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Speech

New Zealand Institute of Architects

Issue date: 
Thursday, 9 February 2017
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.

Kia ora tātou katoa.

Good morning – and thank you for inviting me to address the delegates at this year’s Institute of Architects conference.

A special welcome to the international delegates and presenters. I hope you enjoy your time in New Zealand and have an opportunity to see some more of the country - and some of its finer structures - while you are here.

As it happens, my interest in architecture comes a close second to my passion for the arts. I’ve had several memorable experiences of working with architects. One in particular was through my involvement in the construction and establishment of SKYCITY here in Auckland in the 1990s. At the time, the project was a huge challenge. We had a statutory deadline of two years in which to have the casino up and running. The construction comprised a casino, an underground carpark, a hotel and the Sky Tower. The architect was a local – Gordon Moller. The Sky Tower is still the tallest and most significant feature on the Auckland skyline.

Working with architects such as Gordon Moller and the late great Ian Athfield has taught me a great deal about the discipline and the art of architecture.

I can recall memorable occasions, in New Zealand and overseas, where David and I have been delighted and inspired by great architecture, whether it be an elegant skyscraper, a cathedral, a mosque or museum, or a smart but modest holiday home.

So I am delighted to be able to support a gathering of people whose task it is to shape a vision and to make it all possible. In doing so, you also seek to push the boundaries of imagination and construction, so that people will be taken into new ways of seeing our world and living in it.

It must an exacting challenge. It seems to me that architects must have to draw on an extraordinary mix of attributes: the soul of a poet and a dreamer, the precise discipline of a mathematician and an engineer, and the patience and passion of a saint.

On a personal level, I can reflect on the impact of recent changes, in terms the spaces that my husband David and I live and work in.

We have moved from living between a seaside apartment in Wellington and a country property in Greytown, to an apartment in Government House Wellington and another Government House in Auckland.

My current role takes us between those latter two grand houses, and around New Zealand and overseas, so my sense of in:situ is constantly changing.

Government House Wellington was purpose built for the job in 1910 – as both a residence, and as a working building where State Welcomes and investitures can be accommodated, as well as community events of all kinds.

On Waitangi Day we were able to accommodate two thousand people at a reception on the North Lawn. The building was restored – and made more elegant and fit for purpose – in 2008 to 2011. The architect for the restoration was Ian Athfield.

In contrast, Government House Auckland was previously a substantial private home, built in the 1920s for the Mappin family. The architect was a Mr Paterson. The house has had to be adapted to provide the necessary attributes of a working building. It stands on the lower slopes of Mt Eden, complete with ancient lava flows curving through the property, so the sense of in:situ is inescapable.

For New Zealand – as a very young country – both geologically and culturally – in:situ has a particular resonance.

Geologically, we are subject to random earthquakes at a reasonable frequency. So there is a strong sense that a building will need to be particularly robust and flexible to remain in:situ.

I guess the upside, if we are looking for one, lies in the developing expertise in the assessment and mitigation of earthquake risk.

Culturally, we are a young country, in that this was the last major land mass on the planet to be settled by human beings. Whether they were Polynesians, or the peoples of the world who have followed them, building practices have had to be adapted to meet the challenges of a new environment and climate – and to reflect the way New Zealanders want to live their lives.

So in a sense, our architecture has been internationalist, at the same time as it has shown signs of a strong and an evolving home-grown vernacular.

These days, our own architects, like those of other nations, can, and often do, work on international projects. It must be a very exciting time to be in the profession.

I appreciate that it is not always easy to persuade New Zealanders that the cost of an architect’s input is a minor part of the final cost of a build. But architectural skills are a critically valuable component of our built environment. And so I encourage you in your efforts to promote robust – and adventurous – architectural practice to New Zealanders. Your international delegates present here will, I am sure, assist and inspire you in that regard.

My best wishes to you all for a successful conference – if time was not so pressing, I would love to linger and hear what your impressive line-up of speakers have to say.

Last updated: 
Thursday, 9 February 2017

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