John Scott is a legend in New Zealand architecture circles. A regional modernist who mostly practised in Hawke’s Bay, his life’s works of houses, churches and community buildings have attained near mythical status since his early death in 1992. Despite being so well regarded and so ground-breaking, his practice has never been well documented.
This handsome new book is determined to address that gap. It is quite an enterprise in itself. Auckland photographer David Straight found himself beguiled by Scott and over a two-year period set out to photograph as many of Scott’s projects as he could track down. Some were well known but others were only discovered after weeks of dedicated searching. Straight’s dedication to the project was such that he took his tiny tent down to the Urewera so that he could record the demolition of Scott’s visitor centre at Aniwaniwa.
Scott once said, ‘When you come away from a building and feel pretty excited, not because of the building, but because of something that has gone on within you while you were in that building — then you are getting pretty close to architecture.’ He had that effect on Straight and also on the cultural history and architecture writers who have contributed thoughtful essays to the book: Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, Hana Scott, Bill McKay, Julia Gatley and Gregory O’Brien. Catherine Griffiths’ beautiful design is also an homage to Scott’s design credo: rather than being about the monumental or the ego, his buildings are humane. He designed spaces with people at their hearts; distinct rooms that alternate between open, lofty heights and low, intimate nooks. They are imbued with his Māori and European ancestry.
John Scott Works showcases more than 40 of Scott’s projects, from the famous Futuna chapel to lesser known churches and a range of beautiful homes. It will be officially launched at Objectspace, Auckland, on March 12. The associated photography exhibition John Scott Works: David Straight opens at Objectspace Gallery on the evening of February 13 and runs to March 24.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
David Straight is an Auckland-based photographer who specialises in architecture. His interest in the built environment started as a street photographer in London and New York, and has followed through to documenting the built environment, from photographing architecture for some of New Zealand’s leading architects to an ongoing exploration of the subtleties of the everyday landscape. He continues to explore the evolving nature of photography through artist books. His 2015 book Vernacular, in collaboration with landscape designer Philip Smith, received a highly commended award at the 2016 New Zealand Photo Book Awards.