John Walsh is the author (with photographer Patrick Reynolds) of several major books on architecture, including New New Zealand Houses, Home Work, Big House Small House, City House Country House and Christchurch Architecture: A walking guide.
His latest book is Auckland Architecture: a Revised Guide, published by Massey University Press. In this handy pocket guide, brought up to date in 2021 with the inclusion of twenty new buildings, Walsh teams up with architectural photographer Patrick Reynolds to offer a self-guided walking tour of 65 significant Auckland buildings, from the Victorian era to the brand new. The sparkling and informative text is accompanied by easy-to-follow maps for each of the five routes.
On the bestseller list for many weeks when it was first published in 2019, this informative book is perfect for Aucklanders and visitors to the city alike.
Two years on from the first publication date and already a major update. How so?
Auckland has already yielded more buildings and, just as importantly, the publisher has kindly allowed more pages.
You must be happy that it has struck a chord?
It’s always reassuring to discover that one’s enthusiasms are not peculiar.
What’s new in this edition?
There are 18 additional projects in this edition. A few buildings in the first edition were dropped to make way for buildings that, on further reflection, have stronger credentials, or perhaps tell a better story.
What did you use as the benchmark for inclusion in this revised edition?
Significance as a work of architecture or importance as a work of a significant architect. Also, its importance as an example of one of the architectural styles that have been deployed in Auckland over the last century and a half.
Location also comes into it – the book is intended as a walking guide and all the buildings are in the catchment defined by the Parnell, Ponsonby and Karangahape Road ridges.
Favourite new modern buildings in this edition?
I particularly like the new Hotel Britomart by Cheshire Architects, which is a clever and sophisticated urban insertion. The Wynyard Central East 2 apartment complex by Architectus sets a high standard in a fast-developing area, and Jasmax’s new South Atrium has greatly improved the back side of the most important civic building in Tāmaki Makaurau — Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira.
On a smaller scale, the 1960s Sacred Heart Church in Vermont Street, Ponsonby, was a surprising discovery.
What do you hope readers will learn from the book?
That, once you look, Auckland has a wide range of interesting buildings — most of the architectural styles of the last 150 years are represented in the city, and very able architects have worked here. There are lots of good stories behind the city’s façades. More than that, I hope the book provides an easy-to-follow introduction to the development of the centre of New Zealand’s largest city.
A standard view is that Auckland lacks much architecture of interest and that we have destroyed a great many of our heritage buildings. Is this book a counter to that position?
Partially. I think you can argue Auckland has quite a lot of interesting architecture, while also acknowledging that the city has been careless — to say the least — with its built heritage.
Patrick Reynolds’ photographs are outstanding. What was his brief?
I’ve worked with Patrick for so long, and he’s such a good photographer, that he doesn’t really need a brief — just an address. We have interesting conversations about eligible buildings — Patrick knows how to read a building and he’s never short of an informed opinion.
Your texts are marvels of compression. Do you find it challenging to write at this length and deliver all the information you think the reader will need?
I realise readers may not have much time — I’ve tried to give them enough to be getting on with (they can follow up later if their interest is piqued): a bit about the building, a bit about the architect, some information about the building type and architectural style, and some context about the neighbourhood. Hopefully, the book is more than the sum of its parts — collectively, the pieces on the 65 buildings might allow readers (and walkers) to get an overview of the history of central Auckland through its architecture.
You and Patrick Reynolds are leading three walking tours as part of the Auckland Writers Festival this month. Are you looking forward to that?
Yes. I’m sure there’ll be some walkers who know more about some buildings than I do, so I think I’ll be listening as well as talking. And, of course, I’m always open to ideas for the next edition of the guide.
Find Auckland Architecture: Revised Edition here.