Ministry of Works architect John Wilson only designed three houses in his career. Here, he discusses complex treetop home he designed for his brother in the ’70s
Inside a unique Taupo home that’s full of quirky rooms and dynamic spaces
You spent most of your career designing public buildings. How different was the experience of designing a house?
Not a lot really, for me. Though it could have been as there’s a big difference with client identification. Private clearly has a lot of the personal in it, whereas public can be a lot more impersonal/institutional. It’s therefore really important in public practice to make it more personal, at least it was for me, by finding the people responsible and trying to gain access to the users or at least trying to identify with them. Sometimes that was very difficult with the sort of systems that could be in place. After all, buildings are used by people in all sorts of ways so it has to be about people, how they use and experience the buildings. Also, it should be a good experience physically.
Was it easier or harder designing for family?
For me it wasn’t hard as they were supportive and encouraging. That was the way we were. Never considered it in any other way really.
Your design drew on the vernacular of the baches in the area – how important was it to fit in?
I believe good architecture is well mannered and should be considerate of its location. That can be tough. A coherent visual group of buildings always looks good. Consider the great international examples of Europe – look at the beauty of Greek villages and Italian towns. To be well mannered is a real challenge to architects and is a real design discipline.
The house has survived beautifully and is beloved by its current owners. Have you had a chance to visit since your brother moved?
No, I haven’t, but now I will. I strongly believe that the building is for the owner/payer and I am the agent entrusted to bring it about. I tend to step away, not from a lack of interest but because we all have to get on. Another way of looking at it is self preservation!
Words by: Aimie Cronin. Photography by: Paul McCredie.