The role of architectural history research: Auckland’s NZI building as William Gummer’s attempt at humanity

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Madanovic, Milica
Moore, Cameron
Jadresin-Milic, Renata
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Conference Contribution - Paper in Published Proceedings
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Gummer and Ford (Firm)
New Zealand architecture firms
Gummer, William Henry (1884–1966)
Ford, Charles Reginald (1880–1972)
New Zealand architecture
architectural history
New Zealand
Auckland CBD (N.Z.)
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Mađanović, M., Moore, C., & Jadresin Milic, R. (2022) The role of architectural history research: Auckland’s NZI building as William Gummer’s attempt at humanity. In David Kroll, James Curry and Madeline Nolan (Ed.), Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: 38, Ultra: Positions and Polarities Beyond Crisis,Adelaide: SAHANZ, 2022 (pp. 533-543).
In response to the third thematic sub-stream of the 38th Annual SAHANZ Conference, this paper will discuss the role of architectural research in the architecture of Gummer and Ford, the Auckland-based practice, often described as one of the most prolific bureaus in interwar New Zealand. The paper is a fraction of a three-staged project, “Gummer and Ford,” developed by a team of researchers from the Unitec Institute of Technology in response to an event recognised as a milestone in the New Zealand architectural calendar – the 2023 centenary of the firm’s establishment. This paper explores the design principles of William Gummer, the principal designer of the firm. From 1914 to 1935, Gummer consistently published his view that the goal of the architect was to cater to humanity’s highest instincts. He was unwavering but vague on how this is achieved; through composition, unity, contrast, proportion and scale, appropriate use of materials is all needed to produce buildings of good character. But what did he really mean by this? A close reading of three books Gummer considered invaluable to architectural students – The Essentials of Composition as Applied to Art by John Vredenburgh Van Pelt, Architectural Composition by Nathaniel Cortlandt Curtis, and The Mistress Art by Reginald Bloomfield – offers a direct insight into the influences behind his thinking about architecture and his architectural production. Directly traceable to Gummer, the three titles include clear, precise instructions on both the functional and artistic nature of architectural design. Interestingly, this paper employs a method not dissimilar to Gummer’s design method. These books taken together, along with Gummer’s own writing, a study of renderings and construction drawings, and close observation of the buildings, an architectural analysis of Gummer’s work becomes possible – it is what Gummer himself referred to as Architectural Research. This historically focused study will bring a new perspective to understanding the value and contribution of traditional architects, not only in New Zealand but other English-speaking countries.
Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand
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