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

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Build community first Print E-mail

ImageOur heritage is our inheritance. It is our whakapapa. It is all those things passed down to us, for us in our turn to enrich and pass on to future generations. Our inheritance makes us who we are. We sustain it. We develop it.

The heritage of the ASB Community Trusts Board is a tradition of building community first.




ASB Community Trusts is unique among funding agencies in that its primary focus is the formation of community.

Leadership is more important than partnership.

The entire purpose of a strategic plan is to give form to this living tradition, so that this inheritance might be sustained and developed.

The members of the Board will pass away and be replaced. In giving form to its own whakapapa the Board is doing itself what it is helping others to do in the Heritage Sector.

Many individual decisions have been made by the Board. Collectively they have become a way of seeing and a way of doing. The kaitiaki role of the Board has been explored in a very practical way and much has been learned.

Whakapapa lives. We do not do what our grandparents might have done. We rather do what our grandchildren will thank us for having done.

In this sense we can make radical new initiatives with confidence and self assurance by knowing who we are. How might ASB Trusts build community in new ways?

Self reflection is the key. We look to others only so that we might see ourselves more clearly. We are kaitiaki of our own whakapapa.

He tangata. he tangata. he tangata. The ASB Trust Board has developed and maintained a tradition of putting people first.


ASB Community Trusts has a unique tradition of helping communities to fulfil their destiny thorough knowing and developing their heritage.

The marae buildings have strengthened existing communities. The Otamatea Museum has strengthened the local community. Even the War Memorial Museum, as one of the few buildings in Auckland which has spiritual significance, has strengthened an existing community. The Manukau Arena has given a focus to an existing South Auckland community.

Other funding agencies put infrastructure ahead of community.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage does a good job, but writing history after the event is very different from living out your history in your daily life. The NZ Historic Places Trust does a good job, but it is focused on preservation rather than conservation. Local Government has moved from responding to community needs to providing infrastructure and planning before the people arrive.

Heritage has died while people want to live.

Great communities build great cities. Not the other way around. Great cities give form to heritage and sustain that heritage for future generations.

Almost all current urban design is doomed to failure because it assumes that first you build the infrastructure and then somehow a community appears out of the night to look just like the figures in the architect's perspective.

For example the "tank farm" was a wonderful space when it gave form to a fishing community, a boat-building industry, and a strong "wharfie" community. The proposals now being considered for the area are all equally dead, and we are merely deciding which is the best corpse. Architects usually design corpses. Developers build them. The magazines are concerned with objects, not people.

Tony Watkins


Summary of a report developing an investment strategy for "Heritage" for ASB Community Trusts. 

Often you complete a report and then realise that you can throw it all away because the essence can be captured in a few lines. Those few words seem self evident and perfectly obvious, and yet the work is necessary to see them clearly.......



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