Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Kia Ora and Welcome
So what's new in Photographer?

ImageNothing here which is right up to date, but some older work to enjoy.

Photos from the wedding of Fiona and Eugene are at
Photos from the wedding of Rossella and Nicholas are at
Photos from the wedding of Charlotte and James are at
Photos from Piglet's 11th birthday party are at
Some photos from the last Green Architecture Course can be found at
All non-architects will enjoy the David Spero photographs at

So what's new in Popular Author?


"Thinking it through" is available from either Rim Books or Karaka Bay Press for the astonishingly low price of $30. This book brings together a series of articles by Tony Watkins and photographs by Haru Sameshima, originally published in "Home and Building" over an eight year period. You will find a review by Greg O'Brien published in Tui Motu at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view624/20/ and a review by John Walsh published in the Listener at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/618/20/  You will find a selection of the original articles at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/21/20/

This book would make an ideal present.


"The Human House" is now available as a book. Itgathers together all the articles which originally appeared in the Auckland Star along with a Prologue and an Epilogue. It is available for $40 from John Balasoglou or for $35, or $40 including packing and postage, from Karaka Bay Press, through this web site. You will find a review at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/486/20/

Everyone thinking about building a house should read this book first.


Copies of "Piglet the Great of Karaka Bay" are still available. A few sample pages at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/9/26

All these books are also available at Tower Bakery in Waimarie Street, the best bakery in Auckland.


"Kohukohu Heritage Precinct" by Tony Watkins and Graeme North, originally published in 2009, was reprinted in 2013. It is available from "Village Arts", or directly from Karaka Bay Press. $20 but half price for Kohukohu locals.

After a short-run reprint a very limited number of copies of "Veracular - An architecture for the RMA and Agenda 21" were available from Parsons. Sadly the bookshop closed down in 2012 but they may still be able to supply. Check the price with them.


Hopefully "The house that Piglet Built" will be published in late 2014. This book tells the story of the building of Arakaianga at Te Ohu with the support of Piglet at the Tree House. It weaves together Hokianga adventures and different ways of seeing the world.


An article on Rio+20 was published in both the August 2012 issue of Tui Motu and NZIA Cross Section, with extracts in the Arc-Peace Newsletter. You will find it at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/605/20/ 

I have always liked the form of the Letter to the Editor. A good letter should be like a haiku, short and yet saying much more than is obvious at first.

"Stormwater forum" in November 2013 took the Auckland Council to task for failing to obtain Resource Consents for itself while expecting everyon else to do so.

Older letters include "Planners take note" published in the Herald, in Jaunuary 2011. It praised Chris Barton for his excellent writing about Sagrade Familia and Mark Burry. It also hoped there might be changes in the planning process. Check it out at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/572/20/

My letter published in the Herald on GM pine was cheered on by friends, but a dead duck as far as the public was concerned. Rather like leaky homes. No one was interested until their own homes rotted to pieces. Check it out at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/566/20/

ImageTwo other older letters published in the Herald are at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/322/20/
on the new weak-kneed ACC logo, and at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/345/20/
on the demolition of the Edmiston Wing of the Art Gallery.

Three letters published in the East and Bays Courier are at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/393/20/
arguing for a total ban on all dogs at all times at all Auckland beaches. Sydney adopted this policy long ago to make beaches safe places for people.

An article published in Tui Motu pointed out that creativity during the Medieval period was at least 22 times greater than it is now. Simple statistics suggest that our building industry is a basket case. You will find it at www.tony-watkins.com/contect/view/564/20

An article published in Cross Section put the case for the NZIA to sign up to the Earth Charter. You will find it at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/352/20/
It hit the mark and on 21 May 2008 the NZIA Council resolved to sign up. The Earth Charter sets an ethical standard which over time will lead to ethically responsible architecture.


The NZIA has been endlessly debating changing our world-leading environmental policy into something more suitable for business. Along the way history has been forgotten. As a reminder I have put a few of the NZIA Position Papers I wrote in support of the Environmental Policy on line. You will find them at www.tony-wtkins.com/content/view/512/20/


So what's new in Design Educator?

ImageI love bouncing ideas around with adults. They know what they are on about and they are willing to make big changes in their lives, and through doing this to also make big changes in the world. I usually manage to banish mediocrity with students either loving or hating my courses.



You will find some thoughts on my March 2008 Green Architecture Continuing Education course at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/350/31/

Some 2008 thoughts on energy, with a brief explanation of heat pumps, can be found at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/349/31/

If you have an architect and are really happy with the way everything is going a few questions you might like to ask your architect can be found at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/

Joan Thorn, one of the students  on the March 2008 course sent in some her thoughts. You will find them at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/363/31/

Unfortunately the Vice Chancellor decided that a well educated community was of no concern to a corporate university. In 2012 the Centre for Continuing Edcation was closed down, We held a farewell wake for CCE and the seven staff dismissed on 12 July 2012.

When I retired after almost forty years of teaching at the University of Auckland I celebrated by presenting a paper on teaching excellence. It celebrated some of the heroic moments when we changed the course of history. You will find "Only those who do understand" at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/20/31/

The quirky story of the time the Planning Department threw out a priceless Robert Ellis painting is at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/401/31/
Great training for students who would graduate and move on to throwing out whole cultures, just because they were too dumb to understand what they were doing.

After I recommended the book as the only one anyone needed on sustainabllity, in the article on my library, several architects have purchased "The Hannover Principles". You will find the principles themselves at www.tony-watkins.com/conteetn/view/214/31/
but I still recommend purchasing the book. 

So what's new in Urban Designer?

ImageWe set a world record when the entire print run of "The Kohukohu Heritage Precinct" was sold out at the book launch on 9 May 2010, during the Rawene Book Festival. A reprint is on the way. Meanwhile much of the material is available at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/432/46/
Just scroll on down.

ImageThe NZIA left itself in an extremely poor position to comment on urban design when it traded in the gracious sophistication of Pembridge for a mess of potage and moved to the cart-dock entry D-72, a building without a single redeeming architectural or urban design feature. You will find a few comments on the sorry saga at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/298/46/

There is little consolation in knowing that not even a developer would have been that stupid.


Notes from an evening presentation on Heritage to SOS (Save Our St Heliers) on 26 July 2012 can be found at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/606/46/ 




So what's new in Vernacular Architect?

ImageHome Work, a book by Godwit, an imprint of Random House, was published in November 2010. The superb text is by John Walsh, and Patrick Reynolds did the photographs. The book presents 23 architects and their own homes. Tony Watkins was one of the architects chosen and you will find the section on him at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/567/84/
  Unfortunately it is now out of print, but you may find a copy in a second hand book store. "Home NZ" reprinted the entire section on Tony.

Issue 5:2010 of Architecture New Zealand featured the libraries of seven architects. Each architect then selected five books of significance to them. Tony Watkins was one of the featured architects and you will find details at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/568/84/
However to understand the context you should buy a copy of the magazine.

Issue 6:2010 of "Architecture NZ" featured my plea to use the planning process to save our best architecture. You will find "Lessons from Coolangatta" at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/571/84/
The message seems even more poignant after Council corruption won out over people's democracy with the loss of the wonderful houses in Turua Street, Saint Heliers.

Beyond the vernacular Tony has been involved with a great deal of mainstream architecture. A few of these projects may be found on the web-site. The Hayward Gallery London is at www.tony-watkins/content/view/509/84/
Liverpool Cathedral is at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/519/84/
Government Life Hamilton is at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/511/84/
Te Awamutu church is at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/
At the very beginning of his career Tony designed the sundial in the Waitangi Tresty grounds. You will find that at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/510/84/

Image Despots, great and small, are notable for the excesses of their architecture, and ego-architects love them. Architectural magazines thrive on images of despotic architecture just because the buildings are so photogenic. The public gets the message that real architecture comes with a multi-million dollar price tag. In contrast idealistic visionaries are notable for the simplicity and purity of their architecture. It can easily be overlooked.

At www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/388/84/
you will find a glimpse of the simplicity of Ben Gurion’s house at Sede Boker.

The publicity from the RIBA said their September 2008 Conference would "propose that increasing environmental concerns might lead to a return to the vernacular”. The line up of speakers did not look hopeful, but at last my contention of the last forty years has begun bearing fruit. The Conference was also to “question whether globalised architecture can be truly sustainable”. The answer to that should have been obvious. The Conference also looked "at how architecture can take away identity from places”, “at worst suppressing the local vernacular in favour of a global style”. It seemed when John Hunt and Errol Haarhoff destroyed my Vernacular Architecture course, probably because the students assessed it to be the most popular course in the School, that I had lost the battle, but eventually the globalisation pendulum swung back to indicate that they were wrong and I was right. 

A couple of photographs of Dobroyd Head are at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/508/84/
Just something to give hope to those who despair at the direction the world is going in.

So what's new in Maritime Planner?

ImageThe proposal to build a seven story hotel on the reclaiimed swamp of the Wynyard Quarter is an  earthquake disaster just waiting to happen. the whole area should be declared a red zone now before the ratepayers are asked to pick up the cost. www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/583/49/


ImageThe situation was summed up in a "brevity" in the NZ Herald. "The Fukushima nuclear power station was built on a prime waterfront site." www.tony-watkins/content/view/589/20/


ImageSelfishness has no part to play in sharing the Commons. On the crowded beaches of the Riviera everyone respects the need to set aside space for fishing boats. On the Quayside in Copenhagen you will find the elderly repairing their boats without anyone suggesting they should move on to make space for brash youngsters.

Only in Auckland does selfishness reign supreme, with the Auckland Council leading the charge.

You will find a plea for diversity in the maritime commons at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/392/49/

The saddest thing of all is to see architects and urban designers destroying the commons.


So what's new in Owner Builder?

ImageEveryone in New Zealand seems to be talking nonsense about affordable housing.

If you want a house you can afford you need to build it yourself.

It has always been that way and it always will be. It is an oxymoron to suggest that a developer who is in the business of making a profit can also be interested in saving you money. If the government wants to see affordable housing they only need to create a climate which is favourable for the owner-builder. Tony's 2012 submission to the Productivity Commission on Affordable Housing is on their website and also at www.tony-watkins.com/conteent/view/594/83/

In March and April 2012 Tony gave two GAPS present6ations on baches. You will find some of the material at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/

The only building built at the Habitat II Conference had none of the pretentiousness of the conference documents. Complicated problems can sometimes have very simple solutions. You will find more at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/391/83/

Good magazine ran a feature article on Karaka Bay. You will find it, along with lots of photogfraphs, at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/456/83/

 I have however never liked the term DIY just as I find it strange to refer to the truth as non-fiction.

Some recent photographs of Don Groome's house are at www.tony-watkins/content/view/524/83/


So what's new in Tour Guide?

ImageTourism is a trap. You end up seeing what someone else thinks you ought to see. Tourists tick boxes when they might instead discover new worlds which they never imagined could exist. When people ask about places or people I have begun sharing my thoughts through my web page. There is no logic. If you are going to Edmonton then I suggest a side trip to the Icefield Parkway. If you are going to Italy it is well worth looking up some of the work of Carlo Scarpa. If you are in the Alpes Maritime region then make a quick side trip to Colletta del Castelbianco. When in Vienna do not miss MAK. In Berlin the 100 bus is ideal for exploring and orientation. It would be easy to miss Gehry’s bank.


So what's new in Political Activist?

ImageIn January 2010 I had a hip replacement. The public health system was wonderful and I cannot give enough praise to all the wonderful staff. You will find a few thoughts about my experience at www.tony-watkins/content/view/538/71/

The Queens Wharf shed debate continued through 2010, and there seemed to be a swing towards saving them after the AAA launched a campaign. Some of my thoughts are at No ordinary shed www.tony-watkins/content/view/545/71/

The Building Act came under review once again in 2010. It was predictable that none of the real issues would be addressed. I ended up talking to a group of mostly theologians about Embodied love. www.tony-wtkins/content/view/547/71/ 

The wonderful Rawene Book Festival in May 2010 introduced me to Phantom Billstickers. To find out how poetry can be subversive look at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/550/71/

The leaky building syndrome was the result of cultural failure rather than technical failure. You will find my submissions to the Select Committee at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/495/71/

Through 2010 debate raged within the NZIA about environmental policy. To remind a new generation I put some of our original Position Papers on line at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/502/71/ 

If you remember "Jumping Sundays" in 1969 you will enjoy some phtoographs of the 40th anniversary at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/489/71/ 

I failed to make any submissions to the Select Committee on the Emissions Trading Act. That was a bad mistake. It seemed to me that there would be enough intelligent green people to shake out all the issues. With alarm I have watched discussion driven by selfishness going nowhere. Real self-interest would suggest that we ought to set up the global carbon market in New Zealand. The market will make the money, and before long taxation could be a thing of the past for our country. That would be smart business. We would have more money than we could work out how to spend. Letting someone else run our game is simply selling our soul.

You will find an introduction to the Carbon Con Trick at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/385/71/

Chris Barfoot has written a superb book on Tahuna Torea. I hope the short quotation at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/312/71/
might tempt you to buy the book.

The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance seems doomed to failure. Two of the three members managed to produce a report on rates which failed to address almost everything of relevance and came up with a non-conclusion. I knew they would be dismissive of the submission you will find at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/364/71/
but how could anyone have nothing to say?

On a cheerful note the story at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/390/71/
of how a Curitiba bus brought action on the Link bus offers hope.

Stroke victims might be interested in my thoughts at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/367/71/
about making your stroke a positive experience.

So what's new in Environmental Conservationist?

ImageTelling it the way it is may not be a pathway to success.

However, as I observed thirty years ago - “If you only say the things people want to hear, you will not say the things which need to be said.”

Judge for yourself the market potential of the ideas at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/244/72/

Now that the term “green” has lost traction we might do better to talk about “Environmentally Responsible Architecture”.


You will find a few photographs of "Arakainga" the house I am building in the Hokianga at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/178/72/

If you have no idea about the Hokianga topography there are a few photographs of the harbour at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/530/72/

The house site is an hours walk from the nearest road. In the summer when the ground is dry it is possible to get part of the way in a Landrover. For the Landrover story and a few photographs of "Grunt" look at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/264/72/ Making one trip each year Grunt has carried tons of materials up from Auckland to the Hokianga, and done endless trips from Te Ohu to Kaikohe. 


So what's new in Peaceful Revolutionary?

ImageIt is always interesting to discover what threatens people.

A very innocent posting on the Arch-Peace web site on “slow architecture” brought a vitriolic response. I retaliated and regretted not having better photographs of some of my own “slow architecture”, which was of course very fast. The story is at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/

I will slowly write up the history of Arc-Peace. A couple of photographs from meetings long ago, in Istanbul 1996 can now be found at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/389/73/

Recent events have brought back into the highlight the secret testing of nuclear weapons on human subjects in Turkestan by the Chinese, You will find a glimpse into the courageous people who dared to speak out at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/395/194/


Recently I discovered an article of mine, published in Sweden, available as an e-book. It gives a brief history of Arc-Peace Aotearoa, Look at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/551/73/



So what's new in Storyteller?

ImageWith the Planning Department having been destroyed just before its Golden Jubilee there is poignancy in old photographs of the Silver Jubilee. Some are at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/391/83/

It is hard now to imagine that “restructuring” was a new idea for architects at the 1967 NZIA Conference in Queenstown. If you want to know who some of those architects were in that innocent age look at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/383/74/

Nostagia too in memories of the Leyland O’Brien timber mill at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/378/74/

Leyland O’Brien was famous for its scows. A photograph at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/379/84/ 

So what's new in Compulsive Traveller?

ImageOne alternative to the Rehab Ward after my stroke was to set out on a 6000km adventure driving around the South Island.

You will find lots of photographs from “Call it Southern Rehab” at  www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/331/92/

Just ignore the text.

Image In September 2011 I went up to Japan for UIA Tokyo 2011. You will find lots of photographs along with my personal diary at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/588/92/ 


So what's new in Karaka Bay lover?

Image2010 was dominated by the corrupt Auckland City Council carrying out illegal works to destroy the beach frontage and leave behind a tangle of wire and imported rock which had nothing to do with this sacred space. Murray may have known a lot about death but he knew nothing about life and he took control to exclude the coastal experts through ensuring that the necessary permits were not obtained. Doug was voted off the Council, but it was too late to save the beach. Rae cashed in and sold up. A sorry saga. Lots of material to scroll through, but only to despair at the stupidity of people when confronted with environmental questions. Look elsewhere for hope.




ImageOn a more cheerful note there was a slightly terrifying moment when I thought we might have ended up with 150 party-goers stranded on Motukorea. Richard stayed on for an extra hour and shuttled everyone back to the food and wine.

Photographs of Decade-dent Adventures 2008 can be found at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/335/109/

A selection of Auckland City Library photographs from the thirties, when Riddell Road ran through farmland, can be found at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/399/109/

Superb aerial photographs  of Karaka Bay and the surrounding area in 1938 and 1946 can be found at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/573/109/ Colin Percy kindly provided the originals.

Those with power, like Lady Macbeth, become victims of their own paranoia. Those who should have nothing to fear are overwhelmed by their own fear, and they lash out at the innocent. Raping the natural environment becomes nothing more than a desperate attempt to achieve the pleasure which escapes them. The rapists of Karaka Bay gathered together for a field day. Some of the sad story is at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/553/109/

So what's new in Noncombatant Sport?

ImageThe beauty of classic yachts has never been equalled. Sailing on the Rona takes any crew back to 1892.

Catch a glimpse at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/307/117/


So what's new in Art Connoisseur?

ImageThe sculpture of Lindsay Evans exhibited at Village Arts in March 2008 were very architectural.

If you have some empty architecture check them out at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/354/129/

The 2008 Coromandel Group exhibition at Hauraki House offered a feast of wonderful pottery.

There are a few images at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/346/129/  


Village Arts, Kohukohu, has gone from stregth to strength, with a wonderful succession of superb exhibitions. One of the highlights of 2009 was "Hotere Country". Find out more about it at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/497/129/ 

So what's new in Credit Manager?

Image2008 saw the passing of Barry Barclay, Walter Pollard, Hone Tuwhare, Ed Hillary and Joe Polaischer. We will not see the likes of them again.


So what's new in Servant of Piglet?

ImageA selection of Karaka Bay photographs can be found at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/365/226/

A selection of Sunday Star Times photographs can be found at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/366/226/


So what's new in Bush Lawyer?

ImageThe Herald ran an article on the Undeclared Interest of two of the three members of the ACC panel appointed to revise the dog bylaw.

You will find it at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/396/276/


So what's new in Te Rarawa Iwi?

ImageThere is always something to learn at Pasifika, the largest Polynesian Festival in the South Pacific.

In 2008 one of the Umus was put down on top of corrugated iron and it was highly successful.

You unfortunately cannot enjoy the food, but a photograph is at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/342/291/


So what's new in Family Archivist?

ImageBeyond the Landing”, published in 2008 to celebrate a hundred years since the founding of the Morrinsville Town Board, included an autobiography of Frank Marshall.

Check it out at www.tony-watkins.com/content/view/347/390/