Dogan Arthur Shares with Architects in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty

Principal Dogan (a.k.a. Woodie) Arthur recently returned from speaking at the Spark International Festival of Media, Arts & Design in Hamilton, New Zealand.  The festival takes place in order to foster dialog around creativity among those practicing in the arts internationally and the local arts community.  Presentations, workshops and events took place over the better part of a week, and our own Woodie Arthur both presented and led workshops.

His lectures focused on the firm's body of work, and the workshops provided an open forum for discussion on architectural practice in the United States. Sitting down with him upon his return, I went over a few important questions:

How did these people in New Zealand hear about our firm?

A colleague, friend and classmate from the Graduate School of Design introduced our firm to the New Zealand Institute of Architects.  A representative of the Bay of Plenty Regional Chapter of the NZIA in Hamilton asked if he could recommend a practitioner in the USA who might be a good representative of US practice to come speak to NZ architects.  The NZ architects are very interested in practice and design issues in the US.

How was the journey?

A "mechanical" in Boston meant rerouting last minute via Sydney, so 42 hours overall.  My friend picked me up at Auckland and we raced down to Hamilton to catch Bob Dylan in a small venue.  Concert was excellent, and certain vocal notes helped me stave off jet lag fatigue.

What was your lecture on?

Given our long and deep experience with design for children, I put together a talk that addressed broad design and practice issues viewed through the lens of early education facilities.  By utilizing a consistent project type, the examples helped to expose variations in design strategies and results based on multiple influences on the same program.  For example, differing architectural contexts, sitings, construction and delivery methods, design team configurations, and budgetary considerations impact the differing design approaches in the project examples.

How were the workshops and what did you learn? 

In addition to my primary lecture in Hamilton, I conducted workshops in Rotorua and Tauranga, the two other metropolitan areas in the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region of NZ.  Both workshops gravitated to practice issues faced by architects with small to mid-size firms and small to mid-size projects.  It was somewhat surprising how similar the issues are we share (increasingly complex code standards, competition from alternate delivery methods affecting fees, etc.), though the terminology may differ (a nog in NZ is a stud in USA, not a holiday rum-laced holiday beverage.)

What was the best architectural space you visited?

I think that the Hamilton Gardens is exceptionally engaging.  The Gardens include examples of various garden design types from across the world and spanning different historical periods.  These "set pieces" are arranged within a larger series of landscapes which in turn bleed out into the surrounding, less curated landscape.  The set pieces include a Japanese garden, Chinese, English Arts and Crafts, American/California Modern, Renaissance Italian, NZ Maori, and other examples.  These are situated next to one another so one can walk easily from one to another.  The access and borders are carefully designed so that you can't see one from another garden, providing the opportunity to really immerse oneself in each without distraction.  They are also meticulously maintained (though I didn't see anyone with tweezers plucking stray grasses from the Japanese garden when I visited.)  The gardens include architectural elements to help exemplify the spatial and other relationships between the garden and constructed elements.  Overall excellent.

Hamilton Gardens Photo: Dogan Arthur

Hamilton Gardens Photo: Dogan Arthur

The dangerous Kea. Photo: Dogan Arthur

The dangerous Kea. Photo: Dogan Arthur

Did you see them filming Lord of the Rings? Were there sheep? Are Kiwis everywhere? 

Didn't see film crews (thankfully), but did get a sense that a bar at the Glenorchy Hotel resembled the bar in "Top of the Lake"  (an excellent Jane Campion mini-series).  When I asked the proprietor, he said yes indeed they'd filmed there for 10 days, and much of the LOTR and Hobbit was filmed up there as well.  While that was cool, he was much more excited about the renowned fly fishing.  Lots of sheep, though dairy cows are pushing them out; apparently they send lots of milk powder to China.  Saw no kiwis, but many signs warning of poisons being set out to kill the various non-native rodents which eat kiwi eggs.  Saw lots of keas, large alpine parrots.  Beautiful but will rip apart a backpack for food.  And will rip apart the gaskets around car doors to try to get in as well.  Nature is a beautiful paradox.

Will you be going back anytime soon? 

Would love to, not sure when.  Many more vineyards, tracks, rivers, mountains, baches, cribs, and friendly Kiwis (the human kind) to see.