An Announcement - The Local Project is Broadening Its Horizons

Photography Simon Wilson, Dan McMahon, Sam Hertnett, Mary Gaudin & Thomas Seear-Budd
Words Rose Onans

The Local Project is broadening its horizons to New Zealand, with September marking the beginning of The Local Project’s coverage of New Zealand architecture and design.

The Local Project was founded with a mission to celebrate and support local design. In the context of an (increasingly) global world, keeping our focus local was not an attempt to create an opposition between the ideas of ‘local’ and ‘global’, but rather a lens through which to explore the complex relationship between the two, and how this influences and is expressed through design.

Architecture studio Fearon Hay was founded in New Zealand, and also has a presence in the United States. Project - Fearon Hay, The Camp. Photo - Simon Wilson.
Project - Knight Associates, The Great Eros. Photo - Dan McMahon.

Now, as The Local Project continues to grow and evolve, expanding into New Zealand comes as a natural progression. With a strong shared history between Australia and New Zealand, an affinity can be felt across design in both countries. Yet of course, New Zealand possesses its own unique context that in turn influences the design aesthetic. As Tim Hay of Fearon Hay expresses “perhaps in the lifestyle and occupation, design in New Zealand and Australia is similar, but materially and in form they seem quite different.”

Knight Associates whose design practice “centres around three main themes: material response, New Zealand’s traditional arts and crafts, and the exploration of design histories.” Project - Knight Associates, Aesop Wellington. Photo - Aesop.

Interior designer Rufus Knight of Knight Associates also sees a growing sense of New Zealand identity in design. “My overall impression is that we are developing a maturity and signature that is becoming recognised globally,” he reflects. “I think New Zealand architects and designers are also embracing a sensitivity around metaphor, sophistication around elements of craft and material treatment that is also something unique within our design culture.”

“I’m fascinated by some of the residential and commercial projects that are currently being built in this country with their environmental awareness and sympathy to the landscape,” says industrial designer Simon James.

Left, Project - Glamuzina Patterson Architects, Matakana House. Photo - Sam Hertnett. Right, Project - Fearon Hay, Forest House. Photo - Simon Wilson.

“Photography is always subjective and the decisions we make have a large effect on how the project is represented. Understanding the architect or designer’ intent is essential,” says Simon Wilson.


Left, Project - Knight Associates, Te Koha Venice Biennale. Photo - Mary Gaudin. Right, Project - Knight Associates, Simon James Concept Store. Photo - Simon Wilson.

The impact of the vast distance that separates New Zealand from much of the rest of the world is recognised by New Zealand architectural photographer Simon Wilson as having a strong influence on both the design industry and consumer behaviour. “New Zealand is so far from export markets, so with our exported design (be that fashion, technology or furniture) there is no option but to choose quality over quantity. Some of our iconic companies like Fisher & Paykel and newcomers Allbirds – they’re not just aiming to be successful on a global scale but to be the best in the world full stop.”

Rufus Knight says, “I am keenly interested in materiality – in particular New Zealand’s indigenous materials – and its ability to create human and sensory responses and communicate narrative.”

Project - John Irving, The Dart. Photo - Simon Wilson.

“You have to be patient watching the weather and the light and respond to the project. It can be testing at times but when you get up early and manage to catch the first morning sun hitting a great project it’s all worth it,” says Simon Wilson.

Project - Knight Associates, The Les Mills Studio in Auckland. Photo - Simon Wilson.

“Materials have meaning, just like words, and we can speak through them,” says Rufus Knight.

In a country famous for its prodigious natural beauty, place inspires and influences architecture and design. Rufus Knight argues that “‘place’ is the central theme to all creative work practiced in New Zealand. The landscape, the elements, the vegetation, the history, the people – ‘place’ is so deeply embedded in the psyche of New Zealand creativity, [it] is like a beacon; it helps us to understand who we are, where come from, and where we’re going.” Similarly, for Fearon Hay, whose studio was founded in New Zealand and now also has a presence in the United States, “every project absorbs and reflects and is a modification of the place,” says Tim Hay. “We play with co-ordination and contrast of form and place constantly.”

Project - Fearon Hay, Alpine Terrace. Photo - Simon Wilson.

Tim Hay describes the studio’s work as “constantly evolving, we are influenced by so many different things – our clients, their personalities, our travel, the site.”

Tlp New Zealand Architecture & Interior Design 15
Project - Simon James, Kowtow Wellington. Photo - Simon Wilson.

Not only a connection to the land but a sense that New Zealand culture as a whole is “fairly understated” informs the work of industrial designer Simon James. He sees both landscape and an understated sensibility as influencing design decisions. “I tend to focus on one or two key aspects in a product rather than over-design every detail,” he says. “Because of this, I’m drawn to simplicity and how form and proportion work together.” Meanwhile, Simon Wilson also sees the influence of culture as well as physical place, saying “being a young nation filled with a range of cultures, our design and architecture is so diverse. This is a strength and means for a tiny place we have everything from delicate coastal follies to snowy stone chalets.”

With such a diversity of architecture and design, a strong connection to and sense of place, and a vibrant and engaged local design culture, New Zealand represents an incredibly rich and rewarding next chapter for The Local Project.

Simon James sees the ‘understated’ nature of New Zealand culture influencing design decisions, which is felt in the simplicity of his work. Photo - Simon Wilson. Left, Project - Patchwork, Stealth Bomber. Photo - Simon Wilson.

“I would like to think our products offer another layer of value as well as complementing their architectural environment without being overpowering or dominating,” says Simon James.

“I love the tight-knit local design community where we all support each other creatively and financially. As a creative, I feed off other people’s projects and there is nothing more exciting than spending the day exploring a beautifully-designed space,” Simon Wilson explains.

Left, Project - Knight Associates, Son & Co. Studio. Photo - Mary Gaudin. Right, Project - Knight Associates, Yu Mei Wellington. Photo - Simon Wilson.
Simon Wilson sees the move away from the traditional quarter-acre block and the exploration into higher-density living as one of the most exciting developments in New Zealand residential design. Project - Fearon Hay, Harbour Edge. Photo - Simon Wilson.

Rufus Knight identifies a strong connection between creative culture in Australia and New Zealand “especially in relation to landscape and geography.”

Published 10 September, 2019
Photography  Simon Wilson, Dan McMahon, Sam Hertnett, Mary Gaudin & Thomas Seear-Budd
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