Sir Ian, or Sir Ath? Probably, to anyone who knows him, Ath will still just be Ath. It’s a most remarkable transformation really, from a long-haired, large-bearded, rebellious young student of the 60s, building curiously unorthodox structures all over Wellington hillsides; to a well-respected pillar of the architectural community being recognized for a lifetime’s worth of work all over the country. How he got there is a long story, but the important thing is that at last a strong, central figure of the Wellington architectural scene has been recognized appropriately. Ath joins a small and very elite bunch of architects who have been recognized in this way: Sir Michael Fowler, Sir Miles Warren, and, ummm, I think that’s it. It’s not quite Sir Gordon Moller yet (nor Sir Chris Moller yet), and there was never a knighthood for (Sir) Peter Beavan or (Sir) Bill Toomath either.
Ahfield’s oeuvre has been well chronicled by others, including Gerald Melling, Julia Gatley, and lately Simon Devitt as well. There is a great summary over on the Arts Foundation website. Most of his practice’s work is built here in Wellington, although the new generation at Athfield Architects are forging ahead strongly in Auckland and especially Christchurch as well. Athfield Architects have not, as far as I know, built much out in the other provinces – unlike Ath’s 60’s counterpart Roger Walker, who built in places like
Whangerei Whakatane (with a new airport in the 70s), and is still a keen rival and good friend of Ath even now.
But nothing should take the shine off Athfield today. The investiture will be a wee way off – but should be a blast. Ath always ends up as the centre of attention somehow, whether through his choice of dress (ie loud stripey blazer) or loud public pronouncements, and I’m sure this occasion will be no different.
What is your favourite Ath building – or Ath story ?