Archive for the 'Uncategorised' Category

Designs for living

The showroom of designer David Trubridge (click for image credit)

The showroom of designer David Trubridge (click for image credit)

For those of us who cannot draw more than the odd doodle, the release of our eight new stories on architecture and design is cause for jealousy and wonderment. The inventiveness of people who can imagine a new building, or a new typeface or a new object – such as a revolutionary pair of scissors – is almost magical. The whole group of entries is a testament to the major theme of Te Ara’s last section: creativity.

There are four stories which focus on architecture. To be honest, colonial New Zealand was not especially noted for its creativity or originality in this field. The one exception was in Māori architecture, where, as Deidre Brown shows, Māori developed the idea of large carved wharenui (meeting houses) a style previously unknown in Aotearoa.

Meanwhile, European architects, whether designing domestic buildings, public, commercial and religious buildings, or theatres and halls, stuck to their European background. Architecture was heavily imitative, copying historic styles. Early buildings were a restrained Georgian; but then the battle of the styles developed between classical revival style and Gothic. Gothic, used commonly in churches, was also found in some homes such as Auckland’s Highwic and some public buildings, for example Canterbury’s provincial council chambers. There were some marvels even within these traditions, and I urge you in particular to look at the interactive of Francis Petre’s Catholic basilicas in classical revival style.

Ōamaru courthouse, one of New Zealand's many classical-style public buildings (click for image credit)

Ōamaru courthouse, one of New Zealand's many classical-style public buildings (click for image credit)

The 20th century saw international influences remain strong, but there were striking local variations – James Chapman-Taylor’s homes, which developed out of the arts and crafts movement, the modernist-influenced buildings of Ernst Plischke, the Group Architects‘ attempt to adapt the modernist style to a New Zealand way of life, and John Scott’s magnificent Futuna Chapel, which blended Māori and Gothic church elements with modernism. It is also worth looking at the images and films of theatres and cinemas, some of which were enchanted spaces where ‘everything ordinary was left behind’, as the narrator says in Peter Well’s film about Auckland’s iconic Civic Theatre.

The story of landscape architecture shares with the stories of design – fashion, graphic and industrial – a period of striking growth and creativity in the last part of the 20th century. Although there were garden designers before then, the profession did not really get established until the early 1970s. Since then, landscape architects have helped transform the character of our cities.

Fashion design got its kick-start in the 1940s, when the disruption of imports and a ready market, with American troops here, led to the first local fashion houses. The last 30 years of the century saw an outburst of creative designers and fashion houses such as Zambesi, Trelise Cooper, WORLD, Karen Walker and Kate Sylvester. Exposure at the London Fashion Week in 1999 was international recognition that there was something happening down under – something ‘edgy, dark and intellectual’.

Speedee electric jugs (click for image credit)

Speedee electric jugs (click for image credit)

Industrial design took off in 1962, when both Elam and the Wellington School of Design began professional training. Forty years later industrial designers had helped change the way we experience our every day lives, with such creations as:

  • the electric ‘jug’ (as distinct from the British ‘kettle’)
  • Fisher & Paykel’s DishDrawer
  • Methven’s SatinJet shower
  • Bendon’s seamless bra
  • Phil & Ted’s baby buggy.

As for the third type of design, graphic design, there was some fine work in the 1930s and 1940s, especially some great railway posters. But, again, it was 1962 when the first fully professional training began. The fruits of this were seen in some stunning logos for New Zealand Post, New Zealand Railways and the 1974 Commonwealth Games. In the digital age, New Zealand’s internationally recognised typographic designers included Catherine Griffiths, Sarah Maxey and Kris Sowersby.

Fittingly, these stories are to be enjoyed as much for the visuals as for the words. As you pass from image to image you cannot but be grateful for how much the talented people who can draw have enriched our world – in the buildings we inhabit, the objects we use, and the clothes we wear.

Quiz: Man’s best friend

Animals and us

Animal Liberation Front targets a Wellington fur shop, 1983

Animal Liberation Front targets a Wellington fur shop, 1983 (click for image credit)

Last month’s passage of a law to ban all remaining ‘legal highs’ unless they have been proved harmless and the outlawing of testing of such drugs on animals has encouraged us to feature two stories, one on Animal  welfare and rights and the second on the history of Drugs.

The animal rights story is fresh off the block. Its origins are an interesting example of how Te Ara responds to the wider New Zealand audience.  About a year ago we launched our entries on Daily life, sport and recreation.  They were generally well received, but a member of the Greyhound Protection League was concerned that we had not presented the full story of greyhound racing. He argued that some greyhounds suffered real abuse after their days of racing were over, and that our story on Horse and greyhound racing should cover that issue.

In the end we decided that the racing story should stand, but the interaction forced us to accept that the fascinating history of animal protection was lacking in Te Ara. We had an excellent entry on Pets, but not one that adequately explained the history of efforts to protect animals from abuse. So Nancy Swarbrick, who had written the pets story and had just published an outstanding book on pets, agreed to research and write the piece. It makes for an intriguing read.

As with so many New Zealand movements and institutions, the local story begins as a pale echo of larger, more organised movements in the United Kingdom and the United States. Almost 60 years after the SPCA was established in Britain, societies were set up in New Zealand’s main centres. As in the old country, they were concerned with blood sports, the conditions experienced by working horses, dangerous modes of trapping pests and cruel forms of farming. But it was interesting that in the small towns and rural townships where farm life was centred, the movement was nowhere to be seen.

Almost a century later a new radical movement began overseas. Once more there were ripples here, with a number of organisations sparked by the international animal liberation movement. More recently, however, the radical animal liberationists have come closer to home, and tackled issues that are important to both New Zealand farming and the economy, such as battery-farmed hens and the crating of pigs. Animal rights are beginning to have a distinctive New Zealand story, as one might expect in a country where farming and the growing of animals are so significant.

The Drugs story was first launched last year, and it also tells a history of overseas ideas slowly becoming domesticated. In the 19th century, following British practice, cannabis and opium were freely available and present in many patent remedies. When in the early 20th century restrictions on opiates and cannabis began, this was almost entirely the result of international pressure. It was not until the later 20th century, as drug-taking became more established in New Zealand and distinctive patterns of drug-taking emerged (little use of opium and cocaine and much use of amphetamines and party pills), that domestic pressures for restrictions emerged.

So the latest law is but another example of New Zealand politicians at last responding to distinctive local issues in their own way. These two entries help to explain why this is the case.

Test your Kiwi bus savvy

Dunedin bus drivers (click for image credit)

Dunedin bus drivers (click for image credit)

Certain rules for riding on a bus are drummed into us, but others are unspoken – mysterious to the uninitiated. If you’re a regular bus user, you almost certainly know them; you’ve figured them out, or simply absorbed them.

But if you’re not?

Here’s a tale of a hapless bus-virgin by the name of Barry. How many faux pas can he fit into one bus ride? And how many can you, Dear Reader, spot?

Barry’s bus trip

Barry usually drives to his workplace in Island Bay, but today his car is at the garage, so he boards the no. 1 bus at Courtenay Place, and buys his ticket from the cheery driver.

Damn – no window seats left! He’ll have to sit by someone. It would be good to be near the back door, so he sits by a young woman, who shoots him a strange look and squirms.

After several stops she becomes very restless indeed. She’s rustling things, zipping things up, smoothing her hair and checking pockets. Barry wonders – what’s her problem?

The bus stops, and the back door swings open. The woman looks at Barry expectantly.

What? What does she want from him?

‘Excuse me,’ she says irritably. ‘This is my stop.’

Well, she could have told him, thinks Barry.

By the time the bus reaches the Parade, the only others on board are a sad-looking woman with five shopping bags and a father reading a picture book to his toddler. As the bus pulls in at the stop, the sad-looking woman trudges to the back door, and waits. The driver opens the front door but seemingly forgets the back.

Interesting, thinks Barry, and sits back to observe what will happen.

The sad-looking woman stands by the shut door and looks sadder. Oblivious, the bus driver shrugs, and pulls away from the curb.

The woman looks like she might cry. She lurches down the aisle, and speaks softly with the driver. He pulls in again, where he isn’t meant to, and lets her off, calling, ‘Sorry ma’am!’

Idiot, thinks Barry.

Barry’s stop is next, and it seems to be the father and child’s, too.

‘Time to push the button!’ says the dad. He holds his daughter on his knees as she stretches towards the button on the pole. She wobbles; her arms flail.

I need to help, thinks Barry. He reaches up and pushes his own button.


The child lets out an earsplitting wail, which continues after the bus stops. Her father wrangles her out the door, and somehow still manages to call, ‘Cheers, driver!’

What a fuss, thinks Barry. He hops up from his own seat and, with nothing but a sigh of relief, leaps nimbly from back door to the footpath.

Barry made at least five big blunders on his bus trip. Did you spot them all?


1. Barry sat by a female!

He should have checked to see if there were any seats beside males available first, rather than simply heading for the spot he wanted. If you sit beside someone of another gender when seats beside your own are available, people will … wonder.

2. Barry did not read the coded signals that the woman was getting off at the next stop.

Consider the intricate dance that an experienced bus-rider engages in when it’s time to disembark. If you’re sitting by the window and you’ll need to get past the person beside you, you should – at least 15 seconds in advance of your stop – begin to organise your belongings audibly and with slightly exaggerated movements. These should be visible in the peripheral vision of the person next to you.

That person should then shift a little in their own seat, and perhaps point their feet towards the aisle, to indicate to you (in your peripheral vision) that they have registered your need to disembark, and are ready to get up for you as soon as the bus stops. It’s quite possible for all this to take place with no eye contact between the two people at all.

Occasionally the person by the window won’t get the message that the person on the aisle knows they want to get off, and they may organise their belongings increasingly frantically.

In this case, the person on the aisle should reassure the person by the window, turning to them and saying, ‘Are you getting off at the next stop?’(It’s more polite than hissing, ‘Calm down! I can’t stand up YET!’)

All of this was, of course, lost on Barry.

3. When the driver didn’t open the back door for the sad woman with five bags, Barry should have called to the bus driver, ‘Back door please, driver!’

Obviously the woman was too shy, or too sad, or too new to all this New Zealand bus stuff to call down the aisle to the driver herself. Barry is not shy, and as a good bus-riding citizen, he should have helped her out.

4. Barry should not have pushed the button before the child.

Really, Barry? You thought that was helping?

Okay, maybe Barry was worried the button wouldn’t get pushed in time for the stop. But generally the parent has the situation under control. If the worst comes to the worst, they will push the button in some creative way that enables the kid to still feel like they’ve done it themself.

5. Barry didn’t thank the driver when he disembarked!

This was especially imperative as Barry is in Wellington. (Note he was catching the number 1 to Island Bay.) In Wellington it’s the done thing to call, ‘Thank you!’ or, ‘Thanks, driver!’ or, ‘Cheers!’ as you disembark.

Sure, if you get an unpleasant driver you may withhold your expression of gratitude to make a point. However, we know from paragraph one that the driver was cheery. And don’t hold it against him that he forgot to open the back door for the sad woman with five bags. He may be tired, overworked and underpaid. (And he did apologise once he realised.)

Wellington's buses then... (click for image credit)

Wellington's buses then... (click for image credit)

... and now (click for image credit)

... and now (click for image credit)

Afterword: That Wellington thank-the-driver thing

It’s true. Wellington is one of the few places in the world where thanking your bus driver as you disembark is almost expected, and it has been this way for as long as any of my friends remember (that’s back to the late 1970s).

In Wellington, thanking the driver is not just something that particularly courteous people do. It’s a proud, ubiquitous tradition, although there is some anecdotal evidence that it may be on the wane.

I’m told that thanking the driver is also highly traditional in Dunedin, but less noticeable perhaps, because fewer people use public transport there. Meanwhile in Auckland, the tradition seems to have caught on around the 1990s, and is noticeable in the inner city, but not so much in the surrounding areas.

Internationally, thanking bus drivers is particularly expected in San Francisco. (Hurrah! We Wellingtonians like comparing our city to San Francisco.)

So what’s all this about?

A few of my friends posited that – in Wellington at least – the tradition may have roots in a working-class habit of always thanking those in the service industries.

Kerry Jimson said, ‘Part of thanking someone who is in a service industry for me relates directly to my socialist upbringing. No one is a slave, therefore, even though they are being paid to do their job, they do this of their own free will. So, when someone does something for you, you thank them.‘

Kerry speculated that early Wellington was a hotbed of egalitarianism. For example, ‘There was an egalitarian ideal expressed in state schools, where the kids of criminals and labourers rubbed shoulders with the kids of judges and civil servants, which, I suspect, was particularly strong in Wellington …’

As for Dunedin, he suggested, ‘Ah, it’s those polite Scots …’

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori – Māori Language Week

Māori Language Week runs from Monday 1 July through to Sunday 7 July. The theme of Māori language week this year is ‘Ngā ingoa Māori – Māori names’.

Before noting what new things Manatū Taonga – Ministry for Culture and Heritage is doing this week to celebrate this year’s theme, I’d like to showcase three stories that Te Ara has just released in Māori as well. Traditional Māori religion – ngā karakia a te Māori; Māori prophetic movements – ngā poropiti; and Rātana Church – Te Haahi Rātana.

Two other featured entries this week have also been specially selected for Māori Language Week to fit in with the theme of Māori names. One, Tapa whenua – naming places, talks about the way that many Māori place names originated. Also featured is Matariki – Māori New Year, which has been visited heavily and explains the meaning of Matariki.

We have had other launches based around this year’s theme: on Monday, reflecting peoples’ names, Manatū Taonga launched six new Quick Read eBooks featuring biographies of significant Māori leaders from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB). Each eBook is published bilingually in Māori and English. Also still available for download is an eBook of all the DNZB biographies in Māori, collectively known as Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau.

Our talented designers have also created some computer wallpapers – one for every day of the week. Each wallpaper has a whakataukī or proverb about a particular Māori deity. The first wallpaper, launched on Monday, was about belonging: ‘E hoki ki ō maunga kia purea koe e ngā hau a Tāwhirimātea – Return to your ancestral mountains so that you may be cleansed by the winds of Tāwhirimātea.’

At the end of the week, on Friday, we’ll be launching a list of 1,000 Māori place names and their meanings.

Finally, I must mention the ever-popular Māori Language Week feature on NZHistory. Particularly popular at the moment is the list of 100 Māori words every New Zealander should know.

Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori

Ka tīmata Te Wiki o te Reo Māori i te Rāhina, 1 o Hōngongoi, ā, ka mutu a te Rātapu, te 7 o Hōngongoi. Ko te kaupapa o te wiki o te reo i tēnei tau ko ‘Ngā ingoa Māori’.

Kei te whakanui a Te Ara i ētahi kōrero mō te wiki nei.  E toru ngā kōrero katahi anō ka whakamāoritia:  Ko Te Haahi Rātana, ko Ngā poropiti, ko Ngā karakia a te Māori anō hoki. Ko Tapa whenua tētahi e pā ana ki te pūtake o ētahi ingoa wāhi.  Ko tētahi anō ko Matariki, kua maha ngā manuhiri ki taua whārangi i tēnei tau.

Me tiro anō te kaupapa o te wiki: i te Rāhina kua pahure ake nei ka whakarewangia ngā ī-puka e ono nō Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau. Kei ngā reo e rua ngā pukapuka nei. Waihoki, tērā te ī-puka kei roto ngā haurongo katoa i roto i te reo Māori. Ko Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau.

Ia rā, ia rā kei te whakanuia tētahi whakaahua. Kei tēnā whakaahua, kei tēnā whakaahua tētahi whakataukī e pā ana ki tētahi atua. Ko te whakaahua tuatahi, e pēnei nei, ‘E hoki ki ō maunga kia purea koe e ngā hau a Tāwhirimātea’.

Hei te Paraire, ka whakarewangia te kaupapa 1,000 ingoa wāhi. Ka whakamārama ake i te tikanga o tēnā wāhi, o tēnā wāhi.

Ka whakaaturia i ngā mahi a Te Manatū Taonga i te wiki nei, engari, i te tuatahi me tautoko i tētahi kaupapa o mātou. I ngā wā katoa, kei te tirohia te kaupapa wiki o te reo Māori i runga i NZHistory.