Beyond the State: New Zealand State Houses from Modest to Modern
Bill McKay and Andrea Stevens (Simon Devitt photographs)
Penguin Books, $75.00,
In the catalogue of the exhibition, Homebuilding 1814-1954: the New Zealand tradition, held at the Auckland City Art Gallery in 1954, James Garrett deplored the “loss of individuality and difference for the sake of difference” that he saw reflected in the housing programme of the New Zealand Department of Housing Construction. According to Garrett, these houses “ACHIEVED A UNIFORM SUBURBAN STYLE BASED ON MINIMUM STANDARDS AND SOCIAL, NOT PERSONAL, QUALITIES. LACKING INDIVIDUAL OR REGIONAL VARIATIONS, THE OVERALL PATTERN IS MONOTONOUS”. Garrett’s insistent capitals stand alongside an elevation and plan of a standard state house, its foursquare geometry, high-set windows, weatherboard walls and tile roof all instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with New Zealand’s domestic architecture.