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Design Review: Volume 3, Issue 2 (September-October 1950)

Here and There

page 34

Here and There

I imagine that by now most of those interested will have seen the exhibition of Town: and Country Planning in Great Britain which for the past few months has been touring this country. Full marks to the British Council and the other bodies concerned for giving us the opportunity of studying this beautifully arranged record of town planning achievement in Britain since the war.

But for all its attractive and clear presentation it isn't. I feel, the sort of exhibition one can whip around in five minutes after lunch and expect to gain the vaguest clue on what this town planning business is all about. And this, apparently, is just what the Mayor of Wellington did before he made his now famous remarks about leaving the City of Wellington to light industry and its fate, and concentrating on laying out newer and brighter suburbs on the outskirts. He was, of course, taken to task quite emphatically by the Institute of Architects, and certainly one couldn't possibly give him more than two marks out of ten for his statements, but I can't help feeling that if the exhibition has been rather simpler and more forceful its message might have penetrated at least a certain distance in the right quarters.

* * *

Do you ever feel on the spur of the moment that you would like to say hullo to one of your friends in another town or in another country? And yet you do not feel inclined to sit down and write a letter. Why not drop him a postcard? It is cheap and easy. But as one half of a postcard is a picture, you can't just send the first one you see on the little revolving stand inside the shop entrance. And why should your friend want a photograph of the main street or the town hall or the botanical gardens in full flower?

By or after Lawrence Stephen Lowry: matchstick people in urban landscape.

I know several people in Denmark and they like to remind me occasionally of their existence and no doubt expect me to return their greetings. I have just received two postcards, both full of gaiety, embodying all the spirit of a friendly greeting. If a panoramic view of Wellington with a cabbage tree in the foreground is the nearest thing I can find to convey my greetings in return, I would rather stay silent and keep on with the best intentions of writing a letter.

* * *

If you were one of the thirty thousand who saw the Te Aro Replanned exhibition of the Architectural Centre, you will remember the main feature—the big model. The final resting place of this thirty square feet of timber, plaster of paris, balsa wood and poster paint is to be the Dominion Museum. Here it will be retained for permanent exhibition as a spur to the imagination and a record of the fancies of young hearts who for a short while really believed in the future.

There can be no doubt that a quiet session with congenial companions over a few pots of beer in a public bar can be an extremely pleasurable experience. But it can also be an extremely disagreeable one. If, as frequently happens in our city bars, the congenial companions are obliged to stand in closely-packed formation at a streaming bar, jostled and elbowed from all sides, with voices pitched high to overcome the sound of clashing glasses and clamouring neighbours, much of the pleasure is lost.

Centre students recently battled their way round the Wellington bars (as if they didn't know them all well enough already), threw their suggestions for improvement on to paper, and invited several hotel proprietors to take part in a general discussion on the subject.

As one who must confess to rather more than a passing interest in pubs, I looked in on the discussion. As the debate ran its course several points emerged: one would conclude that the peculiar drinking habits of the New Zealander have been almost wholly determined by our barbarous licensing laws; and as these have apparently been confirned by last year's referendum, the realistic publican accepts the status quo and concerns himself only with providing facilities for the consumption of the greatest possible quantity of beer in the shortest possible time.

Thus it would appear that the only hope for the introduction of more civilized drinking conditions lies in the placing before the public, through exhibitions and publicity, some more attractive alternatives so that a general demand may be created. Which, I understand, is what the Centre intends to do in a small way very shortly.