An Announcement - The Local Project is Broadening Its Horizons
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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
“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.
“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.”
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.”
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.