Greta van der Star
A trip to the Arizona desert unearthed an alternative way of living for this photographer (p.46).
What did you make of Arcosanti, the eco city by architect Paolo Soleri?
He was practising some very important ideas that should be considered in all new city developments. It's a great legacy. I would like to go back, stay a while and check out more of the interiors.
Could Soleri's principles be applied back here?
Absolutely. His ideas about building up to avoid urban sprawl, and building smarter to have less environmental impact, are very relevant. It's as much about the human experience as it is about the environment. Urban sprawl means it's harder to get from one side of the city to the other, and time is wasted in vehicles instead of walking and interacting with neighbours. He was very forward thinking. I would love Auckland to feel more connected and less congested.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in a sleepy beach town north of Auckland where nothing much happened, but the op shops were loaded with gems and there was bush to explore and hills to skateboard down. My mum gave me a film camera when I was 16 and I've been taking photos with it ever since. It led me to a degree in photography at Unitec, and has been the driver for many overseas explorations. Having a camera loaded with film is the best way to explore a city.
Where are you based and what else are you working on?
I'm based in Auckland. This week I'm working on some images for local designer Penny Sage, planning a trip to the US and tying together loose ends for the launch of General Sleep, a sustainable pyjama label I've been working on with good friend Bailey Meredith.
The writer, poet, curator and artist discusses the demolition of a heritage building designed by John Scott (p.58).
When did you first encounter Aniwaniwa and what are your memories of it?
In 1999 I curated an exhibition at City Gallery Wellington, based around Colin McCahon's Urewera Mural (1975), which had hung at Aniwaniwa before being taken by Tuhoe activists and subsequently recovered. McCahon's painting led me to Aniwaniwa, but it wasn't until I fronted up at the demolition that I really started to 'get it'. The building materials might have been basic and the structure dilapidated, but this was clearly architecture of the highest order – a repository of knowledge, cultural memory and human emotion.
First Futuna, then Firth, now Aniwaniwa. What else should we be worried about?
We need to realise that these buildings don't preserve themselves. We also need to do something. To the general public, modernism can seem outdated. We need to identify key buildings and educate people about their importance in the development of architecture here.
How do we save buildings like this?
We need better legislation and process. But the foundation has to be a broad, intelligent discussion in the wider community of what we value in our built environment. Public education and engagement are essential. Books, magazines and places like Futuna have a role to play in this.
What are you working on?
I was recently invited to contribute to an exhibition in Australia in which 14 artists were asked to paint one of the 14 Stations of the Cross. I was assigned the first Station – 'Christ is condemned to death'. Aniwaniwa in its final hours felt like attending an execution; in 'First Station – Aniwaniwa' I brought together the condemnation of Christ with the condemnation of Scott's building.
The roving journalist interviewed Maurice Mahoney about his new-old family home (p.72).
To rebuild it to its original form, this must be a much-loved design and family home. What was it like to visit?
It's a beautiful home, but knowing it's a kind of palimpsest of that earlier, demolished house makes it special. I loved the variety of timber, and builder Matt Stevenson's attention to detail is impressive – the house was a national winner in the Master Builders Awards last year.
Is there anything in particular about this style of architecture that resonates with you?
I've got a thing for mid-century houses, all that light and open space and close connection with the outside; they appear effortless. The Mahoneys' house has this terrific contrast of compression and release as you step from the hallway into the high-ceilinged living spaces.
What's the appeal of writing about homes and architecture?
A few things. Seeing how a really well-designed house can change the way people live at home, that's always been intriguing. And I particularly like hearing the backstory about how the home's owners and the architect collaborated. Given the stakes, it seems like a leap of faith on behalf of the owner, particularly those who provide their architect with the vaguest, sketchiest of briefs. Happily, the theme seems to be that the final result surprises in a good way.
You work across a breadth of titles and topics – what are you working on at the moment?
I'm slowly shifting up gears after a good Christmas break, with a mix of business, travel and architecture stories to tackle.