Design Review: Volume 1, Issue 1 (April 1948)
“I shall tell you as much as I can about the general principles that affect architecture.” ….
Sir Reginald Stradling used these words in speaking at a luncheon arranged by the Centre during his recent visit to this country. In the context of his talk the words referred, of course, to his own experience as a building research scientist. Out of their context as they are above, they might well sum up the purpose of this broadsheet.
For we of this Architectural Centre in Wellington are a group of architects and draughtsmen and wood engravers and other people whose greatest claim to affiliation is an overriding enthusiasm for good design in all things.
We are not, therefore, a professional body. Nor scarcely a learned society. But we have, as we said, a common enthusiasm.
In our daily work we of this Centre are, like most other people, very busy individuals. For most of us design is our work. But our individualism ceases almost before our first thought upon a thing has been formed. Whether that thought be the design of a house, or a bookplate, or a steel girder, we cannot frame it without consideration for the thoughts of others.
We are entirely dependent upon, at best, the understanding, and, at worst, the tolerance of our society in what we draw or calculate or engrave or write down.
Example: We illustrate inside this paper a little group of shops in a new residential area near Wellington. They are very good shops. Clean, light and pleasant for their purpose. Good design in other words.
Nevertheless, to achieve this simple building free of the customary orgy of liver pill and toothpaste advertising, the designer fought hard. And in the few years of the practical working of the shops he has carried on a gradually losing battle against the tigerish billboard and the signwriter's piece. The remorseless hand of “popular” demand asserts itself.
Folk art perhaps, you say?
The spirit that urges the bargee to the incomparable “primitive” decoration of his floating home or the Maori to weave brightly-coloured bits of flax into his straw-hued mat should find this outlet in modern life unhampered by a designer's puritanism?
Then we must agree to differ.
Even the simple-minded bushman or “uneducated” peasant generally understood and acknowledged the dictates of his own human nature. Rhythm and shapeliness are generally his second nature, comely if crude creation showed in his “pots and pans and earrings and spoons.”
But in a society such as ours it is different.
We can no longer rely upon native instinct for colour and design.
Tradition cannot help us fòr the stream has dried up.
Even time, time for tactile moulding of a thing made, for contemplation of natural things, for even the most subjective reflection, is rarely available.
So we feel that, internal and historical impulses lacking, the only remaining solution lies not in a barbarous individualism, such as the advertisement hoarding, but in external co-operation, discussion and campaigning to the general acceptance of at least reasonable standards of visual design in daily life.
This paper is one of our ways of putting that conviction into effect. We offer no apologies for adding to the current literature upon design. Too little of it finds its way into this country and much of that which does so is couched in terms familiar only to its own European or American audience.
New Zealand, self-consciously perhaps, is emerging from the restricted pioneering stage and may be both over-suspicious and over-eager where imported cultural statements are concerned.
It is not unhealthy nor is it impossible that this should lead to a vigour in our work in terms of our country's conditions—a vernacular.
And since any true vernacular extends beyond the designer and the thing designed to the sympathetic enjoyment by the people for whom it was designed, then we unashamedly burst into print.
The people who have run the affairs of the Architectural Centre over the last twelve months should, we feel, be named.
They are the President, John Cox; the Honorary Secretary, D. G. Porter; the Honorary Treasurer, R. E. Barraclough; and a Committee consisting of Graham Dawson, A. G. Kofoed, I. B. Reynolds, R. Hull, R. Fantl and Geoffrey Nees. There is also an active and vitally important student committee whose enthusiasm is essential to keep the sixty or more student members in touch with Centre affairs.