Alington House

60-62 Homewood Crescent, Karori, Wellington

  • Alington House.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Michael Dudding. Date: 1/07/2005.
  • Alington House-View from garden court toward Alington House.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Michael Dudding. Date: 1/07/2005.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7698 Date Entered 22nd June 2007

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Extent of List Entry

The registration includes the building, its fittings and fixtures (including the built-in furniture, and the light fittings), the land at 60 Homewood Crescent on which the building is placed as shown on the certificate of title WND3/533 (appended to the registration report), and the adjacent section of native bush at 62 Homewood Crescent as shown on the certificate of title WN53A/885 (appended to the registration report).

City/District Council

Wellington City

Region

Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 26233 (CT WND3/533) and Lot 1 DP 85629 (CT WN53A/885), Wellington Land District

Location description

There is no drive on access to the site of the house (60 Homewood Crescent.) Pedestrian access is gained from a steep path via a right-of-way a short distance up the driveway of 64 Homewood Crescent. As this walkway steps up to the site of the Alington House, it crosses a small part of the 62 Homewood Crescent boundary (see Appendix 4 of the registration report for further details).

Summaryopen/close

The Alington house in Karori is a key work within the oeuvre of an important New Zealand architect, William (Bill) Alington, and is an important New Zealand example of Modern Movement architecture.

Alington designed the house for his family as a private job while working for the Architectural Division of the New Zealand Government's Ministry of Works (MoW) immediately after returning from his overseas experience. Undertaken after graduating from the Auckland University College's School of Architecture, Alington's travels allowed him to gain private practice experience with the noted British architectural firm of Robert Matthews and Johnson-Marshall in London (1956-7), as well as studying toward and gaining his Masters of Architecture at the University of Illinois in the United States (1957-9). Alington has made a considerable contribution to postwar architecture in New Zealand, in terms of his built work, which includes a range of government, civic, educational and religious projects around New Zealand, and in his contributions to the architectural profession and architectural education. He has been recognised internationally and nationally as a significant New Zealand architect.

The Alington house was built by the architect himself, with the assistance of local carpenter George Nicholls, in 1962. Although Alington was involved in the design of other major projects for the MoW at this time, the freedom of designing a small scale domestic project with himself as client meant that Alington was able to distil his architectural ideas into one project. Thus the Alington house can be viewed as a preliminary manifesto - a crystalisation of the ideas and qualities that came to typify Alington's architectural oeuvre, most notably in the combination of Modernist purity and Classical discipline that is a feature of his buildings.

The sensitively detailed post and beam construction and regular geometric form begins from the pavilion typology that evolved within the international Modern Movement. Alington reinterprets this tradition for the local context, in terms of the construction materials (timber, including native timber), the spatial/organisational planning for a New Zealand family situation, and in the relationship to its bush-clad site, including the neighbouring section 62 Homewood Crescent (which is also included in this registration).

The Alington house remained in the Alington family until 2005. It still contains some of the original furniture (including the original built-in furniture) and, although minor alterations have been carried out on the house and property by the architect, it remains in close to its original condition. The adjacent section of native bush at 62 Homewood Crescent is still in the ownership of the Alington family.

The house has been documented in a range of New Zealand publications. It has also been recognised by the NZIA, receiving a NZIA-Resene Local Award for Architecture in 2001 and a NZIA-Resene Enduring Award for Architecture in 2007. It has been identified by DocomomoNZ as one of the 19 key Modern Movement buildings of New Zealand.

The Alington house in Karori is a key work within the oeuvre of an important New Zealand architect, William (Bill) Alington, and has been recognised both nationally and internationally as an important New Zealand example of Modern Movement architecture. While the Alington house is noted for its sense of order, its controlled employment of geometric proportion, and its intimate relationship with its surrounding bush landscape, it also clearly illustrates typical responses to the changing domestic lifestyle and environment of postwar New Zealand society. It is celebrated as the culmination of mid 20th century post-and-beam pavilion style domestic architecture in New Zealand, and has survived as a relatively rare and pure example of this form of building.

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Historical Significance or Value

The building is one of the first buildings designed by William (Bill) Alington, and is a key work within his oeuvre. Alington has been recognised as an important New Zealand architect both nationally and internationally . The building is also considered to be a benchmark in New Zealand residential architecture and one of the most important Modern Movement buildings in New Zealand .

The Alington house was the first project realised after Alington's education and overseas experience (which included postgraduate studies for a Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana, United States). Although Alington was employed by the MoW at the time, he was able to design and build the house in his own time. The fact that Alington was designing for himself (and his young family) meant that he was free to incorporate his own concerns into the design at a fundamental level. The building can therefore be seen as the most pure exploration and built statement of the Alington's architectural ideas, and as such, marks the beginning of a long and successful career that remained remarkably consistent in terms of adherence to the philosophy set in place in this building.

Architectural

The house is planned to reflect the typical modern New Zealand family of the time. There is an insistence on clear spatial demarcation (utilising the rhythm of the structural module) between the various domestic functions, and these have been arranged in a very controlled planning composition that is centred on the family hearth/kitchen. This area is celebrated by a solid brick wall that divides the relatively open-planned public spaces into 'family' and 'dining/sitting' zones. Surrounding these zones are the bedrooms, symmetrically placed either side of the public zones so that there is a bedroom in each of the four corners, with bathrooms separating them. The landscaping of the section can be considered as extensions of the spatial planning of the house, in both the clearing at the front entry, and in the more controlled garden court at the rear of the house, separated from the interior by floor to ceiling glazing.

While the structural and organisational logic set Alington's work apart from other work in New Zealand, the presence of the 'family room', hearth, open-planning, and closer relationship between the interior and exterior spaces, are more indicative of the typical design considerations of domestic architecture during this period.

The house retains its original colour scheme inside and out. Built-in furniture in the form of bookshelves and cupboards, and fittings (bathroom, kitchen, lights, etc) are original, and some of the original furniture (although not designed by Alington) has been retained by the current owners. The landscaping and outbuildings are still in much the same condition as when Alington was still in residence.

Technological

The house is supported by a simple, but thoughtfully detailed timber post and beam structural system. This system is unusual in terms of house construction in New Zealand, which relies on timber frame construction techniques. In order to highlight his departure from standard construction techniques, Alington took care to detail internal walls so that they appeared as partitions rather than as walls that act as part of the structural framework.

The remarkable feature of the structural system, however, is the way that the rhythm that is set up by the structural module serves to organise the spatial and functional relationships within the house. Divisions between public and private areas, transitional and zones of domestic ritual (e.g. cooking, cleansing) are all demarcated by this structural module. This structural/organisational integration is a rare in its discipline and thoroughness in Modernist domestic architecture, both internationally as well as here in New Zealand. It reflects Alington's ability to reconcile the principles of a contemporary international Modernist tradition with a respect for the discipline of a much older Classical tradition.

The use of post and beam construction places this building amongst a small number of similar pavilion houses in New Zealand, including other Wellington examples by contemporaries James Beard (Beard House, 1955) and Bill Toomath (McKay House, 1962). Of these houses, the Alington house is the only example that has not been significantly altered.

Aesthetic

The house, with its flat roof, visibly articulated structure, and precise detailing appears as a sleek Modernist pavilion, of the same formal typology as Mies van der Rohe's iconic and influential Barcelona Pavilion (Barcelona, 1928-9). Although this typology had already been interpreted from its original steel, stone and glass at Barcelona to that of lightweight timber construction - most notably by the Case Study Houses, and other houses by West Coast US architects (most famously Richard Neutra) - Alington's reinterpretation for New Zealand's conditions returns to the more rationalised construction and disciplined proportions of Mies van der Rohe's work, as exemplified by the latter's Farnsworth House (Illinois, 1951). Mies van der Rohe is a very clear influence on Alington's work, and Alington took the opportunity to meet and discuss architectural ideas with him during Alington's stay in Illinois.

The section is bounded to the north by the Johnston Hill Bush Reserve, and to the west by the property of 62 Homewood Crescent, which although owned by Alington, has been allowed to remain in established native bush, and thus appears consistent with the bush reserve. This landscape contrasts powerfully with the precise architectural expression. The house is approached via a steep and narrow bush walk that forms part of the architectural/spatial experience of the house itself, and within the house itself, the floor to ceiling glazing of the public areas present a view back into the surrounding bush.

Architectural historians generally argue that post World War II domestic architecture in New Zealand has grappled with issues of the origins and essence of a distinctly New Zealand architecture, that, while Modernist in principle, moved away from the more straightforward international Modernism of pre World War II. However, Alington argues that in the Alington house he made no conscious attempt to develop a New Zealand vernacular (although he admits the possibility of this occurring through good design that is responsive to its location). This places the building outside of the dominant themes that organise New Zealand architectural history - in particular the trajectory that is most often traced back to the Group Architects of the 1940s and 50s. While he was influenced by the fundamental ideas of the Group Architects, (which included rationalised planning, and a basic economy of means and material so that the new Modern way of living would be available to 'Everyman' - standard tenets of the Modern Movement), Alington was less driven by the call for a national architectural expression. This is clearly manifested at the Alington house by way of the purity of its Modernist aesthetic expression and form; a reference back to the masterworks of the international Modern Movement rather than an appeal to the New Zealand pioneering architecture from which a local vernacular was predicted to arise.

This approach to postwar Modernism is less marked in historical texts than the more popularised 'looking for the local' narratives, but represents a very important direction in New Zealand cultural history. It can be linked to the strong internationalism that was present at the MoW under Gordon Wilson (where Alington was employed), as well as to the European immigrant community, whose international training and intellectualised outlook were very influential (both at MoW, and in the cultural life of Wellington more generally). That these factors were both centred in Wellington also hints at a regional variation in architectural philosophy that is yet to be properly understood. However, it is important to recognise that architects such as Alington, Beard, Toomath, Derek Wilson, and others shared a similar idealistic position that was fostered by the close-knit nature of the Wellington cultural scene - centred for the most part on the Wellington Architectural Centre.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The Alington house is a late example of Modernist architecture in New Zealand, which seeks to interpret International Modernist trends in terms of a New Zealand context. It remained remarkably pure in its adherence to International Modernist principles, yet is nevertheless embedded firmly within the narratives of New Zealand's architectural history with its attention to lightweight timber residential construction, and its fascination with the New Zealand landscape.

The Alington house also illustrates the changing nature of domesticity in New Zealand architecture in the postwar period, with emphasis on open-planning, the relationship between interior and exterior, and a focus on 'family spaces'.

The Alington house has remained largely unaltered, and these representative aspects are complete and well preserved.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The house was designed by William (Bill) Alington, who has been recognised as a significant New Zealand architect both nationally, and internationally. The Alington house was the first house to be designed by Alington, and is a strong example of his architectural philosophy in built form.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place

The house is held in high esteem by the architectural community. It has been documented in a range of New Zealand publications. In 2001 it received a NZIA-Resene Local Award for Architecture and in 2007 a NZIA-Resene Enduring Award for Architecture. It has also been identified by DocomomoNZ as one of the 19 key Modern Movement buildings of New Zealand.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The Alington house employs a unique post and beam structural system that moves away from the standard lightweight timber frame construction that typifies most of New Zealand's residential building. This structural system transcends this technological function however, and serves to modulate the spatial and functional arrangement of the house according to its carefully considered geometric and proportional rhythm, as well as visually in terms of architectural composition. The thorough integration of the technological, functional, and aesthetic qualities into a meaningful work of architecture, as well as the resulting "clarity of intent [...] dedicated attention to detail within layering of proportion and balance[d] spaces" marks the Alington house out from other residential work in New Zealand.

SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANCE

The Alington house in Karori is a key work within the oeuvre of an important New Zealand architect, William (Bill) Alington, and has been recognised both nationally and internationally as an important New Zealand example of Modern Movement architecture. While the Alington house is noted for its sense of order, its controlled employment of geometric proportion, and its intimate relationship with its surrounding bush landscape, it also clearly illustrates typical responses to the changing domestic lifestyle and environment of postwar New Zealand society. It is celebrated as the culmination of mid 20th century post-and-beam pavilion style domestic architecture in New Zealand, and has survived as a relatively rare and pure example of this form of building.

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Alington, William

Alington was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, in 1929. He began his career as an architectural cadet in the New Zealand Ministry of Works (MoW) in 1949, before studying architecture at the Auckland University College School of Architecture (Auckland, New Zealand) from 1951-1955. Early influences of this time include Gordon Wilson, who was the Government Architect at the time, MoW cadet supervisor James Beard, who was to become something of a mentor to Alington during the early part of his career, and Professor R H Toy of Auckland University College School of Architecture. Upon returning to the MoW after his graduation, Alington was assigned to the Hydro-Electricity department where he worked for a short, but influential, time under Chris Valenduuk.

In 1955 he married Margaret Hilda Broadhead. They have three children: Elisabeth Hilda (1959), Giles Hildebrand (1961), and Catherine Beatrice (1962).

In 1956 Alington left New Zealand, travelling to London, Europe, and on a Fulbright Travelling Scholarship, to Illinois in the United States. During 1956-1957 he worked in the London office of Robert Matthew and Johnson-Marshall on, among other projects, New Zealand House (London, England). During this time he and his wife Margaret embarked on a tour of western Europe, fulfilling his desire to see firsthand the large mediaeval cathedrals, as well as key works of Modernist architecture including Le Corbusier's Ronchamp Chapel and Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles. From 1957-1959 Alington studied towards a Masters Degree at the University of Illinois' School of Architecture (Urbana, United States). While in the United States Alington took the opportunity to visit buildings by Frank Lloyd-Wright and Mies van der Rohe, and had occasion to meet with Mies van der Rohe.

On his return to New Zealand Alington resumed work as an architect with the MoW, with notable buildings of this time including the Gisborne Courthouse (Gisborne, 1962), the Alington house, and the Meterological Office (Wellington 1965). His design work since moving into the private practice of Gabites and Beard consists largely of institutional work for civic authorities and educational institutions (including: Upper Hutt Civic Centre, Upper Hutt, 1966, NZIA Silver Medal; Waipa County Offices, Te Awamutu, 1976 NZIA Bronze Medal; Massey University Halls of Residence, Palmerston North, 1970, NZIA Bronze Medal; Wellington High School, Wellington, 1978; NZ Anglican Chinese Mission, Wellington, 1978).

In 1972, Alington was appointed Honorary Lecturer and Tutor at Victoria University of Wellington's School of Architecture & Design, lecturing in architectural history. He also taught at Auckland University as a Visiting Lecturer in 1982.

Other professional posts held include: NZIA Branch Committee Executive Member (1961-1969), NZIA IA Councillor, Vice President, Branch Chairman (1977-1979), and Architectural Centre President (1970-1972).

Alington, William

Alington was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, in 1929. He began his career as an architectural cadet in the New Zealand Ministry of Works (MoW) in 1949, before studying architecture at the Auckland University College School of Architecture (Auckland, New Zealand) from 1951-1955. Early influences of this time include Gordon Wilson, who was the Government Architect at the time, MoW cadet supervisor James Beard, who was to become something of a mentor to Alington during the early part of his career, and Professor R H Toy of Auckland University College School of Architecture. Upon returning to the MoW after his graduation, Alington was assigned to the Hydro-Electricity department where he worked for a short, but influential, time under Chris Valenduuk.

In 1955 he married Margaret Hilda Broadhead. They have three children: Elisabeth Hilda (1959), Giles Hildebrand (1961), and Catherine Beatrice (1962).

In 1956 Alington left New Zealand, travelling to London, Europe, and on a Fulbright Travelling Scholarship, to Illinois in the United States. During 1956-1957 he worked in the London office of Robert Matthew and Johnson-Marshall on, among other projects, New Zealand House (London, England). During this time he and his wife Margaret embarked on a tour of western Europe, fulfilling his desire to see firsthand the large mediaeval cathedrals, as well as key works of Modernist architecture including Le Corbusier's Ronchamp Chapel and Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles. From 1957-1959 Alington studied towards a Masters Degree at the University of Illinois' School of Architecture (Urbana, United States). While in the United States Alington took the opportunity to visit buildings by Frank Lloyd-Wright and Mies van der Rohe, and had occasion to meet with Mies van der Rohe.

On his return to New Zealand Alington resumed work as an architect with the MoW, with notable buildings of this time including the Gisborne Courthouse (Gisborne, 1962), the Alington house, and the Meterological Office (Wellington 1965). His design work since moving into the private practice of Gabites and Beard consists largely of institutional work for civic authorities and educational institutions (including: Upper Hutt Civic Centre, Upper Hutt, 1966, NZIA Silver Medal; Waipa County Offices, Te Awamutu, 1976 NZIA Bronze Medal; Massey University Halls of Residence, Palmerston North, 1970, NZIA Bronze Medal; Wellington High School, Wellington, 1978; NZ Anglican Chinese Mission, Wellington, 1978).

In 1972, Alington was appointed Honorary Lecturer and Tutor at Victoria University of Wellington's School of Architecture & Design, lecturing in architectural history. He also taught at Auckland University as a Visiting Lecturer in 1982.

Other professional posts held include: NZIA Branch Committee Executive Member (1961-1969), NZIA IA Councillor, Vice President, Branch Chairman (1977-1979), and Architectural Centre President (1970-1972).

Otto Glogau

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Nicholls, George

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Historical Narrative

Designed between 1959 and 1962, the Alington house in Karori, Wellington, is a key work within the oeuvre of William (Bill) Hildebrand Alington.

The Alington house was initially destined for a site in the northern Wellington suburb of Crofton Downs, until two sections of land in Karori were offered to the Alington family by James Beard, a close friend and Alington's former supervisor at the MoW. The land was situated right at the very edge of the Wellington City Council's urban boundary, and, as it was bordered by the Johnson Hill Bush Reserve, it largely consisted of established native bush.

Although Alington had completed some projects for the MoW's Hydro-Electricity Department, and was working on other significant projects during the design/construction period of the Alington house, it is the house that afforded him the freedom to explore the principles of his architectural philosophy in built form. The general view that architects' own homes express the architect's principles with much greater clarity than their commissioned projects is based on the assumption that, by removing the restrictions put in place by the client, the architect can concentrate on producing their architectural 'masterpiece'. In the words of the biographer of English architect Ernö Goldfinger, the architect's home becomes "a combination of manifesto, practice piece and advertisement". Goldfinger himself observes:

A young architect ought to be made to build his own house first. It is the only way to learn [...] he ought to have the chance to show what his ideas really are.

This was the certainly the case for Alington, who was able for the first time to explore the principles that he had developed in his final year sub-thesis at Auckland University College in 1955, and further developed in his postgraduate studies at Illinois. As his own client, Alington was able to introduce rigorous constraints (such as the strict mathematical proportioning, the consistency of detailing and expression, etc) that went beyond those required for a normally commissioned building. This self-imposed discipline clearly reveals the practical application of the principles explored within his sub-thesis, and is also a defining feature of his oeuvre more generally.

Alington had been sketching plans and perspectives of his ideal home as early as 1954, but these were based upon an idealised property. Nevertheless, many of the same features that can be observed in the completed Alington house are evident in these early drawings. These include the Modernist pavilion typology (mastered by Mies van der Rohe) with wide overhanging eaves and clearly articulated structure, as well as the centralised symmetrical organisational planning and the treatment of the exterior as extensions of the spatial sequence of interior volumes . The final design, however, displays a much more sophisticated modulation of the structural/organisational module that is based on a series of alternating minor and major bays, rather than the regular rhythm of the earlier scheme.

The house was built in 1962, with the majority of the construction undertaken by Alington himself, with the aid of a local carpenter, George Nicholls.

The Alington house has been identified as an exemplar of Modern Movement work in New Zealand. In this respect it is important to note the influence of the Architectural Group on the Alington basic motivations of the Alington house. During the 1940s a group of architecture students at the Auckland University got together under the name of The Architectural Group, writing a manifesto with the ultimate aim of encouraging the establishment of Modern Movement architecture as the basis of all architecture, design, and planning in New Zealand. Embedded within this manifesto was the call for an architecture that would be responsive to its New Zealand context - the climate, resources, people, and way of life that make this country unique - from these factors an architecture would emerge that would uphold the principles of the international Modern Movement, while at the same time be explicitly and recognisably of New Zealand.

The Alington house, as a development of this ideal, was built at a time when these principles had become loaded with further ideological baggage. This took the form of the search for a local vernacular to answer the Architectural Group's call for a distinctive indigenous architecture, and it was the cottages and sheds (especially) of New Zealand's colonial period that architects turned to for their vernacular references. That Alington chose to instead refer to an international Modern Movement typology - the Modernist pavilion - reveals a desire to remain true not only to international Modern Movement principles, but also to the principles espoused by the Architectural Group in their manifesto. The building's integrated relationship to the outdoor environment and the bush setting; the planning around the informal lifestyle of a typical New Zealand family; and especially the rationalised construction and material palette, which largely consisted of timber (much of it native), are all features that could be identified as markers of the New Zealand context within which the house is built. The jurors of the 2001 NZIA-Resene Local Award for Architecture, reflecting on the relaxed lifestyle that is catered for by building, feted the Alington house as having been a benchmark in residential architecture for many years.

The eschewing of references to the colonial past, at a time when this was fast becoming the norm in residential architecture (and was soon to be taken to a whole new level of Postmodern irony and mannerism in the work of Roger Walker and Ian Athfield), places the Alington house as a late example of purist Modern Movement residential architecture in New Zealand. It is this observation that prompted Imi Porsolt, himself an important architect of the Modern Movement, to label the building as the final formalisation of a purist trend.

Although the house has not featured in the major historical surveys of New Zealand architecture (such as Peter Shaw's A History of New Zealand Architecture (1990)), it has nevertheless been well documented throughout its lifetime. In 1980 it was featured in Bonny and Reynolds's Living with 50 Architects: a New Zealand perspective, and it has featured in newspaper and magazine articles (see bibliography of the registration report). It has also been an essay subject for architectural history students learning about Modern Movement architecture, and in 2005 was the subject of more extensive study in a Master's thesis at Victoria University of Wellington's School of Architecture. Its selection by the founding members of DocomomoNZ as one of 19 places that best represent the Modern Movement in New Zealand has led to international publication in The Modern Movement in Architecture: Selections from the Docomomo register.

The Alington house has also been recognised by the NZIA. In 2001 it received a NZIA-Resene Local Award for Architecture, where it was recognised as a "benchmark in residential architecture". It subsequently received a NZIA-Resene Enduring Award for Architecture in 2007, which is awarded to buildings whose design has stood the test of time.

The Alington family lived continuously in the house until 2005, when the house was sold to its current owner.

Physical Description

Style

The Alington house draws on the architectural traditions of International Modernism (and specifically the Modernist pavilion typified by the work of Mies van der Rohe), interpreted for the New Zealand context. The low overhanging flat roof, attention to geometric proportional relationships, the structural articulation and large areas of glazing are aspects of this tradition that Alington has employed, while working within the constraints of timber construction materials and the natural landscape that are characteristic of the domestic architectural trends in New Zealand.

The house is celebrated for its response to its bush setting, and Alington's manner of "working within the constraints of orthogonal geometries, proportional discipline and classical planning as well as the desire to clarify load bearing and born [sic] elements in timber post and beam". For these reasons, and the resulting "balance[d] spaces", the house has been identified as "a benchmark in [New Zealand] residential architecture for many years", and accordingly, was awarded a NZIA-Resene Local Award for Architecture in 2001.

Layout and Key Spaces

The layout of the Alington house is organised according to the logic of the structural system. Running through the house from south to north, the central three structural bays (one major and two minor) define the public areas. The structural bays of the east-west axis also define the spatial arrangement of the private zones of the house, which flank either side of the central spaces. The bedrooms in each corner of the western side (housing a bathroom in between) mirror an almost identical arrangement on the eastern side.

The Palladian-like symmetry of the plan centres on an 'H'-shaped brick wall. Located on the southern side of this wall is the fireplace that opens into the sitting area, while the northern face defines the kitchen area. This central feature-wall stops short of the ceiling, emphasising its non-load-bearing role as a spatial divider for the public areas of the house. Although the middle portion of the house is in fact one open space, the separation created by the brick dividing-wall provides the impression of separate volumes while at the same time maintaining the visual connection between each 'room'. The glazed exterior wall, the brick dividing-wall, and the suggestion of enclosure provided by the structural module (reinforced by the original placement of furniture), provides the spatial definition to each of the public areas.

The clearing amidst the landscape planting immediately outside the front door, and the garden court at the rear of the house, are also key 'spaces' that are central to the layout of the house. The scale and nature of these clearings add to the sense of spatial progression throughout the house, integrating the experience of interior and exterior spaces into a harmonious sequence.

Condition

The house remains in its near original condition, including the retention of its original colour scheme inside and out, built-in furniture in the form of bookshelves and cupboards, and fittings (bathroom, kitchen, lights, etc), and some of the original furniture (although not designed by Alington) has been retained by the current owners. The landscaping and outbuildings are still in much the same condition as when the Alington family was in residence.

Comparative Information.

The use of post and beam construction places this building amongst a small number of similar pavilion houses in New Zealand, including other Wellington examples by contemporaries James Beard (Beard House, 1955) and Bill Toomath (McKay House, 1962). Of these houses, the Alington house is the only example that has not been significantly altered.

The Alington house shows the influence of the house that James Beard had designed for his family in 1955. The Beard house, situated on a bush-clad section in the same area of Karori as the Alington house, also takes the form of a flat-roofed Modernist pavilion. Despite some obvious superficial similarities (the overhanging flat roof, board-and-batten cladding punctuated by large areas of timber-framed glazing, clear articulation of post and beam structural system) the houses are very different, especially in key areas such as planning, proportion, and relationship to the landscape. The Beard house (now much altered) responds to its geometric logic in a much freer manner than the discipline of the Alington house The spatial arrangement of the former exists in spite of the structural module (based on the square), whereas at the Alington house much care has been taken to integrate the structural module (based on the Golden Section) with the organisation of the spaces within (see Figures 24 & 25 of the registration report). This means that the spaces at the Alington house, being determined by the carefully proportioned rhythm of the structural organisation, maintain a calmly ordered and legible consistency throughout.

Differences in the response to the bush-clad context also mark these houses - where the Beard house sits elevated within the regenerating bush, the Alington house takes advantage of its low slung nature to become more integrated with its surroundings. The area in front of the main entry appears as a small 'clearing' after the narrow bush path that leads up to the site and the house; it effectively creates the sensation of a 'room' in the manner of the hallway/foyer, where one waits before being invited into the house proper. Similarly the garden court at the back of the house is another carefully proportioned clearing that forms a spatial continuation of the volumes within the house itself.

A third Wellington pavilion, the McKay house designed by William Toomath, also employs many of the devices found in the Beard and Alington houses. It also features a bush-setting, prismatic flat-roofed form (minus the overhang), and vertical board-and-batten cladding. Present also is the free-standing post and beam structural system. Like the Alington house, which has a semi-height brick wall as a spatial divider between the living areas, the McKay house encloses its lounge with semi-height walls. Where Toomath paints his white, Alington allows the brick to retain its phenomenological warmth, combining it with the fireplace and kitchen to reinforce the 'memory' of the familial hearth.

Toomath designed a compact house that gave the impression of spaciousness by the "planning the interior as a single continuous space, divided by only a few solid elements". Nevertheless, the commonalities between the McKay and Alington houses extend to the alternating structural rhythm of minor and major bays (although the beams run across the McKay house), the formal symmetry, and centrality of the living spaces. The northern elevation of both houses reveals both the similarities between the two plans, as well as the significant generating role of the actual plan itself. Unlike the Alington house however, the spatial arrangement of the McKay house is defined by its circulatory layout. This opportunity arises out of the separation of the spatial and structural systems that is more akin to the Beard house than the Alington house. It does however, mean that the repose that is achieved through a consistent integration of these systems is not as evident at the McKay house.

The three houses show different approaches to what is essentially the same formal typology: the Modernist pavilion that has its roots in the work of Mies van der Rohe. Mies's Farnsworth house of 1950 is effectively a rationalised abstraction of the house, where even interior walls are deemed superfluous. Beard, Alington, and Toomath, each supplement this rationalisation with a well-studied program for living that allows 'Miesian abstraction' to function as 'family home', or in the case of the McKay house, as the home of a social professional couple.

In these houses, Toomath (who was a member of the Group during the 1940s, and a signatory to the manifesto), Beard, and Alington, employed reveal a less selective reading of the Architectural Group's ideas, valuing the aspects of 'standard Modernist' ideology that are generally overlooked in contemporary readings of their manifesto. They sought to create architecture that was internationalist in ideology and expression, but also appropriate to the conditions and building capabilities of this country. It should be noted that the Wellington Architectural Centre was a key part of all three architect's background experience. An adherence to a purer Modernist rhetoric was fostered at the Centre, in part by the presence of the European émigrés such as Plischke and Newman who were influential members. The same can be said of the Ministry of Works under Gordon Wilson in the 1950s, where both Beard and Alington were employed.

However, as Porsolt points out in his review of Living with 50 Architects, "styles overlap". The line between the New Zealand Modernist pavilions illustrated here and the 'elegant shed' that consciously attained to a particular idea of New Zealandness, is at times slim. Houses by Don Donnithorne, Derek Wilson (Toomath's partner in practice), and James Hackshaw (Reynolds and Hackshaw were both members of the Group during the 1940s) are as much shed as pavilion, demonstrating that the two typologies are not mutually exclusive.

The three Wellington pavilions however, display a high degree of resolution in terms of both architectural refinement and functional planning that left little room for further typological development of the New Zealand Modernist pavilion. The Alington house in particular bears testament to elegance and refinement of this typology, through both the skill of its architect and his deep consideration of proportion, planning, and detail, and by virtue of it remaining in its original condition. Sadly, this is not the case for either of the Beard and McKay houses, both of which have been significantly altered to the degree where it is difficult to identify the original architectural form and spatial arrangement.

Notable Features

Notable features of the Alington house include: the construction (post and beam, flat roof); the classical, symmetrical relationship between the layout and the structural module; the original colour schemes, fittings, and built-in furniture; and the relationship between the house and its bush setting.

Construction Dates

Designed
1959 -
Begins design of the Alington house for site in Churton Park, then later for the current site in Homewood Crescent, Karori.

Original Construction
1962 - 1964

Modification
1966 -
Alteration of bedrooms to include built-in wardrobes

Addition
1986 -
Construction of viewing platform/gazebo for observation of Halley's Comet.

Construction Details

The house is of Oregon timber post and beam construction, on a concrete floor slab. The exterior is clad in stained native totara board-and-batten, and covered by a welted aluminum sheet roof. Internal walls are rimu timber-trimmed white plasterboard panels, with the central fireplace/kitchen wall constructed of brickwork. The post and beam construction system allows for the large areas of glazing of the public areas of the house. The glazing is framed by painted timber. Built-in furniture (cupboards, bookshelves, etc) are constructed from native rimu timber.

Completion Date

9th March 2007

Report Written By

Michael Dudding

Information Sources

Alexander Turnbull Library

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

W H Alington Oral History Project, 2004, by Michael Dudding, held at the Oral History Centre, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

Bonny, 1980

Stephanie Bonny and Marilyn Reynolds. Living with 50 Architects: A New Zealand Perspective. Auckland: Cassell, 1980

Clark, 2000

Justine Clark and Paul Walker, 'Looking for the Local: Architecture and the New Zealand Modern', Victoria University Press, Wellington, 2000

Clark, 2005

Justine Clark, 'The Elusive Canon of New Zealand Architecture' in Models for Living: 1905 - 2005: A survey of 100 years of New Zealand residential architecture, Auckland: AGM Publishing, 2005; ii-vii

Dudding, 2005 (2)

M. Dudding, A Useful Exercise: The context, ideas, and practical application of W H Alington's 'Thesis on the Theory of Architectural Design', unpublished Masters' thesis, Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington, 2005

Hansen, 2004

Jeremy Hansen, 'Time and Space: The effortless modernity of Bill and Margaret Alington's 60s Wellington home belies the toil that went into the details', Home & Entertainment, June/July (2004): 46-51

Home and Building

Home and Building

'Awarded NZIA Bronze', XXV(12) (May 1963); 40-3.

Lloyd Jenkins, 2004

Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, At Home: A Century of New Zealand Design. Auckland: Random House, 2004

Lloyd Jenkins, 2005

Douglas Lloyd Jenkins, New Dreamland: Writing New Zealand Architecture, Auckland: Random House, 2005

Sharp, 2000

Dennis Sharp and Catherine Cooke, The Modern Movement in Architecture: Selections from the DOCOMOMO Registers, Rotterdam, 2000, p.188

Shaw, 1997 (2003)

Peter Shaw, A History of New Zealand Architecture, Auckland, 1997

Wilson, 1996 (2)

John Wilson (ed.), Zeal and Crusade: The Modern Movement in Wellington, Te Waihora Press, Christchurch, 1996

pp. 69-78

Emanuel, 1980

M. Emanuel (ed) 1980, Contemporary Architects, MacMillan Press Ltd

pp. 27-8

Architecture New Zealand

Architecture New Zealand

Reid, Giles. 'Focus: 5 Houses 5 Decades', December/January (1998): 72-73

McCarthy, 2005

McCarthy, Christine (ed.)., ...about as austere as a Dior gown: New Zealand Architecture the 1960s, Wellington: Centre for Building Performance Research, VUW, 2005

Dudding, Michael., 'A Final Formality: Three Modernist Pavilion Houses of the Early 1960s', pp. 7-11

Better Business

Better Business

Porsolt, Imric. 'When Architects Design for Themselves', September (1980): 31-32

Other Information

NZIA Enduring Award Winner 2007

A fully referenced version of the registration report is available from the Central Regional Office.

Other information

Founding members of DocomomoNZ selected the Alington house as one of nineteen Modern Movement places to best represent Modern Movement architecture New Zealand. The resulting international publication documents the Modern Movement in architecture worldwide.

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.