Was this year a bit brutal, or is it just me? Lockdowns, ongoing uncertainty, moving goalposts – we thought we knew what this meant, what the system entailed. And then things changed... and changed again.
So before I go any further, and after two months of making and re-making plans to keep this show on the road, I’d like to say one thing: if you haven’t been vaccinated, go and do it now! Aotearoa needs you to do this, and it needs all of us to unite behind this cause if we want our normal life to resume.
Like many, the past couple of months threw us. When we launched our awards programme earlier in the year, we planned to get on the road to judge in August. We delayed once, then delayed again and then, finally, a week before we were due at the press, we managed to get to the houses.
It wasn’t the grand tour we’d envisaged. Masks, separate visits, Covid tracing QR codes and, in one case, a formal application for business travel. But we got to see each house in person and that’s the most important part of all this – standing in the space, watching how the light washes down the wall, or even the way it smells. Photos are lovely, but let’s be honest – they do have a tendency to lie a little bit.
I felt for our rōpū of Jo Blair, Ken Crosson and Elisapeta Heta, as itineraries changed and meetings moved and we met again on Google Meet rather than over dinner in a nice restaurant after a day of touring houses. So I want to say thank you to each of them for joining us with such great enthusiasm and good humour.
Despite the Covid restrictions, the team pulled through, and found new ways to measure the buildings in our awards, relying on each other’s considerable experience and filtering it carefully. That took time. “It’s like electing the pope,” I said to some friends after another meeting without a result, and as our print deadline approached.
The winner surprised even me. I’ve loved this house since I first saw it – Jack McKinney is a master of space and volume, an expert in focussing everything into one bold move that unlocks everything in a way that feels effortless. But renovated villas don’t often win architecture magazine awards; we’ve forgotten about the power of old buildings, and become a bit obsessed with new ones. And that’s certainly something we set out to change with this magazine, and these awards.
Maybe that’s the power of starting from scratch, and maybe it’s what happens when you start a new magazine with a new kaupapa. New things happen, and then they surprise you.