For more years than I care to remember one of the great joys of my life has been going on AAA site visits.
I had pre-registered for two and paid $60 when we arrived at the RSA at 502 South Titirangi Road. The AAA organisation was fantastic. Three routes had been established with seven shuttle taxis doing circuits. It was so luxurious to have no parking or navigation concerns, and moving around in clusters provided a party atmosphere on the one hand, and an opportunity to debate architecture on the other. It seemed perfect to spend a few moments beneath a cluster of yellow balloons drinking in the moist bush air before plunging into yet more architecture. Paul Jenkins grumbled a little but the only slight bottle neck we experienced was at the Noel Lane house. There was even a coffee bus at the RSA, although we were never there waiting for long enough to indulge. However we enjoyed one at the end of the trip.
The little details make a big difference. Each owner was given a copy of Ron Sang’s “Hotere” book, and each house had three or four minders to keep an eye on them. The owners were generous and it was good to see them treated with respect and gratitude.
Route one was the short run to Tibor Donner’s house and the Mark-Brown and Fairhead house at 44 Kopiko Road. I put that at the end of my list in case we ran out of time, which of course we did. Route two began with the house Ian Athfield had designed for Mr Fulford in 1972 at 548 South Titirangi Road. Double skin reinforced brick. A classic. To our delight we discovered it had been bought by Eva (nee Tollemache) and Grant a little more than a year ago. We were greeted with coffee, cake and biscuits and had a long yarn with both of them and also Hugh, who was helping out. It was some time before we were back on the road.
On to Chris Tate’s “forest house” at 12 Tinopia Road. It was buried down the bottom of a gully, lost in the bush. A good solution to an impossible site. You would need of course to enjoy being lost in the dark, dank bush, never seeing the sun. Perfect to escape from there to a beach to relish the absolute contrast. Everything in life should be done with passion and absolute commitment.
On to Noel Lane’s Williams House at 72 Paturua Road. Rather bland, heavy and overwhelmed by aluminium. Open rooms, but dungeons for the ablutions, which seemed to waste the potential of the open glade of a site. Others seemed to enjoy some real architecture. Cunning details like the sloping stainless steel kitchen shelf to let your wine glass slide gracefully off. Their parties were obviously more sedate than ours.
Back to the RSA, already running out of time, and off on route three. Bill Haresnape’s house at 4 Otitori Road. Absolutely wonderful. Humane, warm, enfolding. Mist on the windows, a fire burning, music. It was after 2pm when we boarded the shuttle taxi to head back to the RSA so we only went past the James Kirkwood studio at 4 Opua Road, and the Colin McCahon house and residency. I had been through this when Gavin was in residence.
As always along the way there were so many old friends to catch up with and new friends to make. Site visits always leave me feeling how lucky I am to be an architect. It was typical that Richard Reid should be able to identify the music playing in the Haresnape house. Kruder and Dorfmeister from their CD “The K&D Sessions”. Before long it was playing in our house too, and the delight of the day in Titirangi just kept living on.
Helen and Hugh in the Athfield house