An Introduction to Free Range II

Barnaby Bennett & Tania Sawicki Mead

In 1968 when Nina Simone sung the haunting line ‘“What? Gonna happen now? In all of our cities?”. she was raising the spectre of the significant protest and civil unrest that affected America in the 1960s. The line is both a warning and a call to duty.  In the same year that saw the rise of the civil rights movement and the fall of Martin Luther King, the empire that was unable to contain the peaceful force of Kings message, had through the power of its technological might, gifted humanity one of its most consciousness altering moments. The first full view of Earth came from the moonbound Apollo 8 mission, during the waning days of the chaotic year of 1968. Because of the distance needed to see the entire circumference of the earth only 12 humans have ever witnessed it. The American Astronaut Bill Anders, who photographed the first famous pictures of the round blue shape in space, commented

“We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”

Continue reading An Introduction to Free Range II

A thought

NZ Politics.  I can’t help but be amazed by how badly the reconfiguration of Aucklands Council system is being managed.  Ultimately it is probably a good idea, but the speed and manner in which Hide and Key are facillitating this process is terrible and abusive of their power.   I just don’t understand why Key is letting such bad publicity affect his government so early.  My prediction number one is that he has done a deal with Hide to let them have their way with Auckland if they shut up about Climate Change and let National return to some middle ground on this.  Notably Hide and the other Act MPs have stopped going to the select committee meetings about the current climate change review.

I am also really suprised with how quiet and obidient the Maori Party is being about the removal of Maori Representation from the new Greater Auckland Council.  I can only think that they too have been promised something big to keep them quiet and this would have to be the repeal of the Seabed and Foreshore Legislation.  This would be classic Key, he gets to make seemingly pro-environmental and pr0-maori gestures which in reality are weak and don’t change the reality of the alternative agenda they are quietly running behind the scenes.

some hope for justice

In the endless struggle between the awesome power of the multi-national corporates and national justice systems there are occasionally seminal cases which become defining precedents.  The court case surrounding the tragic death of Nigerian environmentalist and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa is about to start, and it has Shell under intense international pressure.

Keep an eye on this, it will be very interesting.

Link to Guardian Story.

Hopefully a monsoon cleaning, and not an ethnic cleansing.

I will post more soon, and in some depth about my thoughts on what is happening in Sri Lanka at the moment.  For now I am on the east coast in the beautiful but often violent town of Baticoloa.  We drove through around 20 military and police points yestersday to make it to an amazing Grand Opera performed by the local kids from the Butterfly Peace Garden here. The poem below is from a Ben Okri book  called Mental Fighting lent to me by Sam the landscape architect who is designing the new garden when it moves later this year, it is about humanity’s opportunities at the turn of the millinium but could just as easily be about the small sliver of hope that exists in Sri Lanka at the moment.

Everyone loves a spring cleaning.
Let’s have a humanity cleaning.
Open up history’s chamber of horrors
And clear out the skeletons behind the mirrors,
Put our breeding nightmares to flight
Transform our monsters with our light.
Clear out the stables
In our celebrated fables
A giant cleaning
Is no mean undertaking.
A cleaning of pogroms and fears
Of genocide and tears
Of torture and slavery
Hatred and brutality.
Let’s turn around and face them
Let’s turn around and face them
The bullies that our pasts have become
Let’s turn around and face them
Let’s make this clearing out moment
A legendary material atonement.

Sort-of-Registered Architects

On an unrelated visit to the New Zealand Registered Architect’s Board website (I have at some point, I think, declared that I will never be a Registered Architect), I was drawn to a bold Notice, which grabbed both my attention and imagination, it reads:


Annual Certificate of Registration invoices were mailed out on 15 May 2009. Payment is due by 20 June. 

Please note that, despite the economic downturn, the NZRAB cannot accept payment by instalments. Architects who cannot pay should consider taking voluntary suspension. As soon as they find work again, they can revive their full registration. This is done very quickly, once payment has been received.”  [NB, the cost of the ACR is $551.25]


This is obviously a horrible situation for some Registered Architects, who may be forced to suspend their registration, and risk future employment.  The effects could be drastic.

 After recently attending a presentation by Geoff Manaugh (of the prolific I felt compelled to ponder in a speculative manner, both conservatively, and perhaps a bit radically.


The chain of effects branches out in all sorts of directions.  Firstly, if the population of Registered Architects plummets, will the Registered Survivors pounce on all the Registered Work?  Will the Registered Survivors (most predictably the handful of larger offices in New Zealand) gain an even greater monopoly of project procurement, escalating an already apparent homogeneity across New Zealand’s larger projects?  Will larger practices cull their registrations, leaving a Grand Master Registrant to sign each project off, and might the GMR be a scapegoat, or a powerhouse?

For the Voluntarily Suspended, what will practice life be like?  What might be the legal risks of a temporary sojourn from the tribe?  What about having to change all your letterheads and business cards, to remove the coveted “Registered” from your professional status?

In a reverse swing of fate, will the lost fees from the Suspended cripple the NZRAB?  Will architects be forced to gather in their community cliques, re-inventing new codes and costumes to signal their allegiance to the Architects Act?  These factions could incite highly competitive and wonderfully innovative design practices, fighting over project as if it were the last (which it could be)…

I am in the end inconclusive about whether less Registered Architects might be a good thing, or an indifferent thing.  I just haven’t met enough Registered Architects I suppose, but I feel spontaneously that I would prefer to meet the Illegal ones.

The many (and varied) roles of the architect

It is often said that an architect’s role is that of a generalist; that is one who not only has to draw from many fields of knowledge, but also collaboratively orchestrate that expert knowledge through a rigorous design process to eventually create architecture (one would hope).
As Vitruvius states in book one of his ten books on architecture, when talking about the education of an architect:

‘To be educated, he must be an experienced draftsman, well versed in geometry, familiar with history, a diligent student of philosophy, know music, have some acquaintance with medicine, understand the rulings of legal experts and have a clear grasp of astronomy and the ways of Heaven.’

This holistic view for an architectural education may seem like it’s well established and even completely obvious (with possible exception of ‘some acquaintance with medicine’ perhaps), but something that should be given attention to is the very act of Vitruvius writing a treatise (in this case the ten books on architecture) in the first place for this cemented a very important role for the architect, which should not go amiss in this day and age; the architect’s role and responsibility as a social/public intellectual as well as a designer of buildings.

The practice of architectural journalism and the visual culture of architecture

In this sense it can be seen that the definition of an intellectual goes beyond the walls of academic institutions, where all it simply means is for one to use their own intelligence in a critical manner. The act of making can be seen as an intellectual activity for an architect, whether it is done through writing as a form of architectural journalism or the practice of designing buildings.

It is well documented that Le Corbusier dabbled in painting, sculpture as well as writing. Books in particular were of utmost importance to Le Corbusier’s intellectual life, as they were catalogues of images documenting the surrounding visual culture of the time, which in turn influenced his architecture. Architectural writing and journalism can open doors to new forms of inquiry, much like the way the Archigram magazine influenced a whole generation of architects and designers during the sixties, through its intellectual probes into futurist ideals and questioning the wider architectural scene at the time through the paper architecture of urban reinvention.

It can be seen that architecture is essentially a philosophy that goes beyond the ‘making of buildings’, where the words ‘architectural practice’ take on many fluid forms through architectural journalism, critical writing, curatorial work, architectural research and education as well as the design of buildings.

Dale Fincham


Cook, Peter (ed), Archigram, Archigram, 1972

De Smet, Catherine, Le Corbusier Architect of Books, Lars Muller Publishers, 2005

Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture, Ingrid D. Rowland and Thomas Noble Howe (eds), Cambridge University Press, 1999

1600 dead in NZ disaster!

This hits close to home.  New Zealand; island paradise, godzone, land of the long white damp….  Each year around 1600 people die in NZ from seasonally related illness.  This is almost entirely due to low quality, damp housing. Countries with much colder climates such as Sweden, Germany and and Switzerland don’t have this problem, even a country as vast as Russia is able to provide heating for its people.  1600 is 4 times the road toll.  I could go on about this myself but a great post has been written at the standard about this, below. My only original comment on this is that it is not only illustrates the failure of market principles, it also shows a failure of state welfare, and from a freerange perspective the silence from the design and architectural industry in NZ about this issue is deafening and this is shameful.

Each year and every year, around 1600 New Zealanders die prematurely because we live in cold damp houses. This “excess winter death rate” is four times higher than the road toll. They die, most especially the young, unwell, disabled and elderly, of respiratory illnesses, strokes and heart attacks because far too much of our housing stock is cheap, crappily built rubbish. By contrast, really cold countries like Russia have almost zero excess winter deaths.

Our welfare state is a miserly one. Our total social housing stock is only 5%, a very low provision by OECD standards, and much of it is old and in dire need of upgrading. Worse still the building regulations around heating, insulation and efficiency are effectively a sick-making joke. No form of heating is actually required, other than a 3-pin plug on a wall somewhere. Even the latest new building codes with marginally improved insulation and double glazing measures, are a feeble catch-up on world standards, and apply to new houses only. They do nothing for the 99% of houses people actually live in.”
The standard: 1600 dead again.

When life is better than art!

Some very observent people noticed that the soundtrack that played at the end of John McCains concession speech was the sound track from the movie Crimson Tide.  Amazingly this is from the final scene of the movie when the crusty old war veteran character concedes to the young black up start character about the nature of war, salutes, turns and walks into the distance.  Their is a quite remarkable youtube video here which compares the two.  You really couldn’t make this shit up!

hattip to:

blood gadgets

I stumbled across a suprisingly well written and interesting article on the technology part of the stuff website today.  It documents the illegal mining of a rare metal Tantalum in Africa and involves a classic plot of African Militia, ex-russian warlords and big spending consumer demand.  Its worth a read.

“Tantalum is an rare metal with unique properties. Chief among these is that with a melting point of 2996 degrees Celsius, it’s a superlative thermal conductor.

Almost two-thirds of the world’s tantalum production ends up in high-quality capacitors that are used in devices such as mobile phones and other electronic gadgets.

For much of the past decade, cheap supplies of tantalum derived from mines under the control of various rebel groups based in the north-eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have flowed into a long and complex supply chain.”

The blood diamonds of gadgets