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City Talks: John Walsh

CITY TALKS: John Walsh — Architect Gerald Melling’s Tsunami Box emergency housing

John Walsh talks about Gerald and his little boxes, and what happened when he took them to Sri Lanka

City Gallery Wellington, Civic Square
Monday 16 November, 6pm
Free entry

City Talks is an ongoing series initiated by the New Zealand Institute of Architects Wellington Branch and presented in partnership with City Gallery Wellington.

The final talk for 2015 sees John Walsh, a leading New Zealand architectural writer, discuss the work of the late Gerald Melling, Wellington architect and a passionate and witty advocate for low-cost housing. Gerald came to his craft by an unconventional route—an architect, poet, novelist, journalist and editor, he was skilled with words, and jokes, and had an immense affection for Wellington.

A believer in that architecture should be available to everyone regardless of income, Gerald sought to develop a low-cost style of building whilst still retaining architectural qualities of space and light. Experiments with various techniques, scales, materials and construction systems resulted in buildings—the “little boxes”—that are important contributions to the architectural landscape in New Zealand.

Following the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, Gerald designed almost 50 houses and a community centre along the south coast of Sri Lanka, a phenomenal experience that embodied his beliefs that low cost housing did not have to be drab and dull, but instead could be innovative and inspirational. He later wrote about his experience in Tsunami Box, a book that describes what happens when architectural good intentions go forth into the world. This case study, in an exotic setting and difficult circumstances, highlighted the gap that exists in all architecture between a design and its realisation.

John Walsh wrote that “Tsunami Box is a revealing and honest case study of architectural altruism in action. It’s a testament to its authors patience and persistence—firstly with drawing pencil, and later with writing pen.” John connected with Gerald on several levels. At different times, both held the helm as editor of Architecture New Zealand (formerly New Zealand Architect), and both have published books that helped bring New Zealand architecture to a wider audience. John is currently writing a book about Gerald’s architecture, and will give us his take on a passionate, free and restless architect who believed in architecture for all.

John Walsh is the Communications Manager of the New Zealand Institute of Architects. Previously he was the managing editor of a stable of design magazines including Urbis and Landscape Architecture NZ, and editor of Architecture New Zealand. He is the author of three books on New Zealand residential architecture and contributes to numerous periodicals and magazines.

The talk will be followed by refreshments.


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