Wednesday, February 18, 2015

“I’m twice the architect you are!”

From a 2014 interview with Patrick Clifford, of Architectus:

Q: And what about the ideas around at the time and which teachers influenced your own thinking?
PC: There are particular memories that I certainly have of people from that time. We learnt drawing from Pat Hanley, who was a very helpful and incredibly encouraging teacher, and people like Fred Beckett, Dave Mitchell and Mike Austin, who were practising and working in a completely different way, and Claude Megson, who I did quite a lot of studio work with. There were visiting architects, like Marshall Cook, coming into the School and offering studio programmes.

ANZ: Are there any entertaining moments that stick in your mind?
PC: I can still vividly remember Claude Megson in the studio one day yelling out at Peter Bartlett, “I’m twice the architect you are!” Peter Bartlett was the distinguished teacher, academic and practitioner who designed the performing arts building at Auckland Grammar, amongst other things….
    The School of Architecture was an environment that had a lot more complexity than ‘you’re coming here to just be taught something about architecture’. There were complex personal relationships and views about what architecture should be and how it should be taught and so on. As a student, you have to navigate your way through that and, at some point, hopefully form a view yourself about what you think is important. My recollection of that time is that a lot of the teaching was fairly laissez faire; it didn’t offer a strong view. The strong view was that students should figure out, based on their own experience and understanding, how to make architecture. There were exceptions to that: people like Claude Megson, who said, “This is how I do it and, if you’re going to be in my studio, you need to do it this way”…

ANZ: Do you think that the laissez-faire attitude was possibly a good thing for your generation, in the sense that New Zealand had traditionally followed overseas styles, so perhaps a laissez-faire attitude was a way for new generations of architects to evolve with some different ideas based more in the New Zealand context?
PC: Maybe, but in the ’50s and ’60s some New Zealand architects had formed a view that modern architecture in New Zealand should be its own version: people like the [Architectural] Group and so on, who we tend to celebrate now but it wasn’t being taught about at Architecture School back then. It wasn’t like we were being educated in an environment that said, “Look, here’s what’s happened before”. It was rather more “you figure out your own path”.

ANZ: A little bit directionless, you mean?
C: Well, it was a challenge for students to figure out how to approach this. But there was a balance with the Claude Megson approach of “do it this way”. So, as a student, there’s quite a lot of decisions to be made in terms of the ‘how’ – some of which, you probably don’t figure out what effect it had until a few years later

Full interview here: NZIA Gold Medal winner, Patrick Clifford

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