Ian Athfield dies #architecture

Updated post Thu, 23 Jan 2014 at 5:28 p.m.
Public Memorial Service (1 February) details below.

Sir Ian Charles Athfield KNZM (15 July 1940 – 16 January 2015) was a New Zealand architect. He was born in Christchurch and graduated from the University of Auckland in 1963 with a Diploma of Architecture. That same year he joined Structon Group Architects, and he became a partner in 1965. In 1968 he was a principal partner in setting up Athfield Architects with Ian Dickson and Graeme John Boucher (Manson). Link to profile

Ian Athfield [nzherald.co.nz]Sir Ian had recently been made a knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to architecture. Photo: NZ Herald

Athfield made a knight (2014) | Wellingtonian Interview Q&A (2009)
Review of Athfield’s biography (2012)

Website: Athfield Architects | Google Images: Ian Athfield

### stuff.co.nz Last updated 17:51, January 16 2015
The Dominion Post
Renowned architect Sir Ian Athfield dies, aged 74
By Simon Bradwell and Tom Hunt
Renowned Wellington-based architect Sir Ian Athfield has died. He was 74.
Athfield Architects associate Rachel Griffiths said Sir Ian died in Wellington Hospital early this morning surrounded by family. His death was the result of “unexpected complications” during a procedure to treat his colon cancer.
“Ath had been dealing with cancer for some time with his usual stoicism and inappropriate humour,” Griffiths said. “There is … no-one else like Ath and we are devastated by his passing.” The Athfield family had asked for time to deal with their grief, she said. No date had been set for the funeral or memorial service at this stage.

A statement released this morning by the New Zealand Institute of Architects announced his death. “It is with great sadness that we inform Members that Sir Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand’s finest architects, has passed away in Wellington,” it said. “Our deepest condolences go out to Ath’s family, friends and colleagues. There are few details to share at this stage, but we will notify members of any funeral or memorial service arrangements as soon as they arise.”

Athfield, who was knighted in the most recent New Year Honours for his work in architecture, won more than 60 awards for his work. In a professional career spanning half a century, his stamp was imprinted across Wellington, and with Roger Walker, he was probably New Zealand’s leading exponent of modernist architecture. His most well-known works included the City Library and its nikau palm columns, built as part of the Civic Square redevelopment in the 1980s, and his own sprawling Khandallah house. He also designed Jade Stadium in Christchurch, which was damaged in the February 2011 earthquake.
Walker said he was “still in shock” on getting the news of Athfield’s death.
Read more

● 3 News: Kiwi architect Sir Ian Athfield dies [+ newsclip]
● New Zealand Herald: His designs offended and inspired: Architect Sir Ian Athfield dies [+ tweets with photos]
● ONE News: ‘Heavy hearts’ as renowned architect Sir Ian Athfield mourned
● Yahoo.com: ‘Rebellious’ architect Ian Athfield dies
● Wellington.scoop: Death of architect Ian Athfield
● NBR: Sir Ian Athfield, one of NZ’s most influential architects, has died

ODT 20.1.15 (page 21)

ODT 20.1.15 Ian Athfield - Death Notice p21

Death Notice – The Dominion Post [online]

█ Public Figure: Ian Athfield https://www.facebook.com/Ian-Athfield

Sir Ian Athfield – Public Memorial Service
The New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) have organised a public memorial service to celebrate the life and work of Sir Ian Athfield, to be held at 3pm, Sunday 1 February, in Civic Square, Wellington.
Details of the service are yet to be finalised, but it is envisaged that it will include eulogies from people who knew Ath well. The service will very much be a memorial to Ath the Architect, and many Members will wish to attend. https://www.nzia.co.nz/

archivesnz Published on May 5, 2013

Architect Athfield (1979)
New Zealand National Film Unit presents Architect Athfield (1979)
‘Architect Athfield’ examines the frustrations and achievements of one of New Zealand’s most lively and innovative architects. In 1975 Ian Athfield won an international competition directed towards providing housing for 140,000 squatters from the Tondo area in Manila. Ironically, Athfield had jumped to international prominence before any wide-ranging acceptance in his own country. This film examines Athfield’s practical philosophy of architecture, and culminates in his trip to the Philippines, where he hopes to make his prize-winning design a reality.

wclchannel Uploaded on Nov 30, 2011
Ian Athfield – Central Library architect

[YouTube] Julia Gatley’s interview with Sir Miles Warren and Ian Athfield on the 23rd of June 2012 at City Gallery Wellington.
Ian Athfield Interview 23 June 2012 Part 1 of 4 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Phil O’Brien Published on Apr 14, 2013
Ian Athfield at the 2009 Gold Awards

Related Posts and Comments:
24.4.13 Ian Athfield at Dunedin | Open Lecture Friday 26 April
3.3.13 RNZ Sunday Morning | Ideas: Re-imagining the Urban House
9.11.12 New Zealand Urban Design Awards
25.6.12 New Zealand Architects: Pete Bossley, and Ian and Clare Athfield
7.12.11 Ian Athfield on post-earthquake Christchurch #eqnz
19.9.11 NZIA members on Christchurch City Plan
13.7.08 Some thoughts

Samples from What if? Comments

### rnz.co.nz Sunday 11 August 2013
Arts on Sunday
1:43 New Arts Icon Ian Athfield
Ian Athfield on his new honour and he talks about this weekend’s forum on how architects and designers can help out following natural disasters.
Audio Ogg MP3 (6′59″)


### ODT Online Sat, 27 Apr 2013
‘Look at heritage differently,’ Athfield says
By John Gibb
Leading New Zealand architect Ian Athfield yesterday praised Dunedin’s wealth of heritage buildings but urged a rethink of aspects of the city’s one-way-street system. Mr Athfield, of Wellington, was in the city yesterday to give the annual New Zealand Historic Places Trust R.A. Lawson Lecture, as part of the Dunedin Heritage Festival. Addressing about 200 people at the University of Otago’s St David lecture theatre, he said “we have to look at heritage differently”. One-way street systems, in Dunedin and elsewhere, could sometimes separate important heritage buildings from their communities, and could make it difficult for people to approach such buildings on foot because of traffic volumes. Mr Athfield […] urged people to take a more flexible and holistic approach to heritage, treasuring the wider context of historic buildings, including their landscape settings, rather than seeing them only in isolation.
Read more


Athfield house [citygallery.org.nz - wellington]Photo: City Gallery Wellington

Aalto Books profiles Portrait of a House by Simon Devitt
Published by Balasoglou Books May 2013
Only 1,000 copies printed with 100 special edition copies that include one of five photographic prints. At 140 pages, a true collector’s item for those interested in New Zealand history, architecture, design and photography.
Portrait of a House (cover)Portrait of a House is a photo book by photographer Simon Devitt in collaboration with graphic designer Arch MacDonnell (Inhouse Design). This is Devitt’s first foray in the photo book genre. His book explores the Athfield House – the ‘village on the hill’ – an architectural experiment that Ian Athfield started in 1965 on the Khandallah hillside in Wellington, and which he is still altering and extending today.
The house is renowned in bohemian and academic circles for its many colourful dinner parties and occasions, and is infamous with neighbours past and present for the antics of its free-range livestock and frequent run-ins with Council. Roosters have been shot, construction shut down and architectural pilgrimages made.
This is an extraordinary story told through Devitt’s sensitive eye, blended with historic photographs, paintings and drawings from the Athfield archive. Clare Athfield’s contribution of her own recipes (dating from the 1960s until now) complements a selection of personal letters by family, friends, colleagues and clients which are insightful and often very funny – memories that make Simon’s photographs all the more potent in their beauty and silence.
The idea for the book came from Devitt’s admiration of Robin Morrison’s work and in particular Morrison’s 1978 photo book Images of a House about a William Gummer-designed house built in 1916. “A house is a pretty refined subject to make a book about,” explains Devitt. “It is not market driven, it is content driven and born out of passion. Life has happened there like in no other house, and the ‘living’ leaves its evidence, time has played out on its surface. There is a lot to be said about sitting still and how that looks. The Athfield house is a wonderful example of this. An accessible counterpoint to a largely asset based living that pervades New Zealand.”


### radionz.co.nz 3 March 2013
Radio New Zealand National
Sunday Morning with Chris Laidlaw
Listen on 101 FM or online at radionz.co.nz

10:06 Ideas: Re-imagining the Urban House
Arguments for intensifying the density of housing tend to fall into two categories: Affordability and putting a halt to urban sprawl.
Ideas talks to two architects who advocate higher density housing not just for those reasons but because they believe, if done right, it will result in more liveable houses and communities.

Robert Dalziel, the co-author of A House in the City: Home Truths in Urban Architecture, has travelled the world looking at traditional models of high density housing and come to some interesting conclusions; and Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand’s most celebrated architects, talks about the lessons he’s learnt from building his own house which now combines living quarters for 25 people with office space for another 40.
Audio Ogg Vorbis MP3 (49′59″)

“Get rid of those traffic engineers, which is another bloody thing, y’know, they’re singularly minded, quite stupid, y’know, they don’t think of anything else other than how long it takes to move a car from one space to another – that can’t happen in our cities in future.”

“The word “urban design” is now an abused profession – just like planning was in the sixties, y’know, and I said in the sixties if we knew as much about planning as we thought we knew about apartheid, we’d be demonstrating against planning, before we demonstrated against apartheid, because it is really really important. We had zoning at the time, absolutely ridiculous…”

Athfield House by Grant SheehanAthfield House, Wellington. Photo: Grant Sheehan


### stuff.co.nz Last updated 07:46 23/03/2011
Architect Athfield not softening
Source: The Press
Architect Ian Athfield is refusing to back down from his ultimatum about Christchurch’s development. Today he defended his comments, saying it was “absolutely the best time ever” to have the debate about how the city would look in the future. He was backed by former Christchurch Mayor Garry Moore who said the city now had a “clean slate” that presented opportunities like never before. NZPA
Read more + Comments


### radionz.co.nz Monday, 07 March 2011 at 8:22
Morning Report with Geoff Robinson & Simon Mercep
Architectural ambassador joins rebuild debate
The rebuilding of Christchurch is clearly an emotive issue. Wellington architect Ian Athfield and Christchurch planning and resource management consultant Dean Crystal join us to discuss the rebuild debate.
Audio Ogg Vorbis MP3 (6′22″)

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Business, Construction, Design, Heritage, Heritage NZ, Innovation, Inspiration, Media, Name, New Zealand, NZHPT, NZIA, People, Project management, Property, Site, Town planning, Urban design

7 responses to “Ian Athfield dies #architecture

  1. Elizabeth

    “I’m probably going to die as a working architect, in some form or other – it’s not a thing that you just walk out the door and leave, because I don’t think I can, and nor do I think it’s appropriate because architecture is something which continues to move on.” –Ian Athfield

    Architect of Dreams
    A documentary written and directed by Geoffrey Cawthorn. Geoffrey Cawthorn also composed the original music score for the film. Intelligent outspoken, amusing and engaging, Athfield is considered by many as one of New Zealand’s most influential creative figures who brings a unique vision to his practice of over 40 years. Athfield has a highly personal process – working closely with clients in an interactive way, creating sites that speak to the landscape and to cultural and social needs.
    Read more


  2. Elizabeth

    ### stuff.co.nz Last updated 05:00 19/01/2015
    The Dominion Post
    Editorial: Athfield lives on in his work
    OPINION: Sir Ian Athfield was a great Wellingtonian who changed the face of his city. If you seek his monument, as was famously said of another noted architect, look around you. Athfield lives on in concrete and steel and will be remembered long after a tribe of local bigwigs and lesser architects have passed into oblivion.
    Ath’s trademark was whim and eccentricity, and his wackiest creation was his own house. Here he could let his imagination run amok, unchained by the demands of the rich and powerful who commonly hired him. Not everyone loved or loves the house that writhes and sprawls down the hill below Khandallah. Some of his neighbours positively hated it. Athfield once claimed that the critics had killed his chooks and even left bullet holes in his house.
    People loved and hated his buildings, but what mattered more was that they noticed them and argued. Athfield helped make architecture matter to people, as it should. It is the most public art, and the one that has most influence on our daily lives.

    A lot of New Zealand architecture is bland and oppressive, like Te Papa. Athfield’s buildings were never like that. Think what could have happened if he and the genius Frank Gehry had been chosen to design the national museum instead of failing even to make the short list. We might have had a masterpiece; we would certainly have had a building that lived in controversy. Instead, we have a giant nonentity.

    Athfield’s style is known to people who have no interest in architecture at all. Everyone knows the nikau pillars of the Wellington Library, a kind of visual joke or paradox that is pure Athfield. But more impressive, perhaps, are the great curved glass windows that form a wall of the library and look out to the harbour. This was a splendid design that was both striking and useful. Readers love the vast view that surrounds the pages they are studying, and flock to this great building.
    Athfield said once that there was no one way to design a building and that the space between the buildings was as important as the buildings themselves. The civic centre is a triumph of this principle. Somehow Athfield welded this weird collection of buildings into a single harmony. This is civic space as a celebration of diversity.
    Athfield’s style is always recognisable but always adapted to the particular place. The Chews Lane redevelopment is a special success, a shaft of light in Gotham City. Sometimes it takes people years or even decades to see how superbly the building matches the landscape. The house he designed in 1980 for winemaker John Buck of Te Mata vineyard in Hawke’s Bay raised a ruckus with the neighbours: they hated its concrete curves and waves. Now it is part of our heritage.
    Athfield was a working-class boy who grew up in a drab part of southern Christchurch. His life was a sustained refusal to add to the dreariness of our built environment. His was a joyful architecture, and the joy will outlast the irritation, the back-biting and the bullet-holes. We owe a debt of gratitude to Ian Athfield. DP Link


    The Athfield House – improbable, slightly alarming, the stuff dreams are made of – taking over a suburb near you. We could do worse.

    ### The Listener Posted 4 days ago – 15 January 2015
    Interview: Architect Ian Athfield
    By Diana Wichtel In Culture
    Architect Ian Athfield started his landmark “act of defiance” in 1965, but now he wants to finish the place.
    The house of the architect is another country. More like a village on the move, actually, falling in its sculptural, slightly shambolic manner down the Khandallah hillside to the sea. It looks as if it’s been there for centuries. It also looks like it’s just been teleported in from the Mediterranean or, perhaps, outer space. The taxi driver is curious. He’s only seen the famously infamous Athfield House from the Hutt motorway. Do Wellingtonians like it? “It’s a landmark,” he says with a shrug. The place has been called worse: a prank; a Noddy house; a hippie happening; a shipwreck. I follow arrows down narrow flights of stairs, such as you might find in a medieval town, to the offices of Athfield Architects.
    Read more

    Athfield Architects by Julia Gatley [book cover]Athfield Architects, by Julia Gatley (Auckland University Press, Oct 2012)

  3. Elizabeth

    Public notice and funeral service intimation added to original post at this thread.

  4. Elizabeth

    ### idealog.co.nz 21 Jan 2015
    Remembering Sir Ian Athfield
    By Idealog
    This week, the New Zealand architectural community farewells one of its greats. Sir Ian Athfield was a stalwart in New Zealand architecture, with a wonderful curiosity in design and an ability to think big. He was known as a designer with a rebellious streak – an innovator. Idealog asks three contemporaries to share their memories of the great architect.
    ● Ian ‘Dickie’ Dickson, Director, Athfield Architects
    ● Andrew Barclay, Principal, Executive Director and Chairman, Warren and Mahoney
    ● Richard Harris, Principal, Jasmax​

    “I’m not a strong advocate for the architecture industry,” Athfield says. “It has a strong history and language, which goes beyond just an elite few.”

    ### idealog.co.nz 21 Jan 2015
    Ian Athfield: Simply the best
    By Josh Martin
    To snag the Designers Institute of New Zealand’s highest honour, the John Britten Black Pin, the winner must be a star among stars. They must have a CV of the highest standards in New Zealand and beyond, while always maintaining vision, discipline, creativity, leadership, energy and skill. For fans of architecture it was no surprise that last year’s recipient was Ian Athfield.
    Read more

    Originally published in Idealog #42, page 64

    • Elizabeth

      ### NZ Herald Online 5:30 AM Tuesday Sep 4, 2012
      Sir Bob Jones: Fickle fashion suits a mindless mob
      OPINION Once, I berated a girlfriend for wasting money on clothing. She taught me a valuable lesson. “What you don’t understand,” she said, “is I never buy fashion. I buy classical lines and hopefully will wear this jacket in 40 years’ time.” It was a eureka moment, as I realised nearly everything can be divided into two categories, namely fickle fashion and timeless principles. In my office-building field it’s certainly true. There’s a safe rule of thumb. If a new building receives an architectural award, then you can be assured that functionally, it’s a dog. Ninety per cent of our office buildings in their salient functional considerations are ill-designed. In my 50 years of involvement I’ve known only one architect who understood the important matters, David Lough of Wellington. He died, unheralded other than by his clientele, a decade back. By contrast, Ian Athfield, an affable chap, is fashionably acclaimed as a national treasure, his own house described as an architectural marvel. In fact it’s an unsightly joke. Ian’s own description of it in a recent interview: an unruly mess. Sited on a north-facing hill overlooking the harbour, its sunny and view sides are both substantially concrete. Need I explain?
      Read more

      █ Athfield’s rebuttal?
      “I think that’s praise from Bob Jones – it’s quite good for him, isn’t it? He doesn’t understand what I do.” Link

  5. Elizabeth

    █ Public Figure: Ian Athfield https://www.facebook.com/Ian-Athfield

    Sir Ian Athfield – Public Memorial Service
    The New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) have organised a public memorial service to celebrate the life and work of Sir Ian Athfield, to be held at 3pm, Sunday 1 February, in Civic Square, Wellington.
    Details of the service are yet to be finalised, but it is envisaged that it will include eulogies from people who knew Ath well. The service will very much be a memorial to Ath the Architect, and many Members will wish to attend. https://www.nzia.co.nz/

  6. Elizabeth

    The funeral of top architect Ian “Ath” Athfield was held at his home in Wellington today as hundreds turned out to celebrate his contributions to architecture.

    ### stuff.co.nz Last updated 15:23 23/01/2015
    Architect Sir Ian Athfield remembered at home [+ Video]
    By Tom Hunt – The Dominion Post
    New Zealand’s architectural cuckoo has been sent off in style.
    As Sir Ian Athfield – Ath to most – was carried from his sprawling Khandallah home and office in a casket today, hundreds followed as a band played When the Saints Go Marching In.
    The architect, father, grandfather, husband, raconteur, and friend to many, died last Friday after unexpected complications during a procedure in Wellington Hospital to treat his colon cancer. He was 74.
    His funeral was as much a celebration as a mourning as anecdotes flew about the man who helped shape Wellington.
    “Ath was affected by boundaries,” his son Zac said. “In a perpendicular sense – they were there to be crossed.”
    Tom Scott, master of ceremonies at the service, wondered how Athfield’s adoptive parents would have felt when they got him home “and a cuckoo emerged”. Athfield was instrumental in changing Wellington from a “black and white” city where “people dreamed in shades of grey” to what it was today, Scott said.
    The city he helped create couldn’t have put on a better day – Wellington Harbour a still blue framing his home and offices, where children played on the roof and the sun bet down.
    Marsh Cook, who studied architecture with Athfield in Auckland 55 years ago, remembered him arriving in Auckland “like a big ship in full sail and taking the place over”. He was obviously exceptionally-talented in areas from architecture to rowing to rugby, not to mention his “penchant” for women. Athfield disappeared from the scene then an invitation to a wedding arrived in the mail. “Ath the Lothario and the most beautiful girl in the world.”
    Athfield would remain married to his wife Clare in Wellington till his death.
    They had two sons – Jesse and Zac – and grandchildren Lilly, Isla, Phoebe, Tommy, and Sylvie.
    Roger Walker – who was dubbed one half of the “terrible twins” with Athfield for their early anarchistic approach to convention – recalled a battle with the council. Athfield produced photos of housing alterations done by building inspectors that were not by the book. At least six building inspectors were sacked and for a while Athfield was dubbed “Sir Ian”.
    It was not until this year’s New Year honours that the “sir” was made official with a knighthood.
    Among the multitude of buildings Athfield designed, was the revamp of Civic Square in the 1980s and the nikau palm columns that now surround the central library. It was remembered at the funeral how, when he won the contract he took his staff and their families on holiday to Fiji.
    His body of work included more than 150 projects and earned him more than 60 awards.
    His Khandallah home, where today’s funeral was held, is likely what he will be remembered for most. It’s white igloos sprawl down the hill, over the harbour and motorway. Athfield began construction in the 1970s and progressively expanded it to accommodate the offices of Athfield Architects.
    The First Church of Christ Science on Willis St, the former Telecom Building on Manners St, the Odlins NZX refurbishment, the Arlington council flats, the Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University, and the Chews Lane precinct also benefited from his creativity.
    He was also famous for the spectacular feather-shaped design he and fellow architect Frank Gehry came up with for the national museum Te Papa, which never made it to the shortlist.
    More recently, he was named architectural ambassador for the rebuild of quake-ravaged Christchurch.
    Zac Athfield, his son who will continue on with Athfield Architects, was with his brother, mother, and father in his last days. “It was like watching the last scenes in a love story that was 52 years in the making.”
    Stuff Link

    Ian Athfield - tribute at Khandallah home [Photo RNZ Alexa Cook]Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

    ### radionz.co.nz Updated at 6:48 pm on 23 January 2015
    RNZ News
    Hundreds farewell Sir Ian Athfield
    By Daniela Maoate-Cox, in Wellington
    Hundreds of people gathered across the rooftops of Sir Ian Athfield’s rabbit-warren home in Khandallah to farewell the lover of blues, ladies and architecture. His sprawling hillside home links multiple residences and caused many conflicts with the Wellington City Council and some neighbours. Sir Ian’s friend of over fifty years, Tom Scott, who lived in the home for a while, said Sir Ian’s natural and intuitive style set him apart from the rest. “He seemed to work without a parachute but he actually had complete knowledge of the laws of aerodynamics and if he had to he could float to the ground just using his fingertips really. He was such a clever man.”
    Read more + Photos

    Listen to Daniela Maoate-Cox on Checkpoint:
    Audio | Download: Ogg MP3 (2′ 42″)

    Obituary, NZ Herald — via ODT 24.1.15 (page 36)

    ODT 24.1.15 Obituary Sir Ian Charles Athfield p36 (2) [click to enlarge]

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