Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Neighbourhood spaces

Some of you may have noticed a large slab of concrete that appeared on the grass outside the City Gallery last weekend. It bears some interesting diagonal patterns, enough to suggest that it's not just a random slab of building materials.

In fact, the patterns are based upon traditional pātikitiki designs, and the slab is an external wall panel from the Waiwhetu Cultural Centre in Lower Hutt. It's there to signal a new exhibition, In the Neighbourhood, that starts at the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery tomorrow. The exhibition explores three new community spaces: the cultural centre, St Joseph's church in Mt Victoria, and the revamped Oriental Bay. The emphasis is upon architecture as the creation of social environments, and I love the Ian Athfield quote that they use in the exhibition essay:
Architecture is the physical embodiment of feeling. And it is a social art.
That sums up what most excites me about architecture: whatever else it may or may not be (a plastic art; the balancing of commodity, firmness and delight; "the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light"), it has the power to provide new opportunities for social contact, to balance solitude with sociability, to orchestrate the dance of human movement and to lend comfort or magnificence to the spaces that we live in. That's why I write WellUrban: to record and celebrate life in this messy, vital, fickle and occasionally delightful built enviroment that we call Wellington.


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