We’re back in business. How could we not be – today of all days. There are so many things that we could discuss – a Whale on the loose, a Dolphin run amok, a Basset feeding kittens, horrific tales of woe from the mess that is Haiti, a right royal Willy shaking hands, a Cockatoo with a cock or too, and a Fish on the comeback trail. But most of all, a giant bronze Crayfish cage plonked down on Lambton Quay, with a pinecone stuck inside. Oh, there is too much irony in the world to waste time with platitudes – knives and forks ready – let’s get stuck in.
But hold up already. Up until now we’ve been ambivalent about the Supreme Court – well, yes, some of you may remember that we were somewhat incandescent with rage over the cost blow up (at $80million all up, including $15million cost over-runs, we each paid $20 in tax for this little judicial number), others may recall that the old court building is to sit virtually moribund and unused while the new glossy neighbour gets all the kudos, and still others of you may remember that there seems to be a curious similarity to this kindergarten. The network news tonight though had me fair fuming: yet again, a piece of modern architecture gets the hack down from the smarmy gits on TV without even an single IQ worth of thoughtful comment. Raybon Kan and Petra Bagust, go to the back of the class and sit quietly facing the wall – you’re in disgrace.
No doubt in time the vast architectural publishing press of Aotearoa will get it together and publish a piece by Tommy Honey or Bill McKay, waxing wonderfully over the polish of the patina on the glowing bronze screen. In time we (the public, who paid for this monument to cockups) will get to see inside, in an effort to regain some of the PR badly needed on this giant cage we call the Supreme Court. Even tomorrow morning, I’m guessing, the Dom Post will have tackled the prickly subject of the weirdest building in town, and sent a photographer to document the careful way that the ‘kauri-cone’ motif inside the giant dome carefully overlap each other: along with no doubt more ‘vox-pop’ from the great architectural cogniscenti that is the general public.
There’s time enough for all that to happen of course. The architects, Warren and Mahoney (of course, no longer with an actual Warren or an actual Mahoney on board), are staying schtumm on this – as they always do. It’s a pity really that architects don’t have the courage of their own convictions, declining to comment when they should be standing up for their buildings – in case their buildings can’t stand up for themselves. Comments from the public aired so far include “I don’t like it that much – its a bit flashy”, or the erudite and informed “it looks unfinished – looks like scaffolding”, the curiously confident “like a birdcage”, the frankly unhelpful comment from the Justice Department “there are motifs and little bits of detail all over the building” and the key comment from our great leader “ooh, aaah, mixed reviews – its breathtaking inside – no, i don’t think its too bad outside, i just prefer the inside”.
More thoughtful commentary would go a long way. Way back in March 2009, there was a decent amount of comments from some of our well-read followers – with Honeywood noting that the dome inside was depressingly recessed:
“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.”
Its a good point, Honeywood, but does it really matter? Is there a need for the judicuary to be placed up higher on a pedestal? Personally I would rather they didn’t get above their station: I rank architects as far higher moral beings than lawyers on the whole: and while the law may be an ass, I seldom think that architects are. We may have a wrapping screen of stylized pohutukawa, made from 90 tonnes of recycled bronze radiators, while others used a stylized grass motif of probable plastic for their doppelganger: “Das obere Geschoss erhält eine vorgesetzte Fassade in Form stilisierter Grashalme.” But we suffer a problem more stylistic: our new bronze screen has tiny florets of stained glass pohutukawa blossom, unfortunately in the shape of clubs or shamrocks. When Irish eyes are smiling? Or implying that Justice is just a Lottery? The screen of course is see through, especially straight on: and so the judges private rooms behind require curtains –
but that’s all too naff and nineties, so instead they are the window out from the courtroom is lined with glass that turns opaque at the touch of a button.
The dome downstairs – not a dome at all, I am amazed instead to find that the concept is based on a pine cone – a kauri cone to be exact – never mind that kauri cones are cutely tiny, whereas this cone is monstrously large. I’ll take John Key’s word for it that it isn’t too bad inside yet – I wasn’t on the royal press party. More comments to come as we gain access to the inside…. ….meanwhile, what do you think?