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Design Review: Volume 3, Issue 1 (July-August 1950)

Here and There

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Here and There

The city of Wellington is about to plunge itself heavily into debt. We as citizens have recently gone to the polls to approve the expenditure of no less than one and a-half million pounds on an impressive works programme calculated to lift the wrinkled face of our capital city. A tidy sum, but we are told that it will not necessarily entail a major increase in rates, and so, in the name of civic progress, and with a gratifying sense of doing the right thing, we cast our approving vote and leave the rest to posterity.

I must confess, however, to a sneaking but persistent feeling that Dear Old Posterity in her own good time may not be quite as enthusiastic about accepting this burden as we are in passing it on. She may, for instance, quite innocently ask:

How much was spent on perpetuating mistakes in a roading system which was laid out originally for the horse and cart?

How much was literally poured down a far-flung and uneconomic drainage system?

How much, if any, was devoted to rehabilitating that more than slightly rotten core of the city—Te Aro Flat?

In short, did they have an overall development plan which would ensure that all available resources over the years would be intelligently directed towards creating a sounder, more efficient, and more beautiful city? And, if so, was this plan fully discussed by the citizens amongst themselves and in public places before general approval was given, so that the conscientious ratepayer could vote with confidence for its implementation?

These may be classed as awkward questions, which, however, do not really concern us now and so cannot possibly spoil our fun at the races. Dear Old Posterity may get off her bicycle and call us inept fiddlers, and thoughtless snufflebusters, but more likely she will take a charitable view and say: ‘They knew not exactly what they were about, but probably meant well.’

* * *

No one has ever denied that Wellington is one of the most haphazardly laid out of cities. There has been more talked and less done about town planning in Wellington than in any other city. From time to time the City Council makes some ill-considered statement as a sop to public demand which has so far been effective in keeping back pressure on the Council. One action which held hope of being more than a sop was the setting up nearly three years ago of the Regional Planning Commission, complete with town planner and a small staff. Its responsibility was for the whole metropolitan area, similar in function to the Auckland Metropolitan Planning Commission, which has already published proposals for its own more complex area. Since its inception no more has been heard of the Regional Planning Commission. We know that the planner is still there and that he has some staff; but no plan, not even the barest of outline plans, has been seen outside the closed doors of the Commission's meetings. A statement on the work and achievements of this Commission is overdue.

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This well shaped beer mug is made by an Auckland pottery. The glaze is matt white. The decoration is rust-coloured. If more care had been given to the design on the mug, which is rather tight and timid—in other words, if a first-rate artist had been employed to decorate it—we might have had something to be proud of. But at least its shape is good and that is the first step. Let us hope that next time the generous curves and flowing line will be matched by the decoration.


Of all the arts, architecture has most to gain by breaking down that isolation of one art from another which is such an unhappy symptom of the cultural disorganization of our time. Painters and sculptors, poets and musicians and film directors work together to a certain extent, but architects exist for the most part as a separate professional community. They are business men and techical men, as well as artists, and for some reason it is chiefly their fellow technicians with whom they have the closest association.

Contemporary architects badly need the breadth of outlook which a familiarity with development in all the other arts would give them, and especially they need to take an interest in painters' experiments with colour and sculptors' experiments with form. Conversely, painters and sculptors—if they are not going to become completely cut off from their wide public and work only for a gallery-going intelligentsia—need the chance of work at real jobs that only architecture can provide for them. Sculpture, after all, began as the embellishment of architecture, and becomes most alive when it forms part of a building or is designed in relation to an architectural setting.

J. M. Richards