Q&A: We chat with editor of Here magazine, Simon Farrell-Green - Misc. AU
Q&A: We chat with editor of Here magazine, Simon Farrell-Green

Q&A: We chat with editor of Here magazine, Simon Farrell-Green

New Zealand has a wealth of architecturally designed houses, each with a unique story to tell. Here magazine celebrates just that – they’re an independent architecture magazine highlighting what it’s like to live in Aotearoa. Each issue showcases a range of homes, unique design, art, culture, and much more.

Words by Città

Città is proud to be a partner of this year’s Here awards. Even amid a nationwide lockdown, there’s never been a better time to celebrate the architecture in our beautiful backyard.

We sat down with Simon to discover more about New Zealand architecture and how the awards came to fruition.

Simon Farrell-Green, editor of Here Magazine.
Current issue of HERE Magazine.

Hi Simon! Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I'm the editor of Here magazine, which is about architecturally designed houses in Aotearoa, but it's also about independent business, art, design and beautiful things you might like to have in your home. We're an independent magazine that launched last year after the mass closure of magazines in Aotearoa after the first lockdown.

When you were initially determining the categories and awards, what considerations did you make?
We wanted them to be relevant to what's being designed and built now. We wanted to create funnels that would encourage people to enter, with a wide variety of projects. That's the fun of these awards, seeing how radically different contexts and sites can be addressed by clever design. So, I guess the biggest consideration was being inclusive and open, rather than seeking a particular type of house.

Medlands House by RTA. Photographed by Jackie Meiring.

Is there a stand-out category that’s more significant to you?
Oh, that's tough! I'd have to say the reuse and renovation category – we saw some really great design in there. Architecture magazines in Aotearoa haven't always been good at covering renovations or awarding them in programmes like ours, but it's about half the market – particularly in cities where heritage overlays mean you can't demolish. I also think from a sustainability point of view it makes sense to reuse and repurpose things that might still have a life. Plus, I live in a wonky old villa badly in need of some work, so it's good intel!

What surprised you about the entries you received?
The number of them, for a start. We were a bit overwhelmed and never expected so many in year one. The variety was fantastic and that's come through into the finalists and winners – a lovely mix. I also liked that most of them seemed to be quite thoughtful with clever use of space and materials. There wasn't a lot of pointless shiny luxury, which was gratifying, but there was a lot of clever design and good use of space.

Earles House Grey Lynn by Jose Gutierrez. Photographed by Sam Hartnett.
Earles House Grey Lynn by Jose Gutierrez. Photographed by Sam Hartnett.

How did you narrow the entries down to the shortlist and finally, to the award winners?
With great difficulty, but not alone thankfully! We assembled a rōpū of judges (two architects and a non-expert enthusiast, plus me) and we chose a shortlist of about 13 projects which we then whittled down to seven finalists. We were looking for novelty of idea and quality of execution – I guess the strength of the idea and then how well realised it was. We were interested in the relationship of houses to the sun and land, and whether they were doing something we hadn't seen before.
Covid lockdowns intervened, but we managed to visit all of them (with masks, social distancing, individual visits and a couple of Business Travel Documents to leave the L3 cordon). It was an incredible effort by the team in trying circumstances.

What was your favourite aspect of this process?
Starting from scratch! Having edited an established magazine with decades of history, I really enjoy Here's fresh approach and the fact that everything is deliberate and fit for purpose. It's captured a sea change in architecture in Aotearoa and the same is true for the awards. A new generation of architects and homeowners are coming to the fore: they have different tastes and different priorities, which I loved. And getting to go visit houses is always a privilege and illuminating – even if you have to go on your own and wear a mask.

Tairua by Glamuzina. Photographed by Sam Hartnett.

What makes New Zealand architecture unique? Why is it important to recognise and celebrate this?
I'll answer the second bit first because that's easier. It's important to recognise and celebrate this because no one else really will – in the digital age we're awash with images from all over the world, but they rarely relate to our circumstances or conditions. Our architecture is here (geddit?), and that's why we cover it, so it made total sense to develop an awards programme that would start to say what we stand for and to help support and promote the architects we work so closely with.

I think there are some clichés about New Zealand architecture – humble, wooden, tied to a sort of modernist shed vernacular – which is sometimes useful but not always true. This seems to be fading fast as we re-engage with colour and self-expression after a long period of very restrained aesthetics, both in terms of architecture and interiors. The rediscovery of our modernist vernacular has been useful, but it's time we explored new ways of designing even as we continue to celebrate that heritage. I've come to realise slowly that our architecture is unique because we're unique – it's less about style and more about attitude. We're modern, progressive, thoughtful and easy-going, and our architecture tends to be the same. There's a lack of pretension or uptightness about our spaces that is quite different even to Australian houses – even our most luxurious houses have a looseness to them.

Freemans Bay by Jack McKinney. Photographed by David Straight
Freemans Bay by Jack McKinney. Photographed by David Straight

How does interior styling work in unison with the architecture? What considerations should be made?
I think about this a lot because I'm always bemused when you see a house and the owners' furniture is totally at odds with the house they've had designed. I often wonder why they chose the architect they did when clearly their taste is in a different direction. I guess I just mean it must be deliberate, and confident. Old things in new houses, new things in old houses... That kind of thing.

Our new house is a 1907 villa with a 3.6-metre stud, and our old place was a little 1950s place with a 2.4 stud, so even just the scale, shape and layout of the rooms is different here, and has seen us slowly editing – both furniture and art... We are sort of meeting the house in the middle. It's yet another reason why buying well-made, well-designed things makes so much sense – if you need to move it on you can always sell it and let someone else make better use of it.

Città AW21 featuring Compound Sideboard, Asili x Città Whittle Bowl, Serena Serving Bowl and Daily Sofa in Oak

What’s your most treasured object in your own home and why?
This is SUCH a hard question. I was going to cop out and say our kids, but they're not objects. I think it's a little piece, ' Aloha Felicia' by the artist Cat Fooks, which was the first piece of art my wife and I bought together, and the first painting either of us had ever bought – until then it was photography (which I still love), prints and small works. It's not a big piece but it really holds the room. She layers paint on top of paint obsessively and the works are multi-coloured and almost cake-like. They sometimes take days or weeks, and she works intuitively until they feel finished.

“Aloha Felicia” artwork by Cat Fooks
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