Hello again, and welcome back to the Eye of the Fish. I had quite a bit of work to do, and then I needed a holiday. And what did I do on holiday? Well, I read books, of course! Yes, I am one of those old-school types that still prefers a written book to an online presence, and so I’ve been really pleased recently to see the publication of “Wellington Architecture – a Walking Guide“, a new guide book to the architecture of the capital. It’s great! I love it! And I’ve read every word and looked at every picture, from cover to cover.
There have been guide books on Wellington Architecture before of course, primarily two books by David Kernohan, with one called Old Wellington and the other called New Wellington, if I remember correctly. Both have been out of print for well over a decade, and for some reason were not reprinted, so this new book is a welcome replacement. In fact, with photos by Patrick Reynolds, and words by John Walsh, I’d say this book is an improvement. Reynolds is a master at the art of architectural photography, and the pictures in the book look beautiful. Print quality is also high, with full colour glossy images, and of course with Walsh’s acerbic wit coming through at times, the text is thoroughly enjoyable too. It is affordable too, being only $25 and a handy small format that should fit in your pocket or handbag. It comes in the format of having a series of walks around town that you can follow, coming across a few stunning buildings along the way.
There are, apparently, more buildings / pages in this book than there were for either the Christchurch version or the Auckland version, which may surprise some. But then remember that Canterbury has lost most of its old architecture and most of the new stuff is shite. Interesting, but shite. And Auckland demolished most of its heritage in the 1980s, and let the inner-city mostly die since then, so there are not many quality buildings up there either. I’d allow a few exceptions – the Dilworth building of course, the Guardian Trust, and that tall bronzed Aussie number on Queen St as well, but Auckland went through a wave of throat-slittingly bad architecture in the 80s and 90s, that almost made me want to give up on the architecture profession altogether. Symonds Street, I’m looking at you!
I confess: I haven’t seen the Canterbury tales version of this book yet (I wonder if Unity stock that one too?) and its been a few years since I’ve seen the Auckland book. But I’m sure that this book is the best in the bunch. It is surprising then that there are so many buildings in Wellington that do not feature in the book – it could be a lot more exhaustive than it is. But then that’s the thing, isn’t it, that it is not trying to be a list and description of every single edifice in the capital, but instead just a series of enjoyable walks, interspersed with some great snippets about architecture. And it does that very well indeed.