Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The New Romantics

From a 2012 interview with the now=late Peter Beaven, “taking us back in time to 1972 when new ideas about architecture were taking shape and exhibited at The Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt.”

…This interest in new shapes and styles first took visible form at The Dowse Art Gallery in Lower Hutt in 1972. An architectural exhibition which the Dowse labelled The New Romantics, included the work of Ian Athfield, Roger Walker, Claude Megson, John Scott and myself. There were, by then, already salient differences among us. For a small country, the architects featured in the exhibition were a pretty excellent assembly, developing as a group several clear, broad paths, which could have taken New Zealand architecture beyond modernism into rich new fields of our own….
    Inevitably, the ‘new romantic’ movement never really flowered. Neither John Scott nor Claude Megson lived long enough to extend their great formal skills. Ian Athfield and Roger Walker each developed large practices. In the running of their practices, their early enthusiasm and originality necessarily drained away to some extent. Each now inhabits a different world from the world that the Dowse exhibition seemed to be ushering in.
    It is far harder today for a young architect to make such an individual impression. The fashion for following the favoured styles of the day has become uniform throughout the world, driven of course by the insatiable flood of images everywhere, which can only overwhelm local romanticism….
Claude Megson, another of the ‘new romantics’, was an Auckland architect who had a remarkable talent for astonishing manipulation of small spaces into great spatial experiences. Auckland, ever urgently wanting new experiences, gave him plenty of opportunities….
    The strands of originality in the work of the five architects identified by the Dowse began to wither away after 1984.
    You can see this in a vivid, visual manner if you place any copy of Houses magazine beside the book NZ Architects’ Houses, 1970. In the 1970 publication, page follows page of rich spatial delight: architecture of the greatest originality, all stemming from the use of our limited building materials and our trust in each other – builder and architect – which was typical of old New Zealand.
    The 1970s’ book shows that a great number of New Zealand architects at that time were all doing really beautiful, original work, very much our country. Houses magazine, of course, does its best but it can only show that the 1970s’ New Zealand originality, in most cases, has faded into varying streams of international modernism.

Full article here: The new romantics

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