The Eye of the Fish

March 10, 2008

Derek and Jen

Watching TV on Saturday night, I spotted two things that are doing marvellous PR for Architects in New Zealand. Forget about the inept and unregistered on Mitre 10 Dream home – producing the sort of tat we’re all trying to avoid – over on Grand Designs Abroad, the host Kevin McCloud is possibly the best advert for having an architect in NZ, even if it is a British programme – this week set in Spain…

This week Derek and Jen, enthusiastic but interfering South Africans, were their own worst clients, literally chopping and changing the architects’ plans (“we just using them as wallpaper na”) until their housing conception truly looked like a dogs breakfast.

McCloud is right on the money when he whispers to the camera that they should butt out and leave the architecture to the professionals; they had meddled and meddled until they had cocked the whole thing up. It not only looked awful, but featuring stairs you crack your head on, to get up to a mezzanine that you can’t see out of the windows from, and a big plexiglass atrium roof to let the sun into the centre of the house and trap the heat. This in Spain, where thousands of years of careful design have focussed on keeping the sun out, and letting the air through…These guys were totally incompetent, and it is no wonder that their Spanish architect had virtually walked off the job. I was actually willing the Spanish equivalent of the DBH or City Council inspector to come in and close the site down till the correct drawings had been tabled.

What would have been great would have been a few 10 second spots advertising Architects – i.e. get an architect involved to ensure your project is not such a god awful mess like this. But no, there were no adverts, at least not from any architect, although everyone else was certainly in on the act – Bunnings Warehouse, etc.

But there was another advert that had me interested: (serves me right, shouldn’t be staying at home on a Saturday night) the one for Right House. Now this one I thought almost could be an advert for a national institute of architects – “we are more than just advisors, we are a network of hands-on experts who will analyse the plans or ideas you have for your new home then work alongside you to get the best result… We help create homes that are better for people and for our planet.”

The ads are very cute and graphic, lots of animated buildings, blind mice, beavers with wheel barrows, all extolling you to go to I have no idea who they are, or who they are backed by – its not an NZIA initiative, but neither does it appear to be a NZ Gov advert (although I am amazed at the list of things our government does advertise – stop smoking, talk to your family, be friendly to the mentally ill, don’t hit your wife, teach your kids to count to ten, save for retirement, eat less fatty foods, exercise often…).

Right House is remarkably coy about its origins. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds good, and if it can go any way towards improving the appalling state of our modern suburbs, then it’s a great move. It is the sort of thing that the NZIA should be getting involved in, somehow, or at least be seen to be supporting and promoting. But their only “Industry Partners” so far appear to be David Reid homes, and Kensington Properties.

I want to know who Right House really are, and what they are really promoting. I’m guessing EECA, although it doesn’t say so anywhere. The advertising campaign is slick, ads are full colour, no money spared, it is too slick to be a private concern – too much just to be a front for a housing project in Orewa. They advertise that they can sort your home with the use of a Right House Daisy, which takes into account Aspect, Design, Active Systems, and Passive Systems. So, any ideas who they are, what they are really offering, and whether any architects are or should be getting involved?

Seamonkey Madness
11 - 03 - 08

Funnily enough, if you go to the ‘Who we are’ page, you’ll see that:
“Right House is a subsidiary of Meridian Energy. We are a team of engineers, consultants and specialised trade people and installers to bring you a complete comfort and energy solution.”

They have teams of:
– solution center[sic] hosts;
– consultants;
– technical specialists; and
– installers.

13 - 03 - 08

Seamonkey, thanks for that – ‘Who we are’ is hidden under ‘What it is’ and i didn’t look there. But that the site is run by Meridian (government owned electricitry generator – i was close with my guess!) – am i alone in finding that a really odd thing for an electricity company to do?

Offering advice on how to design your home? Isn’t that like going to the plumber for advice on what sort of curtains to install in the living room?

But still, it’s a great thing to have – i presume its instigated by the government, but it is a good, well-intentioned thing to do. My only beef: no architects. Isn’t that what Architects are meant to do? Design houses, offer advice on house design? Aren’t they meant to be the specialists? Is this just another case of them dropping the ball and running in the other direction? At least Meridian have picked the ball up and run with it…

13 - 03 - 08

a link to the Derek and Jen house if you want to find out more…

13 - 03 - 08

The Grand Designs program is excellent. Some of the Uk buildings were great and the clients not all painful. The one with the conversted waterworks was a highlight. But then I love old industrial buildings

15 - 03 - 08

I am slowly getting over my Grand Designs addiction. You can still find at least three shows a week if you are prepared to wade through the Living Channel listings of British shows about how to make a fortune out of property speculation in Transylvania or Humberside. I think the rot set in when I began to accurately predict the arrival of the obligatory “dripping shot” – a close-up of rain drops trickling from some incomplete bit of detailing while everyone stands around acting glum.

What still surprises me is the recurring willingness of the owners and architects involved to go over budget and/or schedule as their solution to all kinds of problems – particularly ones arising from their own stuff-ups. That and the related sterling-to-kiwi conversions. Seems like quite a bit of loose money lying about.

24 - 03 - 08

well done, bro

4 - 01 - 10

a link to the Derek and Jen house if you want to find out more…