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

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Brighton 1987 Print E-mail

ImageMy paper had been accepted for the 1987 UIA Brighton Congress and while it was exciting enough to fly right around the world, retracing a journey which had once taken me a year travelling overland, I was also excited about my academic future opening up.











Image I found myself in a darkened room talking mostly to other academics. No one was interested in anything I was saying. They were only there so they could cut another notch in their CVs to move up the ladder, and increase their university salaries. More importantly they were never going to do anything. I realised that academia was just a game, of no consequence.

I walked out into the sunshine and found a tiny group of architects who did want to change the world. They were talking about ending the cold war, recognising that after 40 years of trying it was unlikely that politicians were going to make any progress. It was an impossible dream, so naturally that sounded interesting. It was also an issue I felt strongly about. The group was serious but they also had a wonderful sense of fun. They loved life. You could take risks with people like these.

Some years before this my house had been one of the first in the world to declare itself nuclear free. Our strategy had been to get more and more houses to be nuclear free, until it was then possible to get a small borough to declare itself nuclear free. Our nuclear free movement worked from the bottom-up, with the little people eventually changing the government. Before Brighton Aotearoa had already sent a frigate to oppose French nuclear testing in 1973, and brought a resolution to the UN to declare the South Pacific as a nuclear free zone in 1975. French government saboteurs had sunk the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour in 1985. I did not know of ADPSR’s existence before Brighton.

IAPPNW was born, and I felt it was an immense privilege to be invited to join the Executive Committee. I was a nobody from a tiny island in an enormous ocean on the other side of the world. I was not to know then but the invitation was about to change my life.

As the architects of the world gather once again in Tokyo for the UIA Congress at the end of September there are several lessons to learn from Brighton.

For me the first lesson is a very personal belief that every individual has their moment in history. We will not choose it. It will choose us. All we need to do is to embrace it. We will recognise it only much later, when we look back over our lives. Thus you always say “yes”. If we say “no” we will never discover what might have been.

My second lesson is that architects are probably the only group of people with the design skill and understanding to save the planet from self-destruction. There is only one planet and everything is interconnected. In Chicago, at the UIA/AIA Congress, the architects of the world signed up to the “Declaration of Interdependence”. Only designers clearly understand the need to bring a complex system into perfect harmony. There are not problems to be solved but rather potential to be realised.

My third lesson is that the more things change the more they stay the same. As Tician has wisely observed the possibility of the world being destroyed by a nuclear holocaust has not gone away. Ecological collapse is all around us, and people are clearly the problem. If we eliminate ourselves most of the world’s environmental problems will be solved in one grand gesture. Nature has no need of us. The good news is that people could also be the solution. The need for Arc-Peace to exist is as great as ever.




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