Design life... with Nat Cheshire

Design life... with Nat Cheshire

Cheshire Architects has put its stamp on Auckland's CBD, with a portfolio that includes the downtown Britomart area and media hub/food haven City Works Depot (home of Best Ugly Bagels, Food Truck Garage, Bauer Media).  

Nat Cheshire, co-owner of the studio, will be at Designex in Christchurch next week as keynote speaker, talking on the transformation of cities, the evolution of a design practice, and the power of exhaustion. We spoke with him ahead of the exhibition.

My style is... Style is irrelevant. We’re setting out to destroy the constraint of style, typology and professional boundary. Architecture is an agent for massive cultural change: the arbitrariness of style has no place here.
 
My first job was... I learnt AutoCAD when I was 11- or 12-years-old – computers were so new even draughting seemed more an exciting game than it did work.

My first creative memory is… racing through darkened pre-dawn hills in a car with my father Pip and our great friend, the reductivist painter Stephen Bambury. Surf was the destination, but the conversation – more of a violent but humorous argument – was all about Malevich, suprematism, post-modernism, Corbusier. As a kid I thought them very funny, but also giants. They were the great heroes of my childhood.

I’m inspired by… I don’t believe in inspiration. This is too complex and too important a field to be working with. Our energy comes from the belief that restless research and bold speculation, focused through inexhaustible work, can wreak massive change. That’s enough.

My first big project to work on was... terrifying. Two building and ten floors of adaptive re-use amongst pigeon-shit and hundred-year old decay, focused around an enormous nightclub and brave little restaurant, in the middle of a near-empty empty wasteland and a massive recession.

It was exhilarating and reflexive and impossibly fast. It changed almost everything I thought about architecture. It almost killed me, but I remain deeply grateful to it, and to the people who attacked it alongside me.

My tools of the trade are… Architecture is drowning in extraordinarily sophisticated tools, but its most potent remain just a stick of charcoal, and your larynx. Both are the mechanisms by which ideas are first crystallised into form. In turn, that first form is the mechanism by which others may step amongst the hopes and dreams we have for each project. Stories and scribbles: everything we have ever done has emerged from these.

The New Zealand design industry is... facing unprecedented creative freedom. We are operating in a culture that has glimpsed a future far more beautiful than it imagined possible. It is our job to lead our culture boldly into that future. Everything that used to constrain us now seems to empower us. We cannot ask for more than this.

Nat Cheshire will be speaking at Canterbury Designex on August 1, 11.30am-12.30pm, at CBS Arena in Christchurch.