Photographer and HOME New Zealand contributor Patrick Reynolds has a very eloquent rant about Auckland's urban planning woes on Public Address that is attracting plenty of comment. It's at this link if you'd like to check it out:

www.publicaddress.net/6418#post

One thing that jumped out at me in particular was this assertion of Patrick's:

"As a new world nation with lingering ideals of pioneering self-reliance we fancy the idea of building qua building. That is to say building as built, not thought. Built by proper men, the mythical 'good bloke', a type who now really only exists in beer advertisements, who can do anything, but of course would do nothing smartarse, which is to say: nothing smart".

This made me wonder if the architecture profession is sometimes guilty of underselling its own skills, or side-stepping open discussion of the intellectual rigour that is such a fundamental part of good architecture. I've often been surprised at how New Zealand architects, when discussing a building, so quickly fall into question-and-answer patterns relating to structure, the nuts and bolts of assembling a building rather than the thought process that went into the design. This is not to say that structure is not interesting, but it often seems like a roadbock in the way of a deeper discussion of a building's merits.

True, many architects also grasp at metaphors in a way that makes your eyes roll (partly because they often seem like self-conscious attempts to instill their buildings with some meaning), but there must still be a way to discuss architecture intelligently and approachably.

This is particularly relevant when you consider the sometimes-agonising coverage of the opening of the new Supreme Court in Wellington this week. Whether you admire the building or not, the media coverage made it clear that in general, we lack a vocabulary for articulating a clear response to new additions to our cityscape.

 
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