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Kiwi building designs 'shabby'

Last updated 07:14 23/05/2013

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Kaikoura has been described as "a shanty town festooned with advertising signs" by a critic of New Zealand architecture.

Nelson bed and breakfast accommodation owner David Los says New Zealand architecture is shabby.

"Every morning here at breakfast people comment about New Zealand. Almost all, including Americans, say what a beautiful country this is, ‘But the towns - what they are doing?', they ask.

"They often come here after Kaikoura, one of the most magnificent places in the world, and it's a shanty town festooned with advertising signs. And look at Motueka - what a hotchpotch of nonsense and it's getting worse."

Mr Los, a former geographer who lived for 25 years in New Caledonia where he had a language school, said Noumea had been a rundown French colonial city but its council had introduced planning laws that had transformed the city, he said.

His Bridge St business, in one of Nelson's original family homes, Sussex House, is across the road from the Green Gables retirement village which is about to undergo an $18 million redevelopment.

Mr Los was one of 27 submitters who opposed the resource consent application that has just been granted. He will not appeal, saying it would be a waste of time, but is dismayed at the development.

"My main b . . . . [complaint] is the shabbiness of architecture in New Zealand," he said.

"Kiwis travel extensively to places like Edinburgh, Paris and Lisbon and ooh and aah at the architecture, but I don't know what happens when they come home.

"A lot of the architecture built here is nonsense. Like the town hall here, it's Ministry of Works brutalism, or the new Cawthron building. They put up concrete slabs with a bit of wood on the front to disguise it. I'm sure Green Gables will be the same."

The Green Gables development includes a three-storeyed central building and villas with gabled roofs.

"The pitch of the roofs are of an alpine village," said Mr Los.

Nelson architect Ian Jack, a member of the Nelson City Council urban design panel and an elected fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, acknowledged that Mr Los' description of Nelson's Civic House was probably a fair comment.

The use of concrete slab in building was because concrete was an economical form of construction, and it was often used close to a boundary so it was fireproof, he said.

"Once, buildings like [the] Anchor shipping company building were built as a statement of the owner's business and pride. Now, buildings are owned by investors and are not occupied by owners, so are much more constrained by bottom-line costs.

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"We live in a very competitive environment and often you do see people going for the cheapest possible solution. That's always a shame when the full potential is not able to be realised."

Fairfax NZ

- The Marlborough Express

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