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

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Terry Gavin Print E-mail

ImageSitting on Terry and Clare's back porch you look across the yard to their joinery store, nestling against the back fence. It has all the window frames organised according to type and size. When you need to put in a window the choices can be quickly assessed.



ImageDesign looks within for what it might be. Owner-builders become very good at resource management, to the dismay of the experts who struggle to administer New Zealand's Resource Management Act. The wise use of resources begins with recognising the potential of available resources. It is an art.

Close by is their timber store. A wide variety of species, sizes and lengths are filleted on their racks to let the air flow through. What you did not need for the last project will certainly be useful for the next. Properly stored timber improves with age.

ImageOwner-builders seldom see themselves as experts in "zero-waste architecture". They simply know the time will come when they will regret having thrown out into a jumbo bin the very piece of timber they need.

A generous verandah provides an excellent working space. A sunny pleasant place to work makes all the difference to any task. There is shelter for the saw bench, and shade for tasks in progress. It always seems odd that hotels and motels never provide a decent working space for guests. A desk with a view and a good reading light make for a pleasant stay, just as much as a comfortable bed. Owner-builder travellers have much to do while on a journey because they are constantly observing and learning.

There is a tree-house, of course, to one side of Terry and Clare's yard. The next generation of owner-builders learn by doing just as much as by observation. Taking control of your own life is really what owner building is all about and starting early means saving all the time which can be wasted learning to play other people's games. Empowering yourself instead of allowing yourself to be disempowered by others means taking a different approach to education.

ImageInterestingly Terry and Clare would not describe themselves as owner-builders. If there is a job to be done they simply get on with it. Any job.

They would sooner talk about philosophy or literature than what they have done. They would prefer to share a book or a poem. They might even suggest cooking an omelette or planting a tree. They love life, and cannot see the point of letting someone else live it for them.

It is only when they are not around that you pause on their back porch and realise you can pick out an owner-builder just as easily as you can recognise a Kiwi or an Aussie walking down a London street.


As Australian as an Akubra hat
was first published in The Owner Builder magazine
From the Back Porch 

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