The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
March 14, 2009

Supreme Omelette

Here at the Fish, we’re doing our best to be as nice as we can be this year, as it’s going to be a tough year for all of you architects out there. So therefore we’ve been avoiding reviewing some buildings altogether as there may just be nothing good to say about them at all. Honest, I’ve been biting my tongue so much that the water round me is turning red. I mean, have you seen the size of that thing next to the Railway Station? Good grief, and its not even finished yet.

7thvoyage

What a monster! And yet, in the spirit of trying very hard not to be dismissive of it, let’s ignore that particular building (for now) and have a look at another little number nearby by the same architect. Yes, it’s the gigantic waste of airspace and money that is the Supreme Court.

egg_plan

The plan has been published at last, and we can see here what a grand extravagant building it is. On the right side is the Heritage courtroom complex, with unused but beautifully restored interiors and exteriors. On the left is a dome of space, with a bench for 3 or 5 judges to sit for probably 5 or 10 days a year, and otherwise to remain as an object of beauty and costly overspending of tax-payers money. Never mind – its the judiciary! The tax-payer will pick up the bill! Onwards! Tally ho!

egg_slice

The section through the building shows the domed ceiling / roof that is the heart of the new Supreme Court.

egg_roc

It has a fantastic looking inner dome-like structure, cunningly depicted here in steel members, and clad in a white egg-shell structure. And that’s the thing: for all the life of me, I can’t stop thinking that the dome / shell is just a giant egg. There was another story of a giant egg too, that I remember from my days as a little fish.

roc_large

Yes, of course, its the naughty nautical tale of Sinbad the Sailor and the tales of the Seven Seas, in particularly where he finds himself at the mercy of a giant Roc (probably a form of Peregrine falcon).

roc

The gigantic Roc (in some stories, a two-headed Roc, which must be even harder to keep fed), takes Sinbad to his nest as a tasty arabian snack (gently seasoned in Sea Salt, no doubt), and in the mean time the Roc’s egg hatches. No doubt causing havoc with lesser cast members, and temptations of a giant omelette to prepare the men for the next leg of their sea voyage.

sinbad_the_sailor_5th_voyage

But all jollility aside, and I’ll try very hard to keep out of my mind the image of a giant feathered bird emerging from the roof in months to come (oh dear, I hope that I haven’t just implanted that thought in your heads, have I? No, of course not – I’m sure that the same thought occurred to you as well), I am actually quite overcome with the sort of birds nest of metallic and rather poetic louvres that have appeared on the upper floor as cladding.

supcourt1

Any resemblance to a giant Roc birdsnest is of course entirely unintended, although also rather apt. While I’m not sure what the material is for the ‘pohutukawa’ silhouette shaped panels (they look like solid bronze, and probably cost like solid gold, but one hopes they are just welded steel or aluminium with a good paint job), the end effect certainly is a startlingly beautiful box of twiggy bits, with even little red flashes of blossom / glass caught in the upper limbs of the ‘trees’.

supcourt4

The effect of a full surround of this pattern will be fascinating both from the inside and the outside, and it will provide a total aesthetic contrast of the fully restored and totally pointless heritage part of the Court complex.

supcourt3

One last picture, that I just thought you might like, of Sinbad himself, in one of the many guises over the years:

poster-sinbad-the-sailor_05

Robyn
14 - 03 - 09

The birds nest outer reminds me of the sort of outer grilles that a lot of buildings in Noumea have (like this hotel. Over there, it’s a form of protection against the inevitable cyclones, but to see it on a building here makes me think the Supreme Courthouse is also protecting itself against some great force of nature.

erents
14 - 03 - 09

Seeing the outer-grills go on the other day, I couldn’t help but feel they were to shiny and bright. Hopefully they darken up a bit over time. And what was with the little red gem-like see through parts on them? Looked kinda tacky IMO.

jayseatee
14 - 03 - 09

I’m glad you posted something about this building as every day I go by it and have been giving it consideration.
I remember the rendering for this building and was interested in how the bris soleil would be implemented. When they put the first section up i was disappointed but told myself to wait for more to be installed before reaching a final decision. This morning going by I concluded that my first hunch was correct. They’re interesting, but feel very flat. I appreciate the difficulty in manufacture, but I would like them better if they had more complexity in the third dimension. It seems like a lot of effort/money/material to accomplish relatively little.

I think the De Young museum in SF is a good example. The entire building is encased in perforated steel. The perforations modulate in size and density. Some parts where the holes are small and spaced far apart feel very 2 dimensional. Where the holes are larger and closer the skin appears more transparent and reveals volume. That”s what I’m missing here is a sense of volume. It feels like a very ornate billboard.

rondo
15 - 03 - 09

Interesting… I’m kind of liking the outer grilles on the building – they’re sufficiently randomised and abstract to create all sorts of patterns and effects, although I’d agree that the end result is going to look very flat. I’m also wondering how well that pattern is going to work on the north facade – won’t they be needing a horizontal louvre there instead of a vertical? Will the sun stream straight in on a hot day?

But its the cladding / glazing behind that looks more tacky to me. Just that it looks such a standard boring glazing system, typical of a standard office building (but with opening windows? the judges are going to do without air conditioning? wow, they’re really slumming it). I just feel that with all the effort going into the glitzy box / nest, that the facade behind shouldn’t be quite so plain and simple. Looking forward to seeing the egg finished!

starkive
15 - 03 - 09

Hey, not so fast too diss the giant new office block opposite the railway station. I personally don’t mind it being made clear that government actually weighs something. It seems quite reasonable to me that a capital city should contain buildings of bulk and (slightly ponderous) substance – our very own Lubyankas. Disperse too many floors of bureaucrats above the shops on Lambton Quay and they might as well all move to Auckland.

I can’t remember how long that corner remained empty and depressing and now that it is being filled up I just feel a bit more… gubernatorial.

Maximus
15 - 03 - 09

Glad to hear you’re feeling gubernatorial – may have to go and look it up – doesn’t it mean something to do with governance or taxes? Is that what you’re saying – that the tax department needs to look like a giant brooding hulk? Hmm, I’m not so sure.

Like I say, I’m trying hard not to diss it, but it seems to me that if you have the contract to design what will end up as one of the city’s biggest and most prominent structures, likely to be there for the next 100 years or so, in about one of the most prominent situations that greets the population as they emerge from the train each morning, and you happen to be tenanted by the Tax department (not exactly the country’s most popular division of government), then you may want to have a more delicate consideration for people’s feelings.

You’re jolly well right about the Lubyanka reference too (note: if you google Lubyanka, as I did just then, avoid clicking on the website of Mistress Lubyanka – disturbing bondage site. Focus on the large yellow building instead). Hmm, former KGB not-so-secret headquarters. Very appropriate, perhaps, for the IRD.

Maximus
15 - 03 - 09

Oh dear, probably shouldn’t have mentioned that. We already have a problem with Russian spammers, filling the Mouth of the Fish with an unhealthy diet of bogus Viagra and inviting us to spend our money in dodgy on-line Casinos. Most are in English (very bad english), while lately many of them are in the Cyrillic script, so who knows what they say. We save you from them (well, Akismet does, anyway). Anyway, we’ll probably just get whipped for our efforts now. Bad Fish, Bad Fish…

Maximus
15 - 03 - 09

Anyway – yes – point I was trying to make was the similarity to Orwellian monoliths. 1984 and all that. Check out this description:

“The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided. The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs. Their names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.

The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one. There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometre of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons.”

OK, well, nothing like that then. But still….

Kaihuia
16 - 03 - 09

My problem with this building is not that it’s too grand, but that it’s not grand enough. It’s a low, flatroofed box. From the drawings I’ve seen, I’m not sure it’s even going to express clearly which side is the front – the screen seems to be the same all the way around. Why build a dome – one of the most beautiful structures in architecture – then hide it in a box? It’s not like Wellington is oversupplied with domes. We could use a few more.

A Supreme Court building should be impressive, imposing – monumental, even. Especially in a country for which it is a symbol of progress towards post-colonial maturity (which seemed to be slow but steady, until last week – thanks, Sir John). So I think it’s important, not extravagant, to spend up on a legal cathedral “for 3 or 5 judges to sit for probably 5 or 10 days a year”. And I’m sorry that it seems it’s going to look like a building that could be, well, anything.

rondo
16 - 03 - 09

Domes, domes: its true, Wellington does not have many of them. Maybe we could do with one more – then again, if we stuck a minaret at each corner, then at least it could get used every Saturday as a mosque…

m-d
16 - 03 - 09

What I can’t understand is why, when there are so many existing car parking buildings around, they had to go and waste a valuable site in order to construct the Supreme Court. Really, they could have wrapped any old car parking structure in domestic aluminium joinery and screened it (thankfully) from view with some twisted scrap metal… Apparently that’s what passes for a Supreme Court these days…

Bring back the architectural competition…

rondo
16 - 03 - 09

You’ll be wanting the Beaux-Arts version with columns and portico for sufficient gravitas then? I reckon WAM did that look to death in the 80s. Didn’t work too well, if i remember…

maximus
16 - 03 - 09

Actually, if i remember right, there’s a building just round the back of this one, that already has a pointy roof and columns or at least pilasters. Just needs a bigger bench, and 2 more seats apparently.

Perhaps they could just install a bench seat like the front of an old holden, and the judges could just bunch up a little…

mobsta
16 - 03 - 09

It is bronze.
Out of a Cambridge foundry.
Apparently a lot of research went into sand casting and other methods of forming these screens and this extrusion method was the most cost-effective.
I think it looks pretty sharp from various angles, so am happy to wait for the completed project to pass judgement.

They are alsodoing a great job on the Heritage Building – I like the monolithic plaster look. It could have been a lot worse with various bits picked out and highlighted, like a “true” heritage building should be…. (pah!)

m-d
16 - 03 - 09

“You’ll be wanting the Beaux-Arts version with columns and portico for sufficient gravitas then?”
…Not quite what I had in mind – although the US version is pretty authoritative – up there with the best of Hitlerian and Stalinist architectural ambitions (I don’t think that invokes ol’ Godwin does it?). Although I have only seen a couple of images, and it isn’t necessarily my cup o’ Earl Grey, the Singaporean’s have recently had a stab at a contemporary Supreme Court (albeit via the ubiquitous Foster + Partners I believe…). It even appears to invoke higher authority in the form of the UFO that landed on the roof of the building…

The Japanese Supreme Court is ‘nice’ if you like those big brutal forms of the 70s – a modern equivalent of the Classical gravitas? Or perhaps Corbusier’s High Court at Chandigarh? My favourite would have to be Brazil’s High Court though – an essay in elegance and transparency as only the hyper-modernists of old could achieve (it seems)…

(I’d provide links to appropriate imagery, but I dare’nt test the moderation… you can just google image search the buildings…)

jayseatee
16 - 03 - 09

M-d-
you have pulled a godwin and historically have your facts messed up. The US Supreme Court (as is all US federal architecture) based on Greek and Roman architecture (some more successfully than others), so unless you’re ready to claim that roman and greek architecture is hitleresque (which would require a bit of time travel not to mention logical leaps), than I’d say your point is patently flawed. Also, the design of the US supreme court (started in 1928) would have predated the work of the other two.

Maximus
16 - 03 - 09

Mobsta, far be it for me to tell you you’re wrong… but i just can’t believe you’re right.
“It is bronze. Out of a Cambridge foundry.” ? ???

No way. I’ve done a few castings, and you can’t cast that like that. And the weld marks stand out. Have a closer look at that last photo. And if you were going to cast something, why would you cast it to look exactly like a welded fabrication? WAM aren’t beginners at this architecture stuff. They’d do something way more interesting if they had the budget for it. Unless, of course, Mobsta is from WAM. But i don’t think you are. More like the Sopranos…

But is it bronze…? Naaah, i can’t believe that either. I’m standing by my pick: mild steel, painted, or aluminium, anodized.

However: the case of the Scottish Parliament should stand as a good example, of why not to cast things in bronze. Cost balloon out to 400million pounds if i remember right… Even the NZ government isn’t that stupid to agree to these in bronze.

Maximus
16 - 03 - 09

and M-D – you’ve gone and got jayseatee all rilled up now. Keep it up – i’m enjoying it. But just to confirm: we have a spam filter in place, which will automatically catch anything with more than one imbedded link in, and send you to purgatory. But we’ll rescue you out of there every night. Honest. As long as you haven’t been really naughty and linked us to a Russian spam site….

Flat White
16 - 03 - 09

The original blurb did mention a ‘cast bronze screen’, however the bars do not look particularly cast (maybe extruded as Mobsta says into bars, then welded). Could still be bronze though – no reason you can’t weld bronze.

60 MPa
16 - 03 - 09

This whole Sinbad line is completely wrong Max – given the current fashion for double-bunking in the Dept of Justice can’t you see the clear purpose in that sectional view?
Take a look through and it’s immediately obvious that National are planning a nuclear power station – perhaps they plan to use the facade of rare metals to decimate the passing bureaucrats by passing some exotic form of hostile radiation through it.
It probably had a developmental codeword like “Rodney”…

Completely off-topic but seeing as you are a fish – is it true this rumour I hear of some country banning acrylic goldfish bowls on the grounds that they are cruel to the fish?
Every time I think of something rather odd, the world goes and trumps it. Sigh.

Maximus
17 - 03 - 09

“Nuclear power station” ? You’ve got something there. Or maybe even an exotic form of Hadron Collider – a Small Square one obviously, rather than a Large one. Who needs Large Hadron Colliders anyway – and in round? Its soooo last year….

….and as regards to the fishbowl question – it could only be the UK, surely. Nowhere else could have such a collection of potty, animal obsessed eccentrics as that country, surely.

But then again, the gold fish probably deserve being treated that way. They ruin the good name of fish everywhere, with their bulgy little eyes, their vapid bubbly mouths opening and closing but never saying anything of importance, their insipid flimsy little fins whispily flapping hither and yon with barely a ripple. Not like the mighty muscled flanks and glistening silver scales of a real Fish.

mobsta
17 - 03 - 09

Sorry Maximus – it is bronze.

I spoke to the Project Manager about it last week.
I may not have been entirely clear in my previous post. They looked at all the casting options and rejected them due to cost.
They then came up with an extrusion process. Each piece is extruded (a little dog-bone section) apparently and (as Flat White says above), welded into screens.

The bronze is from recycled car radiators out of Japan…

jayseatee
17 - 03 - 09

maximus “and M-D – you’ve gone and got jayseatee all rilled up now. Keep it up – i’m enjoying it”

admittedly, not a difficult thing to do. In fact i think it is my default. Now tbe ability to get me to be calm i think is worth noting.

Maximus
18 - 03 - 09

Mobsta, I bow my tiny fish head to your superior source of info. Bronze it apparently is, although at least i was partially right in that it is not wholely cast. Regardless, it should last until well after humans have left this world, sometime in the next 10,000 years. Methinks the architects and the NZ Judiciary are overly hopeful that the building will be there for that long.

Maximus
18 - 03 - 09

and then i’ve just spotted this story in todays DomPost, where they have at last noticed the building as well – or perhaps they’ve noticed the discussion on this blog. http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/wellington/2271117/Facades-go-up-on-new-courthouse

“Wellington’s new Supreme Court building is beginning to show its final form, with decorative facades erected this week at the Lambton Quay site. The recycled bronze and aluminium screens, which will surround the top of the building, are made from 88 panels, each eight metres high, and weighing a total of more than 90 tonnes. Overspending caused by unexpected costs in restoring the old High Court building has caused the budget for the project to soar from an estimated $65million to $81 million in December. The new two-storey building will connect with the old High Court building, which is being refurbished at the same time.
The new court is expected to be finished early next year.”

m-d
18 - 03 - 09

oh dear jayseatee – all that ire just from misreading my post…

“up there with the best of Hitlerian and Stalinist architectural ambitions” was really meant to refer to, well, as it says, ambitions… that would be to recall the power and pride of past empires to impress the power and pride upon the people of the 20th century empires (or empire hopefuls)… recalling Greek and Roman architectural models has been a pretty common device of nationalist architectural propaganda of emerging nations or regimes – heck, look at our own parliament…

Note also I said “architectural ambitions”, which might exonerate me from Godwin’s in that I was referring to, well, as it says, architectural ambitions… not any particular emphasis on this or that genocide, although it could be argued that the US has indulged in mass slaughter of innocent people, if not actual genocide, but that is not an argument to be made by me, nor here in this forum…

Lastly, I can’t see in my comment where I refer to the architecture of the Third Reich or of Stalinist Russia as being precedents for the Supreme Court – I was simply referring to the commonality of their, well, as it says, architectural ambitions…

Never let you passion get in the way of reading comprehension…
That’s all.

m-d
18 - 03 - 09

pd – that’s about as riled up as I get…

jayseatee
18 - 03 - 09

M-d
I comprehended your post quite well, and I know exactly what you are saying, however you concept is still flawed. If you are to argue that their (american, hitler, and stalin) architectural ambitions were the same in that they tried to imbue themselves with a sense of reference to historical precedents, than you are arguing that all architecture of any meaning is simply cynical manipulation and therefore hitleresque.

It is disingenuous to lump American federal architecture in with the totalitarian agendas of hitler and stalin, just because they used architecture to invoke meaning. That is where the Godwinism occurrs. We could just have easily chosen the power of god evoked by St. Peters (and it you want to talk about axis of evil, there’s a group with a history that far outweighs the wrong doings of americans). or for that matter any cathedral or religious building …any parliamentary building in the world… any public building in the world… Palladio’s villas, all of Venice, all of it is just chicanery to gain influence.

m-d
18 - 03 - 09

Oh dear – you still insist on misreading my commentary, and then attacking the false interpretation of it – isn’t that what is known in the ‘trade’ as a straw-man argument?

Let’s see – where to begin… Where I said “to recall the power and pride of past empires to impress the power and pride upon the people of the 20th century empires (or empire hopefuls)”, I guess what I really meant was: to recall the power and pride of past empires to impress the power and pride upon the people of the 20th century empires (or empire hopefuls)… (funny that)… Thus I am using specific intentions (to impress power) drawing from specific sources (I refer to Greek and Roman precedents in the following sentence), to show specific commonalities. Nowhere have I suggested that this is a reductive principle for all types of historicsm or attempts to otherwise communicate meaning via architecture (nor do I believe that) – that is your own invention that you are attacking.

Regarding the Godwinism, from Wikipedia: “Godwin’s Law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one’s opponent) with Hitler or Nazis or their actions. It does not apply to discussions directly addressing genocide, propaganda, or other mainstays of the Nazi regime”.
I believe that my comparison is thus legal under Godwin’s Law, and especially so in that I have not laden the architectural intentions of the US, Third Reich, or Soviet NeoClassicism with value judgement one way or the other (apart from saying that the architecture isn’t really to my taste). I have no desire to, and see no value in beating up on the US because they are a powerful nation, and don’t believe my comparison does so. Similarly, I am not beating up on NZ for having a Classicist Parliament Building.

You are assuming that any comparison to the Nazi’s is arbitrary and negative, and then attacking my argument on that assumption. Thus, while I might have initially raised Godwin’s attention, it is you that have succumbed to the very trivializing that Godwin’s Law set out to reduce. In fact, your reference to Christianity as being aligned to the axis of evil is just as inappropriate, inordinate, and hyperbolic as any Nazi comparison…

Christian architecture – well yes, there is propagandizing inherent to that – even in Gothic architecture which did not utilize classical architectural vocabulary, nor other historicized forms (which really places it outside the specifics of this discussion). St Peter’s – well, the link between the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church is an important one (obviously) – and they didn’t just use Classical architecture because it looked pretty and it happened to be in vogue. However, just as is the case with the US, just because various religious organizations have sought to communicate the power of God through their architecture, does not place them on any the axis of evil…

I’m not so sure that Palladio’s villas are as political as state architecture is by its very nature – aspects of Venice perhaps, but we are getting more and more distant (read irrelevant) from the point being made in my initial comment… Similarly, you won’t see me arguing that postmodern classicism is more imperial propaganda (although Prince Charles involvement in some aspects of the pomo classicism debate does strain that a little) – although you might just as well charge me for that as well, and then proceed to rip into me for it…

You are very entertaining btw

jayseatee
18 - 03 - 09

m-d
you are playing games. Come now you write:
““up there with the best of Hitlerian and Stalinist architectural ambitions”
and you coyly follow that you were merely referring to
“that would be to recall the power and pride of past empires to impress the power and pride upon the people of the 20th century empires (or empire hopefuls)… recalling Greek and Roman architectural models has been a pretty common device of nationalist architectural propaganda of emerging nations or regimes – heck, look at our own parliament…”

This second statement is all to cover up for the fact that you clearly never intended the recollection of Greek and Roman architectural models, or you would have stated such to begin with. Instead you immediately created a linguistic arrangement where american , hitler’s and stalin’s architecture all falls conveniently together. This is the standard m.o. of propagandists such as FOX news. Create associations which are false, and in so doing create mental connections which are incorrect.

The point is that instead of saying “…Not quite what I had in mind – although the US version is pretty authoritative – up there with the best of Hitlerian and Stalinist architectural ambitions” (which anyone who has any understanding about the 20th century , reads Hiterlian and Stalinist ambitions as being fundamentally diabolical, and then you link the US in there. If you were sincere in you allusion to heroic references to the past you could have easily said “Not quite what I had in mind – although the US version is pretty authoritative – clearly trying to borrow moral validity from Greek and Roman predecessors” or some such.

Yes my arguments trivialised Godwin’s because it was clear that we had already eclipsed it, the starting ground was your comparison of the physical manifestations of despotic “ambitions”.

and as for this:
“You are assuming that any comparison to the Nazi’s is arbitrary and negative, and then attacking my argument on that assumption. ”
you’ll have to forgive me that my inferior american education did not address the positive and uplfiting contributions of the Nazi’s nor the appropriate and apparently logical times to herald praise upon them.

m-d
18 - 03 - 09

…and some excerpts from Spiro Kostof’s “A History of Architecture” – a fairly respectable architectural history survey text – in order to show that the ideas that I introduced here are neither original, nor remarkable…

“No one cared more about national architecture than Thomas Jefferson; no one did more to direct and promote it… Jefferson subscribed to the passionate belief current among these men that architecture signified, that it was an expressive language fit for lofty sentiment. The built domain could affect social behavior, could carry a sense of ourselves, what we aspired to be, and should therefore be able to uplift our spirits…” p623
And in relation to Classical sources:
“Jefferson had republican Rome on his mind – that solid virtus that excelled in the art of government… The leaders of the War of Independence drew their values from Horatii and Gracchi, from Cato and Cincinnatus… The Senate on the Potomac was the auspicious reincarnation of the Roman senate. Goose Creek was renamed the “Tiber”. p624
And in relation to Classical sources and propaganda:
“In Jefferson’s view of things, the first order of business in creating a national taste that would carry the message of this historical destiny was to produce Roman paradigms in America…” p624

Now of course this all occurred over a century before the Cass Gilbert’s (who is very famous for his contribution to the design of skyscrapers rather than Neoclassical edifices) design for the Supreme Court building, but that building needed to fit in with the Federal Architecture and Neoclassicism in the US that Jefferson is regarded as being the founder of, in both its nationalistic context, and the physical context of Washington DC. That the building is often referred to as the “Temple of Justice” is no surprise then, given this background… It should also be mentioned that there was a brief revival of the Federal Architecture in the years immediately preceding the design of the Supreme Court, following an influential exhibition…

Now, if I were really being disingenuous, I would refer obliquely to the fact that Cass had to petition Benito Mussolini himself in order to secure marble of appropriate quality for the interior columns at the Supreme Court…

jayseatee
18 - 03 - 09

I’m sorry, I’m missing something. Where does Kostof refer to TJ’s remarkable adherence to nazi architectural standards?

m-d
18 - 03 - 09

I don’t think there is much value in continuing this when your argument relies on little more than telling me what I was thinking and intending (especially when it is so far from the truth) – there is no real counter to that type of rhetoric… (e.g. the starting ground was your comparison of the physical manifestations of despotic “ambitions”.)

But I will say, in defense of my sincerity, that when I made the initial allusion, it was a brief comment meant to illustrate the strength of the effect – not of its standards, sources, its moral implications, or anything else. That you have taken offense says more about your own sensibilities rather than my actual intention, no matter how you construe it.

And of course I can forgive you for not realizing that the Nazi architecture was indeed meant to be uplifting to the Aryan nation, insofar as it expressed the strength and imperial ambitions of the new world order… although, it does seem rather kind of obvious…

m-d
18 - 03 - 09

ps – if I really meant to compare US as a despotic regime, why the heck would I backtrack and try to cover-up?

maximus
18 - 03 - 09

No no, don’t stop now. This is really getting interesting !

maximus
18 - 03 - 09

PS – There’s nothing wrong with Fascist architecture. Milan Railway station is superb. It’s just the tendencies behind the Fascists concerned that are abhorent to me.

DeepRed
18 - 03 - 09

If the Supreme Court wants to make a real statement, then the dome should be twice or three times as tall. Then it would resemble a more organic form of the US Capitol.

jayseatee
18 - 03 - 09

open question-
if you take DeepRed’s suggestion that the Supreme Court should make a statement – what statement should it be? Other than large and bulbous as noted several times upthread?

Maximus
19 - 03 - 09

Oh, this link i’ve just found is too good to pass up in the context. Those of delicate persuasion (Greenwelly, Concerned, Gruffalo, etc) : look away now.

There is a seemingly american website called http://greyfalcon.us/Fascist%20architecture%20in%20Germany.htm which I think is serious, although I’m not a 100% sure. Some quotes:
“Nazi architecture is an often dismissed and derided aspect of Nazi plans to create a cultural and spiritual rebirth in Germany.
Hitler, founder of the Third Reich, admirer of imperial Rome, yet aware that the ancient Germans were never Romanized and were traditionally regarded by the Romans as enemies of the Pax Romana, developed architecture in the neo-classic style and erected edifices as cult sites for the Nazi party a type of Victory Altar borrowed from the alleged racial ancestors of the Germans – the Greeks. His dilemma was that because of his admiration for the Classical cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, he could not isolate and politicize German antiquity, as Mussolini had done with respect to Roman antiquity. Therefore he had to import political symbols into Germany and justify their presence on the grounds of a spurious racial ancestry, the myth that Greeks and the Romans were the ancestors of the Germans.” ……
…and….
….”Most Nazi Architecture was neither novel in style nor concept; it was not supposed to be. Even a cursory inspection of what was intended for Berlin finds analogues all over the world. Long boulevards with important buildings along them can be found in the grid pattern road structures of Washington and New York, the Mall and Whitehall in London, and the boulevards of Paris. Large domes can be found on the buildings of the Mughal Empire of India, the Capitol in Washington, the Pantheon and Basilica di San Pietro in Rome. Even the ‘Kraft durch Freude’ “Strength through Joy” resort at Prora is not wholly unlike the buildings envisaged by Le Corbusier in his ‘City of Three Million Inhabitants’. The building of a formal governmental zone outside the center of an old city or totally on its own had become commonplace by the 1930s. This is not to say their plans were simply an attempt to copy others, but that they were following a pattern already established in human society. The forms used may have been inspired by other city redevelopment plans like Lutyens Delhi, Burnham’s Chicago or even Burley Griffin’s Canberra, but they were not an attempt to copy them. The Nazis sought not to rebuild, but to build.”

m-d
19 - 03 - 09

Maximus – I don’t think jayseatee has denied the facts as they exist, just the literal juxtaposition of the various regimes, whether accurate in the context or not. There is no argument against that kind of sentimentality in this case… despite it smacking of a revisionist historical approach. However, I will concede that my use of the word ‘authority’ could easily have been misread/misconstrued to have meant ‘authoritarian’ – which would have been an appropriate point to begin the discussion, rather than attack my intentions (which should only be done by someone who knows me and that fact that I am an architectural historian who is actually undertaking research that seeks to align NZ’s architectural culture much closer to that of the US than is currently considered to be the case. In fact, of my colleagues (US colleagues included), I am probably one of the most sympathetic to the US – well, at least I put recent events down to stupidity rather than willful ‘diabolicism’…)

But enough of that.

jayseatee also makes a very salient point in his/her most recent comment – one at the root of our own Supreme Court problem. What we have is a result of the fact that no one really agrees on what a supreme court in contemporary NZ should state. Should it be power and authority? Should it be a friendly/benign transparency? Should it represent the highest achievement of local architectural development? Should it simply fit into its context without too much ado? Should it have bars over the windows to indicate the probable destination of its defendants? (Oh wait… it has…). If the current building lacks an emphatic message, that might well be an indictment on either its client, perhaps the NZ architectural profession, or even the state of culture in NZ more generally, rather than the architects in charge of the project…

Thus I concur with jayseatee – before we get too carried away with aesthetics, we need to deal with the fundamental issue that lies behind it…

jayseatee
19 - 03 - 09

Indeed M-D my argument was fully in the comparison, and I don’t see how it smacks of historical revisionism. The equivalency in the comparison is like th following:
“Maximus’ humour and personality is unparalleled, up there with the personable ambitions of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacey. And I mean that it the most sincere and positive way.”

Both John Wayne Gacey and Ted Bundy are noted for their ability to entertain and enchant, and I need not reinforce Maximus’ attributes, but to group them together because they shared a common sensibility, that is not rare in occurance, is godwin territory.

While we are on the topic of grandious visions by despotic regimes, someone just this morning (unaware of this current thread of conversation) sent me this link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzBfRKqz3a0

maximus
19 - 03 - 09

Not being that familiar with American tv sitcoms, i assumed that Ted Bundy was that laconic and slightly irrascible fellow off Married with Children, all of which lead me to believe that Jayseatee was indeed paying me a compliment.

Apparently not.

Apparently both Gacey and Bundy were serial killers, not serial daytime TV stars. While some may say that the crime is arguably equal, I can’t agree.

However, from http://www.time.com/time/2007/crimes/13.html : “John Wayne Gacy was also an upstanding citizen: he helped out the neighbors, he was the chaplain of the Jaycees, he dressed up as roly-poly Pogo the Clown to entertain children. But when police came asking questions in December 1978, Gacy started confessing. And so the cops looked in the house’s 40-ft. crawl space, beneath the garage and under the house. They found the bodies and remains of 28 young men and boys; Gacy said there were four others that he had thrown into the river. …..”

rondo
19 - 03 - 09

Ha ! You’re thinking of AL Bundy, see here: http://www.albundy.net/al_bio.php

jayseatee
19 - 03 - 09

Sorry Maximus- indeed i used you as the fall person for my insidious example.

Sufjan Stevens actually did a very stirring song about John Wayne Gacy on his album Illinois.
Here is a video with the song (the video I don’t believe is the “official” video rather something someone else did)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otx49Ko3fxw

jayseatee
19 - 03 - 09

Also, related to this thread Sufjan Stevens (I’m obviously a big fan) did a song about the Columbian Exposition, which was instrumental in the City Beautiful movement, and much of the the work to Washington DC that would follow.
again another non official video (with terrible audio)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poXdW6g5WK0&feature=related

m-d
19 - 03 - 09

Oh come on, this is getting ludicrous – now you are agreeing with my point, but denying that it can be made. What you are basically saying is that the VW Beetle (the original one) cannot be compared with the products of, say, Henry Ford – in terms of the ambition to produce a car for the masses – on the grounds that the Beetle emerged from fascist Germany, and thus the comparison would be a slight on the reputation of Ford. Or that the US space program cannot be compared with Soviet or Chinese space ambitions because they are evil and the US is not. You live in a very blinkered (and probably quite comfortable for that) world, but one in which fair and reasonable argument has no place. I meant revisionism in the sense that you do not allow for robust discussion of history because it offends certain nationalist sensibilities. I stand by that.

And – are you seriously asking us to consider Gacy and Bundy as two of the most well-known humourists. You draw a long bow (and somewhat miss the target methinks)…

I chose the my examples, – not to infer despotism, but because they are two most well-known/popular examples of Classical-revival-as-propaganda that I could think of to support my point (hence why I didn’t use Korea (which didn’t know about), Fascist Italy, or even the French Empire Style (which is perhaps more relevant considering US Federal Style was heavily influenced by it)…

m-d
19 - 03 - 09

I can’t even begin to share your taste in music, but the visuals makes me very much look forward to my US trip later this year, which will take in Chicago, among other cities… I just hope that the US authorities don’t get wind of my heretical activities here on the Fish… (and I feel that I have to spell this out before you get all patriotically offended again, that is not a dig at US authoritarianism, just at you…)

jayseatee
19 - 03 - 09

“French Empire Style (which is perhaps more relevant considering US Federal Style was heavily influenced by it)”

This is my point exactly. You didn’t choose examples that were relevant, you chose examples that were exaggerated.

And what is more revisionist than saying “Well, excepting the fact that the architecture was a tool to facilitate the murder of 20 million people, then the US, hitler and stalin, all had the same goal?”
and don’t start on me about how many people the US has killed. We have performed our own genocide, but the architecture that romanticises our genocide is one of the wild west and frontier forts, not Greek Revival style.

jayseatee
19 - 03 - 09

This is too funny:
“before you get all patriotically offended again,”
Considering I left the US for being called a traitor and not being patriotic due to my politics and general identity, I find that highly amusing.

If calling out hyperbolic statements and pointing out the inaccuracy of a claim is grounds for screaming jingoism than the state of public opinion in NZ is as bad as the US.

m-d
19 - 03 - 09

Not exaggerated – but known (and it is not by exaggeration that they are known, but because our education favours recent (20th century) history over our more distant pasts). If I had made the comparison to French Empire Style, I am not sure that anyone would have ‘got’ it (I am happy to stand corrected on that however), making it somewhat pointless as a supporting device for the point I was endeavouring (but obviously failing) to make.

“And what is more revisionist than saying “Well, excepting the fact that the architecture was a tool to facilitate the murder of 20 million people, then the US, hitler and stalin, all had the same goal?””

Well, that’s not quite what I said, but yes (assuming you mean architectural goal) – so exactly what history is actually being revised in that statement?

m-d
19 - 03 - 09

And, you are yet to point out any inaccuracies… That’s what I have been waiting for all this time…

guy
19 - 03 - 09

Perhaps someone could do a post on the pros and cons of French Empire vs US Empire vs Stalinist Architecture? Maximus? You there? Or, failing that, maybe the Architecture Centre could work on a post on their site? I must admit i’m not an expert on French Empire style… They’re currently having a small spat about Modernism and generally dissing Corbusier…

jayseatee
19 - 03 - 09

I don’t know how much clearer to make it.
In the cases of Hitler and Stalin the architecture was the tool to captivate and manipulate the populace to enable the imprisonment and murder of tens of millions of people. You cannot separate the tool from why it was created. The guillotine cannot be honestly wiped clean of its use, and evaluated as a an efficient piece of mechanics. That is intellectually dishonest. We know why it was designed and we know what it was used for.

The architectural ambitions of American federal architecture are a tool as well. However, the architecture first of all was not developed under one person and in a short time span to enhance the political power of one person, but it has evolved through multiple leaders over 200 years, and the voice of many designers. Not to mention the fact that the capital city was envisioned by a French man. And while american federal architecture is a tool, its means was to enhance and enshrine the american constitution in line with Greek democracy, Roman republic and renaissance enlightenment, not to enhance the power to abuse the citizenry. Historically, the worst abuses in American History occur not while embracing a history of enlightenment that lead to the constitution, but to anti-intellectualism which heralded the “accomplishments” of the common folk. Andrew Jackson is a perfect example. 50 years following the formation of the republic he wrapped himself up in frontier imagery, usurped the power of the supreme court, and demanded the forced removal of the Cherokee from their land. None of this was done with the power of reference to architectural grandeur, it was by reference to his frontier upbringing and military accomplishments in the war of 1812. The imagery and propaganda that would accompany the next international wars would again not wrap itself in some historical notion of ties to ancient greece or rome, but would hoist up the “frontiersman” – Davy Crockett and the alamo, the continuation of westward expansion and the “indian wars.” None of this was done under the concepts which federal architecture attempted to imbue, but was done under the imagery of the uneducated, hardy cowboy.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Teddy Roosevelt. Ronald Reagan. GWB.
The periods where public architecture, particularly federal architecture blossomed, were periods of intellectual curiosity and progressive social policies. A huge amount of Federal work came through the WPA and CCC in the Depression Era – a period that brought in women’s suffrage, social welfare.

If you want to find an american architectural imagery which is used to incite the public and allow egregious offences and the consolidation of power into one individuals hands, which you can compare to the scale and efficacy of hitler or stalin, than it is in the imagery of westward expansion and the individualistic cowboy. The provocative power of Federal architecture is inert in a comparison with those other two references.

m-d
19 - 03 - 09

I guess we just disagree on one point the: “The guillotine cannot be honestly wiped clean of its use, and evaluated as a an efficient piece of mechanics” – this is where we differ, irreconcilably…

And even if the provocatice power of Federal architecture was not a tool for massacre (and I am sure some would take issue with that – which renders your above position pretty meaningless in its relativity), it was never ‘inert’.

maximus
19 - 03 - 09

“….gone and got jayseatee all rilled up now. ….. admittedly, not a difficult thing to do. In fact i think it is my default. Now tbe ability to get me to be calm i think is worth noting…..”

I’d be keen to see if we can figure out how to get you back to a state of serene calm, given that the conversation has moved off giant egg-like domes and onto cowboys, the wild west, and guillotines….., I’m just worried where this may end up.

Especially as my attempts at humour have been equated with 2 of the most horrible mass murderers in history (Time’s list of the Top 25 Crimes of the Century has The Great Train Robbery and Patty Hearst in there – why couldn’t you compare me to them, instead of that ghastly idiot drawing clowns? I hate clowns! ).

Certainly livens up a dreary week.

maximus
19 - 03 - 09

I’m just the tensiest bit disappointed that the architects from WAM (presumably Roy Wilson) haven’t contributed to this discussion (so far), and are still just watching from the side line.

M-D and Jayseatee have raised some really interesting points, that, Wild West aside, have not really been answered. Such as:
What we have is a result of the fact that no one really agrees on what a supreme court in contemporary NZ should state.
Should it be power and authority?
Should it be a friendly/benign transparency?
Should it represent the highest achievement of local architectural development?
Should it simply fit into its context without too much ado?
Should it have bars over the windows to indicate the probable destination of its defendants?

jayseatee
19 - 03 - 09

sorry maximus-
you were collateral damage. I’m sure your questionable activities wouldn’t put you anywhere near the top 25 crimes of the century.

Here is a question that I hope someone can answer for me. In the US our system is set up with three distinct and equal branches. (although some of our more recent presidents have challenged this whole notion of checks and balances). What is the role and relationship of the supreme court to parliament? How are the supreme court judges appointed?

Also, in the US the executive branch oversees all of the Departments. There are 15 Departments, which make up the presidents cabinet, these Departments then oversee hundreds of agencies, commissions, services etc. I have tried to find information about this, but is there a hierarchy to the ministries and departments? And why are some Ministries and others Departments?

Judge Dredd
20 - 03 - 09

You asked about Ministries, and Departments. – Both Departments and Ministries are branches of Government, but Ministries report to a Minister, who sits in Parliament. Thus Ministries have more political influence and control – and controlability, than a Department.

You asked about Judges, and Political Appointments.
The Supreme Court replaced the Privy Council – which formerly was the highest court in the land – under the Supreme Court Act 2003.
The Supreme Court comprises—
(a) the Chief Justice; and
(b) not fewer than 4 nor more than 5 other Judges, appointed by the Governor-General as Judges of the Supreme Court.
The current Chief Justice, Sian Elias, was an appointment by the Governor General, who is a puppet figure under the control of the Government. There are 4 other Judges on the Supreme Court: Peter Blanchard, Andrew Tipping, John McGrath, and Bill Wilson.

“The court can sit only as a bench of five to hear substantive appeals. It is able to appoint retired judges of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal (under the age of 75) where it is not possible to convene a court of five permanent members.
The judges of the Supreme Court continue to be judges of the High Court, which maintains the formal integration of the higher courts judicature. The Supreme Court Act does not expressly prevent the Supreme Court’s judges sitting in the High Court. However, it is not appropriate, except in exceptional circumstances, for judges of the Supreme Court to sit in the lower court on a case which could end up before the Supreme Court.”

Honeywood
20 - 03 - 09

I am intrigued by the dome, its burial in the podium, its cross-section and what all this says about our attitude to egalitarianism, justice and national identity. The dome is doubtless a grand volume but its submersion in the building is perhaps the most significant gesture of architectural and cultural denial I have seen in our national architecture, anywhere (although it is rivaled by Noel Lane’s inaccessible egg out the back of the Auckland Museum). Why, when he have the second most important civic building in the country do we diminish it so? Is this the ultimate in tall poppy fear? What would we risk by raising the dome, elevating it to a height appropriate to its function? Externally, the Supreme Court is proportionately the perfect podium in need of completion. WAM have positioned the dome post-earthquake. Where is the architectural courage when most we need it? We finally wrest supreme legal power from mother’s apron strings and then we ameliorate and reduce it in pursuit of egalitarianism. Why are we obsessed with all things being equal? The law is the one thing that is above us. Why does this piece of architecture not recognize and acknowledge this? The most disturbing part of the cross-section is where the judges sit – at the same level as the petitioners. What were they thinking? Should we not look up to the learned and receive wisdom from upon high? A prime architectural opportunity wasted.

jayseatee
20 - 03 - 09

in re: Honeywood
This was basically the origin of my question regarding the nature of the court. It’s interesting that in the US despite the judicial system being set up as a third branch independent of the other two, that the Supreme Court chambers were in the basement of the Capitol for 135 years. It wasn’t until the design and construction of the current building from 1928-1935 that the court had its own building that recognised the prominence of it’s role in governing.

Based on Judge Dredd’s comment (and 1 comment I appreciate does not create a consensus) but it seems one could ask whether the court even deserves it’s own building. If the court is subservient to the Governor General and/or parliament, is it not a falsehood to create the sense that it is the country’s second most important building? Perhaps a bubble submerged and hidden from public view is the correct metaphor?

m-d
20 - 03 - 09

To clarify the Dredd judgment above:
Our system is based on the principle that power is distributed across three branches of government — Parliament, the Executive, and the Judiciary. Parliament makes the law. The Executive (Ministers of the Crown also known as the Government) administers the law. The Judiciary interprets the law through the courts.
In practice, however, without the checks and balances inherent to the US system (e.g. I don’t believe that our judiciary can reject legislation drafted by the legislature (Parliament) as being unconstitutional for example?), our system is much more hierarchical than that of the US, with, arguably, the Executive really in control of everything.
All of which your line of enquiry even more difficult to answer – in that, should we consider the Supreme Court building as the final component in a triadic relationship with Parliament House and the Executive Wing (The Beehive) – and if so, is its current location appropriate?, or should it demure according to its role of interpreter of legislation handed down to it from the Government of the day?

m-d
20 - 03 - 09

…should it demure according to its role of interpreter of legislation handed down to it from the Government of the day?…
In which case, its location down the hill from the parliamentary precinct, and the architectural downplaying of the symbolic role of the court does indeed seem appropriate…

Maximus
22 - 03 - 09

Comment by Rosemary McLeod, from today’s Sunday Star-Times: “The new Supreme Court building rises in Wellington, and as its decorative facades were being put in place last week, my thoughts were grumpy. It’s not the arty cast-bronze renditions of native trees that bug me – though they well might, as twiddly finishes to a boring structure – but the thought of how justice fares here compared with elsewhere in the world. Take the case of Josef Fritzl in Austria……”

Maximus
22 - 07 - 09

And gradually other people wake up to the appalling cost of this ediface: Richard Long notes in the DomPost today that:
“Time to contain court’s cost ”
“OPINION: Frankly, there is a case for Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias to be banged up in the slammer herself, along with some of her colleagues. Not for challenging the size of the jail population and suggesting a prisoner amnesty, but for presiding over the outrageous waste of public expenditure involved in the new $80 million Supreme Court building in Wellington.

“Restoration of the old High Court building, to house a Supreme Court of only five judges, was initially to cost $20 million. That was exorbitant enough. But now the cost has gone from $4 million a judge to $16 million a head. The judiciary and the last government decided that the renovated old High Court would not be grand enough and that they could not fit the five judges, with their court and chambers, into the old category one-listed historic building. So taxpayers were then landed with funding a new structure for the Supreme Court while still restoring the old High Court building.

“A bit of double-bunking in one of those flash new container prison cells sounds like just the thing to bring the judiciary down to earth. If anyone had the slightest inkling of this runaway cost of a Supreme Court, who would have voted for cutting our links with the Privy Council?”