To coincide with the public launch of one of their recent designs, a Principal from the celebrated Christchurch architecture firm Worrying About Money (WAM) Architects was generous enough to be interviewed by Freerange Press.
The new inner city building will be one of the first post-quake office buildings to be constructed downtown, and as such it is both a logistical challenge and loaded with symbolism. WAM is responsible for around 98.7% of all the rebuild projects in Christchurch. They are building 101,304 houses, 12,053 office buildings, 68 car parking buildings, and has won 189 out of 87 competitions and tenders they applied for so far, so we asked ‘Does this building signal a particular direction for the ‘new Christchurch’ ?
WAM: Christchurch has a number of important periods of architectural history, the early colonial, the gothic revival, the post-war modernism, and its evolution into a robust brutalist modernism, as exemplified by Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney in buildings such as the Christchurch Town Hall. We feel that the next evolution of styles started to develop in the 80s, with some excellent glass and steel buildings, but that great style was distracted by the concerns about the environment and bi-culturalism.
FR: Do you see the post-quake urban development as a way to return to this lost opportunity?
WAM: Definitely. What we are trying to develop with buildings such as this is a form of post-modern brutalism, the people of Christchurch are understandably feeling vulnerable about the built environment, and we think they need some strong, aggressive forms to make them feel safe again in the city. There is nothing further from a dangerous brick facade than the cutting edge use of glass and steel, that we are developing with buildings like this. People have shown their true beauty down here over the past few years, and we really believe that they should be able to see themselves reflected in the buildings that come out of this time.
FR: How do you think this type of building will respond to criticism?
WAM: Certainly, you can look at a books like Gerald Melling’s Mid-City Crisis, which we reference in the building facade of the new building launched today, and say it’s a scathing attack on the shallowness of the profession and the willing corporate take-over of architecture in the 1980s, but we believe what Gerald was really articulating in his slightly obtuse style was a real love for the contemporary materials such as glass and steel, their sculptural characteristics, and their warmth and charm. I mean, doesn’t everyone enjoy those mirror elevators where you can almost look into infinity? That’s some buzzy shit.
FR: Well, we at Freerange are certainly excited to see the construction of another 800 glass facade buildings that look like they are straight from the late 1980s. You must be very busy with all the projects, so thank you for your time. All the best.