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Book review: Architecture Uncooked: The New Zealand Holiday House Through an Architect’s Eyes

Architecture Uncooked: The New Zealand Holiday House Through an Architect’s Eyes

Architecture Uncooked is not your standard coffee-table publication, full of glossy prints of unaffordable luxury and words of little consequence. It is not really even a book on formal architecture, nor a collection of nice photos of keen design ideas. It is, as it says, an uncooked version of New Zealand backblocks bach inhabitation, and that’s what makes it special.

Patrick Reynolds has let his camera roam around the campsite, picking up on patched floorboards, misty tendrils of bush and long scraggly arms of pohutukawa. The people pictured are real people: the author Pip Cheshire and presumably his extended family, cooking fish on the barbecue for dinner. The book looks, and almost feels, like a wordy version of an old seaside photo album, Polaroids fading, of summers spent and only just remembered. It’s the holiday dream book: place names carefully avoided, families just out of focus, seasons not quite summer.

Cheshire, an erudite architect of deserved repute, also has an ear for a keen phrase and an eye for a fresh take. His writing is evocative and thoughtful, with a well-reasoned discourse arguing for simplicity in holiday house design, backed up by classically simple Kiwi baches. Cheshire and Reynolds have travelled the country to regions as remote as Arthur’s Pass to visit a bach in midwinter with the signs of many years’ toil still evident on the walls, as well as to the far north and places in between.

The writing is on the wordy side but it’s a good night’s read, taking you back to a far simpler mythical time of your youth, running barefoot in the hot summer sand. Enjoy with cold beer in hand, under a leafy tree.