and Bauhaus ideals: firstly, articulating the plan in a way to allow as much continuous space as possible; secondly, Toomath adopted the “form follows function” theory, meaning that the form of the building or space should be as a result of its purpose. When it came to form, Toomath, like his modernist teachers, derived simple geometric forms with strong horizontal and vertical lines along with a clarity that negated all unnecessary detail. However, rather than adopting the modernist ideal that a singular architectural design can be applied to any site, Toomath’s work illustrates his appreciation and respect for the constraints and unique qualities of the landscape.
You work for an architecture firm but you’re also a photographer.
My photographic work spans from fine art through to editorial and architecture. In both pursuits I go through a process of reduction, removing elements from either a space or image, distilling it until the essence is found.
The photographer shot two homes in this issue – her brother Andrew Meiring’s home (p.112) and the Barr House by Claude Megson.(p.134).
You’ve been visiting a few of Claude Megson’s houses for a book you’re working on with writer Giles Reid. How have they rubbed off on you?
I was a fan of Megson before I started this project, but in shooting them I think his manipulation of space and creative use of materials has made a lasting impression on me.
The Barr house took a few visits to capture. What was it like getting to know the place?
It was a challenging house to shoot, vast and labyrinthine. To visually communicate its flow was difficult, but each visit helped build the story. I really enjoyed hearing Pat and John Barr’s stories of Megson and the build – they commissioned it and were still loving living it.
You also photographed the Westmere house of your brother Andrew, your sister-in-law Helen and your nephew Alexander. Which is easier, photographing relatives or Megson?
I do perhaps understand more instinctively the language of my brother’s design, and good times spent there have inspired me to shoot it a certain way – but I guess ultimately each project has its challenges and rewards.
DOUGLAS LLOYD JENKINS
Our longest-serving contributor has written for the magazine for much of his career. In this issue, he muses on our 80th birthday (p.80).
You’ve been a loyal reader of the magazine since you were quite young. What drew you to it?
I had dreams of one day being an architect. (It didn’t happen.)
Is there a particular house that stands out in your memory?
As I professionally read and reread the magazine every month or so while researching, I’ve probably seen every house ever featured. Every time I delve back in I find something new that totally entrances and captivates me.
What are you working on at the moment – you have a book coming out soon?
My new book, Beach Life, about how the beach has influenced New Zealand’s culture and sense of identity, is out November 1, and I’m now researching a comprehensive book on New Zealand design in the 1970s and 1980s – for which I am back in the old copies of HOME and its predecessors once more.