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

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Visitors book - Megan & Mark Print E-mail

And so from humble beginnings....



What pleasure, nearly six years on, to see Arakainga nestled into her home. The day couldn't have been better - a Sunday late in April begun with an unhurried breakfast at the Tree House complete with French film crew, then out along the Hokianga's rough roads, Tony with the window down waving to every passing local.

A relatively quick stop at the Marae, refusing the generous offers of lunch and conversation in our eagerness to begin the ascent across the paddocks stopping occasionally to catch our breath and look back at the shimmering harbour below us. And finally through the bush, Mark thrilled at its abundance, to the true tree house. Wow. Fantastic to see her in such magical surroundings. Amazing to enjoy lunch and a cup of hot tea inside. And unbelievable to think Tony and Helen carted it all up, load by load, driven only by their passion for realising the dream.

Of course the beginnings weren't really that humble - an audacious plan to piggyback - literally - on the respectable shoulders of Habitat for Humanity and Keith Hay Homes (thanks for the truck!) and construct a truly sustainable house in the heart of Aotea Square. To complete the farmyard scene, Mark and Megan ran around like headless chooks, dealing with photo-op hungry politicians, nervous academics and willing-if-not-so-able student builders. Ever-jammy Verney managed to break his arm just in time to become the official video cameraman.

And though it all Tony worked away to pull off a quiet coup that set his place in the hearts and minds of two-dozen students, and sealed his fate with the Planning Department!

And of course, Arakainga wasn't really the beginning - that happened earlier, when Tony stepped off a plane from the Social Summit in Copenhagen and suggested to his students (us included) "wouldn't it be great to get some students to Nairobi!" Nairobi, New York, Istanbul, Aotea Square. To quote Matt Hogetts: a wild roller-coaster ride! There are enough stories to fill a book - maybe one day we should.

So, Tony, the trip to Arakainga was fabulous - a chance for us to pay homage to your exceptional determination, through all kinds of drama, to make a difference in the world. And to say thankyou for the difference you've made to us.

Seven years since the story began, it's good to reflect. Arakainga is in the Hokianga, the best friendships remain, and the journey continues...

With all our love.

Megan and Mark

(visited 21 April 2002)


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