HOME Magazine NZ - - Contributors -


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.


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.

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