A response to Chris Skellett

My Gran was a very wise person. One of her (and many others) gems was, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say – shut up, the world doesn’t need more grumps!”.

I do wish the editors of the ODT would apply this to their slide rule of editorial decision making. Take for instance the piece in the ODT today under the loose interpretation of the word – Opinion. Having read Chris Skellett’s piece many times, I am still a little confused as to what the ‘opinion’ of the writer actually is? Or am I?

If I can be so presumptuous as to assume that under the thinly veiled attack on Architectural rendering, it is actually a dig at the Civic leaders and their spending on big ticket architectural ventures. So why not say that, instead of the somewhat colourful and annoyingly deceitful soliloquy.

So what exactly is Chris saying?

Having carefully considered the dubious architectural merits of each.

Really? Have you considered the architectural merits of each. This would be from the qualified position of Psychologist (If I have the correct Chris Skellett of Dunedin). Prey tell, in your qualified or even slightly interested opinion, what are the dubious architectural merits? Shame we never really get to hear these, as we are taken on a colourful story about the people depicted in the artist renderings. First up for his criticism is the architectural renderings of the proposed (and now shelved) ORC Waterfront development.

I now find myself curiously drawn to the behaviour of those tiny little stick figures that can be seen inhabiting this brave new world… However, as I studied these computer-generated people, I realised none of them seemed to be actually going in or out of the building.”


I wonder if his ‘careful consideration’ actually meant he looked at these pics. For as far as I can tell, there are people in the top level of this building in a meeting – you know doing the stuff that is expected of an ORC? Further, it looks pretty clear to me that there are folk on the inside ground level of this building. What does he actually want, people holding doors open for each other, actual depiction’s of people entering and leaving the building.

But of course it didn’t take long for the attack to swing to the stadium.

I saw another fanciful sketch, again lying beneath clear blue skies. Strangely, the neighbouring Leith Stream was portrayed as a tranquil blue lake, with romantic couples strolling along a tree-lined promenade.


{This may not be the image he is talking about, but it’s one from the series.} Firstly, the Water of Leith depicted in this resembles one of the Tekapo Canals more than a lake. It is neither overly romantic nor is it anything other than an architectural rendering of the potential final development of the area. Further I would imagine the demographic is pretty bang on.

Why are they all wandering so aimlessly alongside the Leith, headed for the petrochemical supply depot behind the recycling station?

No, they are not wandering to the Petrochemical depot. In this image at least, those on this side of the Water of Leith are walking on the whole towards the University/Polytechnic area. A very strange thing for students to be doing, walking in the direction of their place of study I know, but bear with me here Chris, it gets more interesting. They could have just come from an event at the stadium and lo and behold they are walking to their cars or other transport? Further, if they were heading toward the Petrochemical depot, I would assume they are walking to their car parked in the area of the newly diverted road?

Don’t they realise that it’s a dead end up there.” No, as far as I can tell, it will not be a dead end, but the diverted main road to Port Chalmers (but I could be corrected). But who cares if it is a dead end. On the countless days in which Dunedin is as tranquil as this (like today in the middle of winter) people do tend to walk into said areas for lunch etc. They do elsewhere in the world where waterfront architecture exists, it’s the lure of the sky, the sea and architectural features. Two of my most favourite sites in the world for lunch is Canada Place in Vancouver and outside the Tate Modern in London (with the crystal clear Thames).

But here we go… “It is an ugly, concrete embarrassment to anyone with an aesthetic sensibility.” Really, says you? But that is indeed an opinion, and I would disagree 100%.

Are they genuinely going to beautify the Leith as part of the stadium plans?” Short answer YES. But that is all part of the Water of Leith flood protection realignment and redevelopment (and sorry I am not up on at what stage this is at).

It seems in the future, people will stroll casually around town, lightly dressed and often with arms romantically entwined.” I was thinking the same thing today as I was walking around the University in my t-shirt (in winter) – how utterly lucky I am to be walking around here lightly dressed. But then on the couple of days this past summer, where the mercury unofficially past 40°C in a couple of places around town, the people were lightly clad – I certainly was. But then, so bloody what. Is this a bad thing?

Their evident lack of purpose or sense of direction becomes alarming once you stop and think about it.” OMG you bloody busy body. How shameful of them, why was this drawing done depicting a lunch time, or after work, or weekend, or public holiday. How dare they even consider leisure time. Funny, coming from a Psychologist, I would have assumed that some of his advice to clients from time to time is to take it easy and relax a little.

But then, he puts all of his moaning and complaints in context “At the end of the day, these impressions are just that. They are simply impressions.” Yes Chris they are. They are a recognised tool which the architectural community uses to illustrate their vision. Mind you, you can’t please everyone, people have accused the stunning drawing of the stadium at the top of this blog’s header as post-apocalyptic, dark and gloomy. It’s a tool to illustrate a concept, just as your words are Chris.

I do however find the next statement stunningly depressing. “The weather will not be any warmer, and the Leith will not be turning azure blue.” Sorry, but today’s sky was the most stunning blue, and funny thing about water, it reflects the colour of the sky (water doesn’t actually have a colour, the pollutants and suspended particles reflect the colour), and the Leith today was a stunning Azure Blue, and now with the slight cloud cover and lowering winter sky, the water has taken on a somewhat brownish colour. Even this evening the sky was a stunning Mauve, changing the Water of Leith once again.


And howling southerlies will continue to whip fiercely across any open public space in town.” Yes it will, but then it does in nearly every city in the country from time to time. But it seems to me that Chris rather likes this city being a little dreary, rough around the edges, like all cities are. Indeed Vancouver (praised so highly by Chris) has one of the highest rates of Gun violence in Canada, and the Lower East Side of Downtown is a virtual no go area, where injecting Heroin in full public view is not uncommon. But howling Southerlies are not the norm of Dunedin, and no, sorry Chris, they do not invade every public space in this city. Indeed the location of the stadium is somewhat more sheltered from said Southerlies than where I live on the peninsula and certainly more so than the current Carisbrook. I look forward each day in a decent Southerly to coming to work in the Logan Park area, just to get away from said wind.

Going back earlier in the article, it’s amazing how people can participate in the very practice that he is being critical of, this time using words. With his words, Chris was every bit as colourful with the truth as these architectural renderings are.

It looked stunningly modern and sleek. It could have been San Diego or Vancouver.” (again I will supply pics later). Having lived in Vancouver, yes it is a stunning place, when it is still, in the middle of summer and warm. However since Vancouver gets about twice as much rain as Dunedin, and the saying in Vancouver is the rain starts in September, turns to snow in December, back to rain in Feb and finally stops in April, I’m not sure which images of Vancouver he would like to evoke. Sure English Bay with the stunning skyline is just amazing, but the snow and slush up to 10cm deep I regularly had to negotiate in Vancouver is no romantic scene – that’s for sure.

{From my stay there in 2007}

can easily become this within a matter of hours, and last for months on end.


So in the end, Chris is guilty of doing exactly what he is accusing the architectural renderings of doing, being colourful with the truth. Vancouver isn’t the beautiful place that he tells us it is, yes from time to time it can be, but it can also be one of the most dreary places on god’s clean earth. Do we even mention the overbearing heat and haze of San Diego?

If there are no snotty kids, vagrants or old people in overcoats with shopping bags on show, then we truly will have confirmation of the city fathers’ future vision for us all.


Ok I’m not privy to the nasal leakage of these kids, but there really does seem to be parents and kids, and if I’m not mistaken, isn’t that dad on the right losing his hair.

These images are not ideal futurism as suggested by the author. This is…

(for more stunning images of Futuristic renderings)

What these are, are classic architectural renderings of yes an Idea, but that is all. I can not believe that a Psychologist can come up with such a sweeping statement, “Just happy, shiny people, wandering around town without purpose, direction or ambition.” I can’t speak for the stick insect images in the ORC renderings, let’s assume they are happy, that would be nice wouldn’t it. But for the man with the receding hairdo and the kids, I hope he’s having a good day.

After all what is the alternative? How else are we to sell architectural plans which people so often have difficulty in visualising?


Doesn’t really work does it. Still he has purpose and ‘ambition’?

Sorry Chris, your argument is weak and your point is even weaker. You don’t like these developments, but don’t knock the city and its people.

BTW Chris, middle of Winter, this is a bloody nice place to live, rivals Vancouver on its best.



Filed under Architecture, Design, Hot air, Inspiration, Media, Politics, Stadiums, Town planning

3 responses to “A response to Chris Skellett

  1. Elizabeth

    Thanks for the photos Paul.

    In our learned discipline of architecture the drawing and rendering conventions, and our photography (how many shots without people??) – their use and design – carry heavy traces at times of a ‘mastered’, political, sculptural and or ‘developer-led’ world; and some display other worlds or combinations, depending on the ‘project’.

    What would be an ESD graphic convention for any of these projects? What would you render to appeal to women and children? How often is the lower Leith at full tide flow? Showing ‘promenading’ is another convention – that only alludes to an ideal where recreation and leisure might be our foremost time spinners?

    Well, not in New Zealand – we have the stupid situation of people engaged in too many work hours, incidently the recession is playing havoc with that… in which case rendering ‘beautiful people’ strolling in the tertiary precinct development area might not be how it turns out (so spot the deliberate ‘real estate’ gaff, the push of the male developer intent). We could draw a lot more opshop dressing, fishing lines and nets. And people might crawl on their knees for crumbs.

    As I often think, loving it dearly, architecture is a great social commentary at the same time it’s the great leveller. It can still inspire, it can still house us well, and yet it can point unkindly to haves and have-nots and all the inequalities. And you can do it in simple concrete and steel, and ETFE.

    One thing: people like architectural graphic renderings done well (from sketch level to polished finals). Something about the artist in all of us.

    Renderings breed reaction.

  2. God I could look at Architectural renderings all day. I loved the 100+ exhibition at the Museum, some of those renderings were simply fine pieces of art.

    One of my fav is the early 1min rough sketch that Ian Butcher did for our house – quite exquisite. I’m lucky though I’ve got a trained eye for these things, and I could see my house then and there.

    Funny though, there is a touch of my wife in Chris Skellet. Once Ian had completed the rough work on the house he did a beautiful finished drawing with us in it. My wife pointed to the female and said “is that me, I don’t like what I’m wearing”.

    Unfortunately it’s not up any more, and they aren’t available on line, but the Construction site for Wembley stadium had the most stunning drawings and renderings for the stadium.

    I know it was controversial, and this may surprise some, but I was a huge fan of Stadium NZ. But that aside the drawings for it were stunning, just stunning!!!

  3. Richard

    Stimulating! Reminds me why I dropped by WIS in the first place. And your grandmother is absolutely right! Much like mine – on the maternal side!

    How’s the new site coming on the future of Dunedin?

    What happens to Carisbrook and South Dunedin will be on us before we realise it.

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