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Design Review: Volume 1, Issue 1 (April 1948)

Building Review: A group of four shops at Naenae, Lower Hutt

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Building Review: A group of four shops at Naenae, Lower Hutt

Designed by State Housing Architects and built by Government Trainees under Rehabilitation Dept.

If architecture is to have any significance to average people again then we must look for it in buildings such as this. A little range of shops in a large and essentially young community is the scene of as much traffic in human affairs in one day as a civic monument sees in a century.

The first question involved is one of planning. The positive achievements represented here are surely these:

… The shops are sited at a central intersection for convenience but they are kept well away from the corner to ensure traffic visibility.

… The whole building is set back from the street front and an attempt has been made to plant the open foreground and corner.

… A service lane and back yard—rare facilities —are provided.

Against these merits must be placed the lack of provision for car and bicycle parking.

There are four separate shops—a butcher, a greengrocer, a grocer and a dairy—and the dairy has a house attached. They could hardly be more straightforward. A simply apprehended block of white plastered concrete walls, untampered copings and verandahs, and pleasantly disposed openings. The random stone end wall is quite arbitrary but it makes a pleasant contribution in texture to the whole and the green grass and shrubs around the building are a colourful advance upon the customary hard paving. The whole group is in its simplicity a visual surprise in the generally riotous landscape of the surrounding houses.

And within the shops themselves? Here the prime achievement must lie in the elimination of the shop window back—there are no show windows for dreary displays of the window dresser's art. The shop becomes the show window. And to heighten this effect unusually deep clerestory windows over the canopy light the shops brightly.

However, it is now apparent that the smooth white walls, thin painted woodwork and neat finish of modern buildings such as this are not proof against daily handling. These shops have served their busy—if brief—career as a local play centre for the youth of Waddington, and so the problem is an acute one here. Perhaps the customary vulgarity of a dark tan or sunset orange finish would have had some merit after all. Anyway it would be more in keeping with the work of the over-zealous signwriters whose sole victory over frustration so far has been to achieve some painted shadows under a carefully detailed name panel.

But the various outbreaks of professional and amateur vandalism aside, the shops are attractive and soundly built. Only in such details as are beyond the immediate control of the architect are there those shortcomings which indicate the unresolved duality within his field and that of civic design generally.

From bony telegraph poles which fence in the building, to a drunken sign for the bus stop; from naked rubbish bin in the photograph, to the near impossibility of growing plants near a footpath, the absence of a general sense of mere tidiness even in our communities, is once more indicated. The result is a good looking building—in spite of its context.