Thursday, March 11, 2010

Local Profile: Matt & Tim of Christchurch Modern

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Christchurch Modern is a website/blog that profiles residential buildings in Christchurch, designed in the modern period of architecture. It was started two years ago by Matt Arnold and Tim Kelleher, two Christchurch graphic designers that run a design company, Sons & co. We first became fans of Christchurch Modern because it reveals a rich emphasis on architecturally styled buildings in Christchurch, and in particular a style that epitomizes a turning point in design history. I recently sat down with Matt and Tim to learn about how and why they started Christchurch Modern and quickly learned these two have a great deal of passion and a huge knowledge base as to how this architectural movement played out in Christchurch. Here’s just some of what I learned from them:
  • What motivated you to start Christchurch Modern? We were both into architecture, but really became fascinated a few years ago while looking for an office for our design company Sons and Co, as well as when I (Matt) was looking to buy a house. Through these experiences we learned that there were about a half a dozen or so architects who emerged out of Christchurch in the modern era (late 50’s through ‘60’s), that really created a name for themselves, both here in New Zealand and abroad. Also, we learned there wasn’t a public sort of database or way finding out more information about the houses designed by this group of architects, since they were working amongst different firms or independently about town. We also knew that the more documentation, interest, and recognition that these buildings had, the less likely they would be demolished one day (although some have been altered beyond their recognizable features). So we decided to start documenting homes we came accros with a photo and an address and hoped people would start to provide more information. We really didn’t know all that much in this topic area at that point, we were just curious and wanted to learn more. Luckily, that’s just what’s happened....people email us now with information about a house they might see on the site and we’ll update the post with more detailed information.
  • What do you enjoy most about doing the site? Two years into it, we’re not doing as many posts as when we first started. When we started, we were both just fascinated with what we were learning about this group of architects and this time period in Christchurch when it seems the design and arts comunity was really thriving. Due to these architects’ works, like Peter Beaven, Miles Warren, Paul Pascoe, and Don Cowey, this was a time when the North Island was looking to the South Island as a leader in design. It was a lot of fun for us to learn more about this slice of history and gain a stronger understanding of the way the city was shaped.
  • How do you approach taking photos and learning about the houses that you feature on the site? Some of our first photos were just taken as we drove by a house or taken over hedges and washing lines. But over time we’ve learned that people who live in these homes are in many cases the original owners, and they are ususally happy to open their doors and have a conversation with us about the house and about going through the design process with the architect. In some ways we think this speaks as a validation of ‘good architecture’. These owners love their homes – they were designed for them, their lifestyles and families, and the homes have really stood the test of time. Most are of an open space plan, north facing, and still work really well today.
  • Which is your favorite building at present? Matt: My favorite is the Lyttelton Tunnel Building, just before going into the tunnel towards Lyttelton from Christchurch. It was designed by Peter Beaven and blends in so well with the landscape. Tim: A Don Cowey house that actually isn’t on our site. We came across it in a video that was put together by Zoe Roland of Canterbury University called ‘Four Houses from Four Decades', which examined one house per decade (40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s) that epitomized the design style of that era. The Don Cowey House was the home chosen for the 60’s, is located in Halswell, and has amazing steel beams.
  • When you aren’t doing the site (or at work), where are we likely to find you? Lyttleton, Coffee Company, Bicycle Thief, Temperance Society, C1...these are all good places we like to hang out. But If you’re looking for something unusual, try Kim’s Chinese on Colombo (this is Tim’s pick). You can order anything there. Also, there is this interesting coffee shop in Heathcote called Upshot, where locals cruise down to get takeaway coffees and just hang out.
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To see more of Tim and Matt's documentation of modern architecture, go to the Christchurch Modern site. To contact Tim and Matt at Son's & co click here.

Image Source and Location:
1) Christchurch Modern; Warren & Mahoney townhouse in Merivale
2) Christchurch Modern; 5a Snowdon Rd. Forbes House. Warren & Mahoney
3) Christchurch Modern; 4 Michael Ave, Architect Unknown
4) Nick Burrowes; Beaven's Lyttelton Tunnel Building

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