Back country comes to city

COSY: Niko Leyden, left, and Kemi Whitwell with the hut on a hill at Prince of Wales Park, off the Bell Rd to Dorking Rd ...
AMY JACKMAM/FAIRFAX NZ

COSY: Niko Leyden, left, and Kemi Whitwell with the hut on a hill at Prince of Wales Park, off the Bell Rd to Dorking Rd track.

All trampers know the satisfaction of arriving at a hut after a long day exploring the outdoors.

This summer that feeling can be recreated in the heart of Wellington, and you won't have to trek for miles to find it.

Seven huts have been hidden on the city's hills and coastlines, all about a half-hour walk or less on popular tracks.

Robin Hut: Nestled near Red Rocks is a memorial hut for Robin Buxton, Kemi Whitwall's uncle, who died in an avalanche ...

Robin Hut: Nestled near Red Rocks is a memorial hut for Robin Buxton, Kemi Whitwall's uncle, who died in an avalanche while tramping in Otago in 2001.

But they aren't ordinary huts - they have been created in miniature by two artists to celebrate all things good about the outdoors.

Mt Cook residents Kemi Whitwell and Niko Leyden were inspired by the feeling trampers got from that first glimpse of colour through the trees.

"Walking is part of Wellington life, finding little tracks and shortcuts. It's what people love to do," Whitwell said.

"We wanted to take the idea of tramping as a national pastime and shrink it down into just Wellington.

"There's short hikes, miniature huts and only a few little aspects of the hiking experience at each location - shelter, a memorial, research, mining or tourism."

Each hut is reflects a different aspect of back-country life.

In Prince of Wales Park, the Aoraki BIV hut is based on mountaineering, the Somes Island hut is a modern Department of Conservation hut and Robin hut on the south coast is a memorial hut.

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It's named after Robin Buxton, Whitwell's uncle, who died in an avalanche in Otago in 2001.

Keen trampers themselves, the artists created the public art series out of recycled materials, including wood and tin cans.

All the huts have intricate interior details, including bunk beds, seats, pots, pans, food and water tanks.

Five of the huts have log books, housed in tin can booths, for visitors to record their thoughts about life in the bush and Wellington's green spaces, or simply to say thanks to the artists.

The locations were just as thought through as the huts.

"We picked seven locations in areas that walkers often use that show off the diversity of Wellington's green areas," Leyden said.

"We wanted to give people a surprise. There's the people who will find out about it and then go and find them, but there's also the people who will stumble on them in their everyday lives, walking the dog or walking to work."

Whitwell comes from a fine arts background and Leyden trained as a graphic designer.

In 2012 they decided to join forces and try to make a living from their art.

"We've been experimenting with art in public spaces, especially in Rolleston Heights [top of Prince of Wales Park], for about a year," Whitwell said.

"We put up little interactions to see what would happen. One popular one was a bench seat that opened up and there was a blanket and a log book in it."

The Miniature Hikes exhibition will also be on display in the Courtenay Place lightboxes from next week and the huts will be on show until the end of March.

The exact locations are listed online at keminiko.com/Miniature-Hikes or facebook.com/keminiko. The project received funding from Wellington City Council's Public Art fund.

 - The Wellingtonian

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