Monday, November 15, 2010

Dinner at Ian Athfield's (with John L. Walters)

Last Wednesday Jonty and I went up to Wellington to meet John L. Walters, the current editor of Eye. The dinner was organised by Catherine Griffiths. Catherine knew John already, but John was actually here for a conference that Massey were running. We probably should have stuck around for the conference, but things are a bit up in the air at the moment and I've got too much other stuff to think about and do.

Anyway, Catherine and Bruce (Bruce Connew, her partner) are staying up at the Athfield house in Wellington (Ian Athfield, possibly NZ's most well known architect?). I've seen the house a lot from down on the motorway. I even visited once when I worked in Wellington, but it was a very brief pick-something-up kind of visit, and you couldn't see much of the house from where I picked up whatever it was I had to get.

I'd thought that this dinner was going to be just us (me and Jonty), Catherine and Bruce, and John. It was a nice surprise to realise that Ian Athfield and his partner Clare were going to join us. Before we had dinner Ian treated us to a tour around the house... actually houses. Or buildings? I don't know how to describe the property? It's more like a commune it seemed, with some parts empty, and being done up, other parts lived in, other parts worked in, etc. I think some of his employees even live up there too. It's an amazing complex of stairways, rooftops, and rooms.

What interested me most though was Ian's attitude and spirit, and how that had essentially 'made' the house. Apparently the house has no actual consent from the council, which makes sense. you don't see houses like this everyday, maybe this is partly why? Ian's neighbors, at some point (early 70s?), actually shot at the house with a shotgun. They also took him to court to try and get it demolished. He said they won a couple of cases against him, but the house is still there... in fact it's bigger. It just seems to keep going, like it's never going to be finished, sprawling down the wild hillside. I really liked that it was this ongoing project, always with new parts to put on, and old parts to be redone. It's the same way you might think about hot rods or motorcycles.

In the end we didn't really talk much with John because Ian and Clare kind of stole the show. It was a really good night though, and it was good to see Catherine and Bruce again too. We hadn't really talked to Catherine since the Typeshed conference she organised, and it was interesting to hear her thoughts on that now.

The last thing I want to say is how the hell does Bruce not seem to age much? I remember him mentioning running. Bruce smoked a salmon. It was amazing.

(Photos by Catherine and Bruce)

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