De­sign note­book

Q&A with ar­chi­tect John Wil­son

HOME Magazine NZ - - Design Notebook - Por­trait by David Straight

You spent most of your ca­reer de­sign­ing public build­ings. How dif­fer­ent was the ex­pe­ri­ence of de­sign­ing a house?

Not a lot re­ally, for me. Though it could have been as there’s a big dif­fer­ence with client iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Pri­vate clearly has a lot of the per­sonal in it, whereas public can be a lot more im­per­sonal/in­sti­tu­tional. It’s there­fore re­ally im­por­tant in public prac­tice to make it more per­sonal, at least it was for me, by find­ing the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble and try­ing to gain ac­cess to the users or at least try­ing to iden­tify with them. Some­times that was very dif­fi­cult with the sort of sys­tems that could be in place. Af­ter all, build­ings are used by peo­ple in all sorts of ways so it has to be about peo­ple, how they use and ex­pe­ri­ence the build­ings. Also, it should be a good ex­pe­ri­ence phys­i­cally.

Was it eas­ier or harder de­sign­ing for fam­ily?

For me it wasn’t hard as they were sup­port­ive and en­cour­ag­ing. That was the way we were. Never con­sid­ered it in any other way re­ally.

Your de­sign drew on the ver­nac­u­lar of the baches in the area – how im­por­tant was it to fit in?

I be­lieve good ar­chi­tec­ture is well man­nered and should be con­sid­er­ate of its lo­ca­tion. That can be tough. A co­her­ent vis­ual group of build­ings al­ways looks good. Con­sider the great in­ter­na­tional ex­am­ples of Europe – look at the beauty of Greek vil­lages and Ital­ian towns. To be well man­nered is a real chal­lenge to ar­chi­tects and is a real de­sign dis­ci­pline.

The house has sur­vived beau­ti­fully and is beloved by its cur­rent own­ers. Have you had a chance to visit since your brother moved?

No, I haven’t, but now I will. I strongly be­lieve that the build­ing is for the owner/payer and I am the agent en­trusted to bring it about. I tend to step away, not from a lack of in­ter­est but be­cause we all have to get on. Another way of look­ing at it is self preser­va­tion!

Above right ‘Singer Song­writer’ by Bill Ham­mond hangs at the top of the stairs.

Above A light by David Trubridge echoes the cir­cu­lar art on the wall.

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