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Consecrated ground, Ian Lochhead

Historic Churches: A Guide to Over 60 Early New Zealand Churches
Linda Burgess (Robert Burgess photographer)
Random House, $50.00, ISBN 9781775537335

Worship: A History of New Zealand Church Design
Bill McKay (Jane Ussher photographer)
Godwit, $85.00, ISBN 9781775538363

One of the inexplicable paradoxes of the human condition is the way in which the religious impulse leads, irresistibly, to the creation of beauty, but also, with seemingly equal passion, to its destruction. Throughout history, buildings and works of art have been created to serve religion, only to be destroyed by reforming zealots who see such works as inimical to worship. The iconoclastic purges of the early Christian churches, the destruction of images and the demolition of monastic buildings during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and, in our own day, the dynamiting of monumental Buddha figures by the Taliban in Afghanistan, all testify to these contradictory urges.

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Posted in Architecture, Non-fiction, Review

The rise, fall and rise of the state house, Ian Lochhead

Beyond the State: New Zealand State Houses from Modest to Modern
Bill McKay and Andrea Stevens (Simon Devitt photographs)
Penguin Books, $75.00,
ISBN 9780143570653

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.

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Posted in History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology
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