Seeing as media mogul Tommy Honey just mentioned this on the Radio New Zealand: National (Nine to Noon with Kathryn Ryan), and in case you’re searching for the discussion he mentioned by Chris Moller: we’ve reproduced Moller’s comment here. Also, if you want to catch up with what Tommy’s going to be talking about next fortnight, here’s a link to the subject we’ve discussed before: the over-used word “Iconic”

Chris Moller is an architect, an urban designer, an industrial designer, and quite probably a raconteur, and a flaneur. He’s been popping up in discussions around town for the last few weeks, and popped up into our discussion yesterday. One of the sharpest minds around, he has evidently lived in Europe for a while, and brings a European eye to our antipodian situation.

But for now, here’s Chris Moller’s comment in full, unedited.

“WOW, wonderful writing, I’m in hysterics reading all of this….. it certainly makes entertaining reading. The sad looser is the quality of architecture and design. And the deep lack of understanding or experience as to what it really takes to create the conditions to allow brave, original, lonely ideas to emerge.
Having won a series of major international competitions and also having been an international jury member it is interesting to reflect on New Zealand’s current dilemma.
There is certainly a lack of serious commitment and respect for the work designers, architects and engineers and the enormous amount of passion, ideas and investment made by them in such a competition process.
Being asked to do such work in three weeks is simply absurd, while the brief itself leaves much to be desired.
For clarity for a project of this size it normally takes about a month to distill really good original ideas especially amongst a good multi-disciplinary team, before then really testing them out and developing them up into a well thought through and resolved design which often takes another month. But then there is the very different task of how best to present the design, and the production of the drawings, models, perspectives and text takes another good two to three weeks at least. In Utzon’s case it took him about six months to really distill his underlying idea – which is even now extremely radical and brilliantly appropriate to its site. But of course Auckland didn’t have time for that – or did it? An enormous amount of time and effort was spent discussing and debating how the competition should be set up, and of course it took about six months to do all of that….. interesting !

But I have only commented on the production process of an architect or designer, which assumes that the brief is clear well set up, fair, anonymous and transparent – including a clear statement of the judging criteria and the identity of the judges (neither were mentioned in the QW competition). Next, it is critical that a really good jury is chosen with the appropriate experience and knowledge, and that their decision is final – this must be taken very seriously – and can not be left to politicians. Auckland did not have a jury, their status was only as advisers who only reported to the heads of the various organisations involved who in turn then referred on to the politicians – this quite frankly is a complete sham. A professional Jury needs to be taken seriously !

Both competitions were not at all well organised or run, both mixed together a call for ideas from the public (in itself very good to do separately) only to confuse it with the very different task of choosing well resolved design proposals by designers.

Both cities should reflect deeply on the lessons that we need to learn from these two competitions, and think more deeply about what it really takes to produce outstanding work, on really important public sites.
It is clear that neither have unlocked the necessary conditions for a process in which something special, something original and truely uplifting could emerge.

I was very fortunate to find this kind of environment that allowed the realisation of my own work in the Netherlands – the winning result of a major international europan competition in 1993 which was finally completed in 2003. The example that the Europan organisation together with the commitment of the municipality has set is quite extraordinary – and a good one to learn from. However there are many other good examples too, essentially it is all about how to create a nurturing environment that is committed deeply first and foremost in a wonderful, special and unique idea, which is then defended and supported through to its realisation. It is this kind of total commitment that has enabled the realisation of great works of architecture in the past such as the work of Antonio Gaudi, or Louis Kahn, or Alva Aalto, or Jorn Utzon’s brilliant Sydney Opera House, or Renzo Piano & Richard Rogers Pompidou Center in Paris, or Norman Fosters Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, or Foreign Office Architects Yokohama Terminal in Japan.

In fact we have a much better and more accessible example which is much closer to home. As any parent knows their own kid needs to be supported and nurtured in order to flourish, in order to grow, and in order to have a chance in the world. Really good architecture is just like this – its not a quick fix, or something that is whipped up in a couple of weeks – as the ongoing work on the Sagrada Familiar church in Barcelona shows – the brilliant genius of both Barcelona’s Antonio Gaudi, and New Zealand’s Mark Bury have combined into a work of deep significance and originality.

This quality that I am talking about which every parent invests in their own children is what it takes to open the possibility for this fragile miracle to emerge, to grow and to flourish – It is what Kevin Roberts of Saatchi and Saatchi refers to as ‘Loyalty Beyond Reason’ .

This is what New Zealand needs now …
we know what it takes to give this precious gift to our kids,
we know what it takes for such a small country to excel in depth and breadth in sport,
it is now time to take architecture seriously.
It is time to give the precious fragile gift of architecture a chance
just as we would our own child