For Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the ‘Star Flats’ in Freemans Bay, Auckland, represent an enduring aesthetic and approach to housing.
Jacinda Ardern picks a modernist classic
“I like the building aesthetically, but I also like what it represents. These were built as social housing and for the first time we had apartments that were designed for whole families to live in. You can see it in the design: they had separate laundries and pretty decent-sized kitchens and even though they were roughly 70 square metres, you can tell by the land around them that these were places where families were meant to be brought up. I love them for that. I think I annoyed my colleagues for years because whenever we talked about the housing crisis and the need to build townhouses and apartments at scale, I would always talk about Freemans Bay Park – four-storey apartments that were really fit for purpose. They were built to last and beautifully designed. And they had communities living in them. I also love their history. These were Council owned and when John Banks [then Mayor of Auckland City] sold them, Prime Minister Helen Clark decided she didn’t want them to be completely lost. To this day they continue to be lived in by a mixture of owneroccupiers, renters and Housing New Zealand tenants. When I lived here, there were a couple of older residents and longer-term residents who had been here for years – they’d keep an eye on the place. There were people who came and went, but there were others who, even though they were renters, this was their home.”