Historical Significance or Value
The Martin House and Pottery is the home and former workplace of Bruce and the late Estelle Martin. During the 1980s they pioneered the use the anagama pottery in New Zealand. This had been developed in Korea and Japan from the fourth century AD and necessitated firing pots for up to two weeks in a wood-fired kiln. The Martin's use of this method gave the couple a national profile and led to them becoming among the country's most important and celebrated potters of the late twentieth century.
The Martins were unique among their peers in building an architecturally designed pottery. Their architect was John Scott, New Zealand's first recognised Maori architect; critically acclaimed for the way he skillfully fused Maori and Pakeha cultural elements in his buildings. The Pottery was designed in such a way as to streamline work processes, each room serving a different function in the production process: from potter's wheel to showroom.
Scott also designed the Martin's house, located behind the pottery. Built as a family home for Bruce and Estelle and their three teenage boys, the house follows the 1960s trend to open plan living, where rooms open to each other rather than being closed off by walls and doors. This was to encourage social interaction and flow between rooms. An interesting aspect of the house was the creation of a separate wing for the boys. This reflected wider societal recognition of adolescence as a period when children asserted their independence from parents. The Martin house is unusual in giving spatial recognition to this.
The property is also the site of the largest traditional anagama kiln in New Zealand. This makes it a pivotal site in the history of New Zealand ceramics.
The Modernist style of the Martin House and Pottery has its roots both in European Modernism, Japanese design traditions, and the New Zealand vernacular movement of the 1950s, the latter inspired by the simplicity of the whare and woolshed. The ubiquitous Kiwi lean-to (a structure with a half-gable roofline) forms the basis of both buildings, with Scott juxtaposing several of these elements to striking effect. Each lean-to is connected by a series of low, horizontal structures and planes to make a unified whole. There are few houses in New Zealand that so successfully combine vernacular elements with those sourced from overseas. The house is considered by one architectural critic to be 'the major work by the iconic modernist architect John Scott.'
The house and pottery is of great technological significance in that Scott employed the Japanese post and beam system of structural support and the provision of negative detailing. This system is relatively rare in New Zealand. The place is also important in being the site of the first traditional type anagama kiln in New Zealand.
Scott was mid-career when he designed the Martin House and Pottery and the complex is also extremely valuable in being amongst his finest buildings. It can be considered his most architecturally significant house, mainly for its mastery fusion of vernacular and overseas forms, which is more accomplished than that achieved in the likes of the Savage and Falls houses.
Scott is now recognized as a brilliant designer, instrumental in promoting 'a local vernacular that could inform contemporary design'. His immense contribution to New Zealand architecture was acknowledged in 1999 when he was awarded a posthumous gold medal by the New Zealand Institute of Architects.
The Martin House and Pottery has immense cultural value at both a regional and national level. Bruce and Estelle began as local potters who through their work undertaken on the site established a national profile. The couple was instrumental in establishing dialogue between Japanese and New Zealand potters in the post-World War Two period and spreading knowledge of Japanese ceramics in New Zealand. Their work and ideas had a profound influence in the New Zealand ceramic community. This was recognized in 2005 when the Hawke's Bay Cultural Trust hosted a retrospective exhibition of their work at the Hawke's Bay Exhibition Centre.
There is also a poetic dimension to the Martin House. Even after 35 years the house is arresting and strikingly modern. The forms of the buildings could hardly be simpler, but are arranged in such a way to create an elegant and sculptural composition.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history
The place is among the best examples of the fusion of vernacular and overseas influences in New Zealand domestic architectural design. It is also important in the history of New Zealand ceramics, the first pace where traditional anagama pottery was produced in the country.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The architect of the Martin House and Pottery is John Scott, recognised as among New Zealand's most important architects. Bruce and the late Estelle Martin are leading potters, pioneers of the anagama style of pottery in New Zealand.
(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua
John Scott was New Zealand's first recognised Maori architect, with Te Arawa and European ancestry. Bridge Pa is a significant Maori community near Hastings.
Summary of Significance
The Martin House and Pottery is the home and former workplace of Bruce and the late Estelle Martin. They are among the country's most important and celebrated potters of the late twentieth century, with their work and ideas having a profound influence on the New Zealand ceramic community. The property is also the site of the first traditional anagama kiln in New Zealand, making it a pivotal site in the history of New Zealand ceramics.
New Zealand's first recognised Maori architect, John Scott, was both the architect and the designer of the Martin House and Pottery. The style of the house is significant, with few houses so successfully combining vernacular elements with those sourced from overseas. It is considered by one architectural critic to be 'the major work by the iconic modernist architect John Scott'. The house and the property is also of great technological significance with Scott employing the Japanese post and beam system of structural support and the provision of negative detailing, a system relatively rare in New Zealand.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place
The Pottery has had a long community association, with many local (and other) people visiting it to watch the Martins at work and purchase their wares. The Martins are well respected in the community for their work and involvement in the Arts.
(f) The potential of the place for public education
There is potential for public education - especially with the pottery and kilns - but this would depend on Bruce Martin and future owners. The pottery and kiln has huge potential to provide knowledge of the creation of the ceramics in New Zealand. Each room was designed for a particular purpose in the production process. The house is a vital place in the history of New Zealand domestic architecture.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The Modernist style, Martin House and Pottery is considered by one architectural critic to be 'the major work by the iconic modernist architect John Scott.' The Japanese post and beam system of structural support and the provision of negative detailing is of technological interest.
The Martin House and Kamaka Pottery are located close to the settlement of Bridge Pa, 10 kilometres east of Hastings on the Heretaunga Plain. Maori knew the pa as Korongata and before the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake it was sited on the banks of Te Awa Ateaatua stream. In the nineteenth century Pakeha settlers bridged the creek and used it as a resting point and watering hole for stock travelling to market in Hastings. Unable (or unwilling) to pronounce Korongata, they renamed the settlement Bridge Pa. After the quake the stream dried up and the bridge was demolished.
By then pastoralism dominated the district - sheep and beef cattle - but the high pumice content of the soils meant stocking ratios were lower than in more fertile parts of the region. From the 1960s this led some farmers to subdivide their land for other uses, including winegrowing, which is now well established. Among those seeking property were Bruce and Estelle Martin.
Bruce was born in Levin in 1925 and Estelle in Southland in 1930. They married in 1950 at Hastings where Bruce worked as radiographer; Estelle was employed in an accountancy firm. They lived in a house in Pakowhai Road, raising three sons: Brett, Dean and Craig. In 1957 Estelle joined an Ikebana class given by Louis Theakstone from Napier. The ceramic Japanese vases enchanted Estelle and, encouraged by Bruce, she decided to make her own. She enrolled in night classes in clay modelling and from books and notes taught herself to use a potter's wheel, working with earthernware before specializing in stoneware. Bruce built a small kiln at the back of their house and decided to contribute to the first firing, using slab building techniques to create his pots.
In 1965 Bruce and Estelle established a partnership called Kamaka (stone) and became full-time potters making glazed domesticware. By 1969, a lack of space led the Martins to move to the country where they could easily combine their living and working arrangements. However, their proposal to build a pottery workshop and kiln shed on their Bridge Pa property caused consternation among Hawke's Bay County officials. It was classified as a non-rural activity, requiring a specified departure County Council's planning scheme. This was eventually granted on condition that the rural character of the property was retained and no flags or bunting were flown at the front gate!
After seeing a friend's house designed by Len Hoogerburg, Bruce and Estelle decided to commission an architect for their new home and pottery. Not wanting to be 'copy cats' they approached Hoogerburg's colleague John Scott. They had no fixed ideas about the design other than what they didn't want: carpets, venetian blinds and wallpaper. Importantly, they felt as artists themselves they should allow another artist to have free creative reign. This was music to Scott's ears. He accepted the commission and began visiting the Martins at their Pakowhai Road home to see how they lived, discussing plans and ideas. As Bruce recalls, John 'educated us really, so we stopped thinking of a house as a kind of box-like thing and came to understand open planning.' Through these visits the design evolved. By this time the Martin's children were teenagers with a passion for loud music and their own space. Scott overcame this issue by creating a separate wing for the boys, containing their bedrooms and a separate living area. This was then linked to the main house by a covered walkway. The main house was not large, but had sufficient space for Bruce and Estelle. As Bruce explained, he and Estelle were relatively private people and did not require large areas for entertaining or show.
Scott initially sited the pottery and kiln in a basin just below the house, believing it created a stronger composition. However, Bruce and Estelle wanted greater physical distance between their home and work, private and public spaces. Consequently, the workshop and kiln was sited further north, about 50 metres from the house. Originally the house and workshop were to be clad in clinker brick, but the high cost of this material saw a change to concrete blocks. Building began in June 1970 and was completed by December. Bruce doesn't remember any major hiccups, but does recall the high standard of workmanship. When John presented the details of the fireplace wall to the block layer he was very unsure of the design and decided to lay the blocks dry to verify the layout and the block sizes. When he was about seven rows high he realized that John had everything correct and proceeded to rebuild the wall with morter.
The Martins were thrilled to move into their new home and pottery. They quickly established a rhythm of working, leaving the house in the morning and sitting at their potter's wheels or standing at their benches in the workshop until late afternoon. Large windows provided ample light into the workspaces, which looked out onto a developing garden of trees and shrubs, 'randomly' planted by the family. In 1978, they employed Scott to extend the workshop to create another workroom, but when it was completed they decided it was too good to work in and made it a display space instead.
In the same year they also visited Japan, a trip that proved a career watershed. They met Fujii Yukio, who used anagama kilns to “produce wholly unglazed pottery, with soft, subtle colours and textures...produced solely by the action of flames and the fall of ash on clay surfaces.' They were so taken by the work that they resolved to build an anagama kiln at Kamaka. It was first fired in 1982 and while not wholly successful, the results led to the potter Fujii-sensei coming from Japan to work with the Martins and improve their skill base. The next firing was a great success (each firing lasts about 10 days and is a 24 hour operation) and 'immediately propelled them to the forefront of New Zealand potters.' Since then, Bruce and Estelle have collected numerous art and ceramic awards. The large kiln was fired for the last time in 1990. However, Bruce and Estelle 'suffered withdrawal symptoms' so Bruce built a smaller kiln next to the existing one, which was used until April 2001. Estelle died in 2001. Bruce continues to live in the house.
Trees now shroud the buildings from Valentine Road, so it is only after coming up the drive that they come into view. The first to be reached is the pottery. This comprises three lean-to elements and two horizontal constituents. The first two lean-tos are workrooms and are sited front to back so they resemble (not inappropriately) a traditional factory roofline. A flat roofed porch signals the entrance to the workshop. This leads into a small vestibule and display area, fronted by a plate glass window and door. To the right is the first workroom, where Estelle and Bruce had their potter wheels - the Matai floor is marked by dozens of pot bases. The room is south facing, but a large ceiling height window fills it with light. (Bruce recalls the space getting cold in winter, necessitating the use of an oil heater). A double-sized entrance leads to the second workroom, largely lit by clerestory windows. This had the glaze table and the slab-building bench, the focus of Bruce's work. To the left double doors lead to an extensive storeroom. This is the major horizontal element in the pottery and runs the full length of the western side. Pots were stored here before and after firing in the original oil-fired kiln; located outside at the northern end, under a roof that extends the horizontal planes of storeroom.
The third lean-to is rotated at a 90-degree angle to the other two and is located east of the vestibule. This was added to the workshop in 1978. Designed by Scott, it was built as another workroom - with a heated concrete floor - but when completed the Martins thought it too attractive for this purpose and made it another display area. The main feature of the room is a band of windows cantilevered from the eastern wall, providing a long bench for the display of artworks. Clerestory windows puncture the western wall.
The Martin House is situated behind the Pottery on a small terrace. From this frontal (northern) perspective the two wings of the dwelling are immediately apparent, with the main house on the western side of the site and the boy's wing to the east, elegantly linked by a flat-roofed, screened porch or walkway. Bruce says Scott wanted a narrower distance between the two wings, but he and Estelle insisted they were kept well apart to ensure (particularly aural) privacy.
The main wing comprises three lean-tos, arranged along a low, horizontal axis in a zig-zag pattern. Moving to the western side of the house, the main feature is the chimney, which rises ziggurat-like up the side of the middle lean-to. At the southern end is a small porch, the back entrance to the house. From this side most of the walkway is clad in fibrolite, providing protection from biting southerly winds.
The eastern wing has one lean-to, which faces the northern lean-to of the main house, their rooflines creating an imaginary apex above the walkway. At the base of this lean-to is another horizontal structure. It runs perpendicular to the walkway element, both meeting at the southeast corner. There is a high degree of symmetry between the two wings, a feature reinforced by the two roofed porches that project from the northern facade.
The house has a series of casement, double hung and bay windows. The long and narrow casement windows are used in the utility and bathrooms; the double hung windows in the east wing bedrooms and dining room; and the bay windows in the living spaces. A highlight is a round window in the southern lean-to of the main house - similar to Scott's Visitors' Centre at Lake Waikeremoana - but which has a patterned screen designed by Keith Reynolds who was working with John at that time. Other decorative details are the koru-shaped barge covers and the colour scheme, where the dominant white is countered by the use of strong primary colours: red for flashings and window sills, yellow for vents, and purple for gutters and downpipes.
The walkway signals the entrance to both wings. The main house is entered through a vestibule off the dining room. This features a small window opening to the living room. The hole was made, says Bruce, so the children could see the fire burning from the other wing, an incentive for them to come over. The dining room and kitchen is housed within the southern lean-to. The eastern wall has a near-floor to ceiling double hung window, now partly shaded by an exterior screen. The room is open plan, with a dividing (matai) ply and chipboard storage unit separating the two spaces; the unit also accommodates a large stainless steel sink and bench. Behind this is a pantry and further storage. On the southern side, a door leads to the laundry and back entrance. On the western side the space flows through to the living room, the middle lean-to.
To the right, French doors open to a small porch. Opposite this are the ziggurat fireplace and two symmetrical bay windows. A small alcove on the southern side of the room provides a storage area. The northern wall has an opaque, green glass window, dividing the living room from the main bedroom, accommodated in the northern lean-to. Its main element is an off-centre, vertical window in the eastern wall, through which pass shafts of filtered light. Built-in wardrobes line the southern and western walls and a glass door opens to the northern patio. Next to this is an en-suite. Painted burnt orange, it features abstract tiles by the English (ex New Zealand) ceramic artist Kenneth Clark. The room also opens to the northern porch.
A small hall leads into the eastern wing. Lining the southern side is a bathroom, which also has tiles by Clark. The hall flows into the common room, designed as a place for the Martin boys to relax and entertain. It faces north, with a bay window and door opening to a porch. On the eastern side of the room are three bedrooms, two single and one double.
The two anagama kilns are sited to the south of the house and located under an open iron-roofed shed. This protects the kiln and provides space for the storage of firing wood. The kilns are semi-buried in pits and constructed of brick and concrete blocks. The arched roofs are at ground level and covered in Havelock clay. Flues rise behind the kiln to outside brick chimneys. Inside, the vaults have silicon carbide shelving. The larger kiln can accommodate 1,000 pots, the smaller one just 80.
Chattels or Objects: Two anagama kilns are located behind the house.
Extension to workshop in 1978.
Both the workshop and house are built on a concrete platform. The exposed timber framing and windows are Douglas Fir and Radiata Pine, stained with black/brown oil. The ceilings and walls are lined with polyurethened chipboard. In the house, the doors are faced with rimu plywood, as is some of the joinery. The exterior walls of the lean-tos are clad with concrete blocks and sheets of fibrolite; the connecting horizontal structures are covered in fibrolite only. (Originally, the concrete blocks were unpainted, but they were found to be porous and were sealed by paint.) The pitched (lean-to) roofs are laid with Monier concrete tiles; the flat roofs with panel deck roofing.
From the interior the Japanese post and beam system of structural support is evident - Scott had visited Japan on a Churchill Felllowship in 1969. Of particular interest is the way elements are joined. As one architectural historian explains: 'Junctures between concrete block and timber are not abutted or covered by a batten but left open to create a shadow - negative detailing.' Scott's skill is further evident in the use of materials. The floor is laid with quarry (red brick) tiles - chosen by Bruce and Estelle. The concrete block walls are unpainted, but the golden ply and chipboard offset their coldness. While the floor area is not large, the height of the lean-to elements provides an unexpected sense of roominess; counterbalanced by the horizontal axes, which offer more intimate spaces.
2nd October 2006
Report Written By
Mary Boyd, City of the Plains, A History of Hastings, Wellington, 1984
Kevin Chafe, 'One Man's World: John Scott, Architect', Research Report, Victoria University of Wellington, 1982
Cooper, 1989 (2)
Michael Cooper, The Wine and the Vineyards of New Zealand, Auckland, 1989
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Walden, Russell. 'Scott, John Colin 1924-1992', updated 7 July 2005 URL: http://wwwdnzb.govt.nz
Discover New Zealand: A Wise's Guide, Auckland, 1994 edition
Scott, J and M Ching-Fan, 'Of Woolsheds, Houses and People', Spring 1973. pp. 289-302
Martin, Craig, 'John Scott: Architect', URL: http://www.johnscott.net.nz
New Zealand Home and Entertaining
New Zealand Home and Entertaining
Shaw, Peter, Kamaka. The Ceramics of Bruce and Estelle Martin, Hastings, 2005; 'A Shared Aesthetic', Home and Entertaining, Dec/Jan 2004, pp. 58-64; A History of New Zealand Architecture, Auckland, 3rd edition, 2003
New Zealand Heritage
New Zealand Heritage
Brown, Deidre. 'Inventing an Idiom', Spring 2005, pp. 8-13
New Zealand Listener
New Zealander Listener
Lloyd Jenkins, Douglas, 'Flame into Flame, 22 Oct 2005, pp. 50-52
(All held by Bruce Martin): 'House for Mr and Mrs B J Martin', Hoogerburg Scott Architects, 255.69 (1970); 'Addition to Pottery for Mr and Mrs B. J. Martin', John Scott Architect, hmn 673, 20.9.78-13.11.78 (Also miscellaneous, unnamed and undated plans and elevations.)
Antanas P Procuta, 'The Nature of John Scott's Domestic Architecture', Research Report, Victoria University of Wellington, 1986.
A W Reed, Reed Dictionary of New Zealand Place Names, Auckland, 2002
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.