Testing the Dialogue

Ok, here we go again….after a year’s rest.

This is the painting I was talking about the other night, especially the translucent green on a black ground.

Some of the ideas I am playing with are:

-groups are  held together with the boundary of the void.

-each ‘picture’ of 7 is enhanced or made richer by it’s neighbour relationships.

-the elements of each ‘picture ‘ are freely suspended within their zone

The picture(at present) is called Crossing the Void.

Corri iron + clouds

This posting is a test.

Fresh from the boards today (14.08.13) is a sketch about corri iron + clouds. The test is whether I can reach, through this sketch, someone ( right, accurate, true, exact, precise, unerring, faithful, strict, faultless, flawless, error-free, perfect, letter-perfect, word-perfect; informal on the mark, on the nail, bang on, (right) on the money, on the button) out there with a sense of adventure, great imagination and sufficient funding to explore the interaction of this partnership of materiality.

Let the test begin. Contact richardsellars@ihug.co.nz


corri iron and clouds

A really good brief

This is a great example of a brief I found in a book called The House and the Art of its Design by RW Kennedy published in 1953.

It was written by a writer when thinking about the kind of house he wanted.


In the first place, as an introduction, I think I ought to say that the relationship of an architect to a client like myself must be something spiked most richly with difficulties! Because not only do I know-far too explicitly-what I want, but the reasons for wanting it seem to me thoroughly valid reasons: rooted in experience. Having lived, since child-hood, a nomadic sort of life, I’ve been able to feel at home in an English cottage and on a desert ranch; in a Bavarian inn and a Canadian cabin; in London flats and New York studios, and a 12th-century castle in Northumberland. I’ve lived in brick houses and stone houses, plaster ones and wooden; all sizes and shapes, primitive-elegant; beautiful and quite ghastly and altogether humdrum. And if there’s one thing I’ve found it is that one’s own concept of living can, essentially, go on almost anywhere. It isn’t something de-rived, or created by, a house. Although a house, obviously, can facilitate its expression.


At which point I should like to mention briefly a warning experience in Carmel, California. A house was rented for me there by some friends -a house especially designed, I was told, “for a writer.” (I happen to be a writer.) It was smack on the beach; it had a charming patio; there was the inevitable huge window at which (presumably) one sat, inspired, in a fever of creativeness. And from the very first moment I loathed that house! It seemed to me– if I can manage to put it into words– dogmatic, doctrinaire; somehow both naively and arrogantly presumptuous. I felt as if f were living in someone’s mentality; or in an objectified theory. “Go on ! Write !” everything, at every turn, appeared smartly to dictate. And I couldn’t write a word. I couldn’t wait to get away. It was, I believe, the only time in my life when I’ve felt personally antagonized by an arrangement of wood and stone and glass. . . .


And so I know, from experience, that I don’t want a house that asserts itself; a domineering house; or an over-artful one, either. I don’t want rocks cropping up in the living- room; or self-conscious dramatizations of space; or the introduction of new materials simply because new materials now happen to be available. In brief, I don’t want guests, when they have gone away to say, “We were in such an interesting house last night,” but, “Last night we had such an interesting time.”


This is not only important; it is absolutely basic. My sense of a home (whether cottage or castle, studio or cabin) has always been a place to which people come, simply and freely, for comfort, for companionship for the sharing of ideas; nearly always it has been a kind of focal point for a diverse group of friends. Therefore, the accent must clearly remain on the quality of living; not the place itself.


And when I come into my house I want to have a sense of really coming into it.


This, I realize, is lamentably un-modish ! Nevertheless, I want to have a sense of coming in, of being inside. And for a reason that is quite simple.


This house would be situated in the country; therefore the whole out-of-doors would be everywhere around. I should, as I’ve always done, spend quantities of time in the open. For I don’t happen to be one of those for whom the country is “scenery.” (Several contemporary houses I’ve been in seem to me to be occupied by people who have a quite spurious sense of being associated with “nature” because they live behind glass walls instead of brick or wooden ones ! On the contrary the country for me is something to be experienced actively and intimately: to be tramped across, and climbed, and smelled, and picked, etc., etc. In all kinds of weather. Not something to be stared at safely from an aquarium. And I love, after hours outside, in sun or rain or snow or wind, the sudden and significant contrast of coming into a house: the firelight and books; The gaze that has been widened to all earth and sky now deepened to the immediate, the intimate, the warm interflow of whatever one means by the word “home.” I don’t want the out-of-doors to intrude upon the in-doors. Any more than I like the in-doors to intrude upon the out-of-doors-as aggressive and elaborate “landscaping” seems to me to do. Each, it seems to me, should supplement, and heighten the values, of the other. So that one opens a door and goes out with a feeling of “Oh!-” and opens a door and comes in with a feeling “Ah–”


As to rooms:


The main one would be the living-room- large, with three exposures (east, south, and west) because I like the afternoon sunlight, and the room would be much used at tea- time, and oriented towards the fireplace. And when it comes to the fireplace I have certain prejudices ! I don’t want a great thrust of stone, or anything spectacular. I should like it to be quite plain, with a broad shelf above: its beauty in the rightness of proportions; its drama in the fire itself. An equally dominant feature will be books. There would have to be space for a steadily growing library; this is most important. The fireplace and books would be the heart and substance of the room. . . . And instead of a fashionable flood of light, I’m afraid that I would want long narrow windows, from ceiling to floor-all of which open. There would be panels of garden and countryside, and shafts of sunlight, which I happen to love. And the room should open on to some sort of grassy space, or terrace; and, at another point, should have a door into the kitchen. I see this room as having space and

and grass and warmth of tone; a sense of rich inwardness, accented by the outside.


The kitchen would also be important. And of all things it must not-should not-be clinical in atmosphere; none of that hospital operating-room look of some modern kitchens. It should face east and south; have one large window among several, intimately related to garden or terrace; should have an air light and gay and sociable and not cleverly contrived – the closer it felt to a farmhouse kitchen translated into contemporary terms the more I should probably like it.

There should of course be a bathroom downstairs; and I think a guest room. And this, the guest room, could have one wall of glass. For, again, a quite simple reason. Guests for the most part would probably come from the city; therefore the contrast, for them, would be between what they have come from and what they have come to – city and country. Therefore, this contrast should be dramatized. Living in the country, as I’ve already said, seems to me to shift the contrast into outside and inside.


My own room, bedroom and workroom combined, I should like to’ have upstairs, with, perhaps, a balcony. It, too, should have three exposures. East, south, west. Also, it should have a fireplace; and more bookshelves. And the working corner should be highly private in feeling. (I’ve always enjoyed working under eaves, for instance!) It should not be decked out with a fine, inspiring view! I’ve seldom met a non-writer who didn’t suppose that writers love to sit looking out grandly upon vistas galore. And I’ve never met a writer who loved to do any such thing. The assumption that a “view” helps or stimulates this order of creativeness is, I think, grounded in a complete lack of understanding of what the writer is up to. If you’re creating a whole inner world in a novel, say- or burning at poem-heat. You are seeing, experiencing, something inwardly that bears no relationship to the immediate scene and is a thousand times more real, for the time being. Therefore a view is either an imposition, or a dead loss. I myself happen to like to be able to look across a room, with a window or windows to be glanced towards, but not stared out of. On the other hand, to go to sleep and wake up with the out-of-doors well at hand is, I think, wholly to be desired; so I’d like my bed bang against glass. . . .


This, I perceive, could go on forever! But there should, I think, be two more rooms, and perhaps an area, looking west, for sunsets-where one could have a big, round table for supper parties in spring and autumn. (Summer one would out of doors; winter by the fire.) No dining room. Breakfasts and lunch in the kitchen.

And quantities of closets. And a garage, rendered miraculously unobtrusive. And perhaps two terraces, or garden spaces-east and south, and south and west-so that there would always be shelter from wind in early and late seasons.


But most of all, over and above everything, a house that doesn’t demand to be accepted

as a dogmatic entity, or an exercise in theories, apart from the quality of living, the arrangement of values, that it houses.

Not much to say

I found this drawing in the sketch pad and wondered when it was done. I was  annoyed with myself because I like to date these drawings…… usually at the top or bottom of the page.

Then I found it. For some reason I had dated it in the middle of the page . Not much to say about this page except I see these personal sketch books as conversations, lots of them. Some make sense and some are nonsense but they all live in? occupy? inhabit?  a shared context of which they, themselves, play an important part.

My first thought was to pick a ‘nice’ sketch and isolate it so as  to admire it. I am now seeing that inclination as tedious. I prefer to see the drawings as they arrived in all their roughness and underdressed but most importantly remaining in the group they came with.

The idea, being, to slow down the editing process until the total context has been fully appreciated.

Shadow maker

Today’s point of view is triggered by notes I made on 23 August 2012.

A reminder not to focus solely on the object but also on the field ( the context of the object) and also the process of viewing. The process of viewing is, I suspect, a pretty important part of perception and I really don’t understand it at all. For the time being I’m defining it as ‘making the invisible visible’. Like everything these days this view is subject to change.

Then a question. How do you concentrate attention? It seems to me that there is so much sensory information going on around us that using design to slow phenomena down and help concentrate our attention is a good thing to do.

Create pockets of design retreat to help combat the accelerating swirl. Nothing wrong with the swirl, but occasionally we need a break and practice our ability to focus. This leads us on to the final point from the notes of 23 August 2012.

I like the idea of a house which has been designed for specific purposes. Refer orange arrow. Specific purposes like a house to make shadows or a house to catch rain. This ties the house into it’s environment in a very simple way.

A house that performs those two functions well, for example making shadows and catching the rain, is far, far more interesting than copying a style or a fashion etc.

I think my frustration with current practice of architecture is that we have become very object focused, commodity focused, cost focused. It is seen as risk taking to play outside the commodity based limitations. I think looking at process and playing with process, especially how a building interacts with it’s environment is one way we might loosen that gridlock.



RE view


Time for me to review one of my own favorite drawings or pieces of architectural design. Most of the time my ‘next’ drawing or ‘next’ piece of design is the one I’m really interested in. This piece of work is an exception for me. I still really like it 34 years after it was made.
Background. It was my final year at architectural school in Auckland ( end of 5 years study) and we were presented the design problem of designing anything we wanted on a small Ponsonby site. Anything we wanted……anything we wanted, that is difficult. Much more difficult than say designing a hospital, or a hotel etc because the guidelines for those kinds of buildings are clearly in place. (I’m talking at student level of course.) Just look at what others have done before, improve their weak parts, throw in a bit of individually or some sort of crowd pleaser and present in the most beautiful way you know how.

So I started designing flash cafes (cafe society hadn’t hit NZ in 1979) and made lots of “architectural” drawings. I was left unsatisfied…. they were just buildings. So what?
I didn’t want to waste this opportunity to design ‘anything I wanted’. My attention shifted away from a building towards relationships between people. Not just people in general but specific people. I had met a neighbour, a beautiful little 6 year old girl called Storm, who loved drawing. She was very full of life but also very ill. She was dying of cystic fibrosis.

My design was to create a place where Storm, who was about to die could meet my grandmother who had died some years previously. I hoped that the two would meet and that my grandmother would be able to help Storm on her journey. I put myself in the picture too as someone who could introduce the two.

Once I had worked out what I was trying to do, the architecture was simple and straightforward.
The scene was a playground with water and a cool really big blackboard to play with. The blackboard was so big that you needed a ladder on wheels to reach up to the top. The blackboard doubled as a screen.
The light weight yellow canopy had a pop up clerestory in it to let the light in. Storm had told me she liked roofs like that.

I still like this proposal years later because it still feels fresh to me, still alive as an idea. It carries none of the trappings of 1970s fashion or references to other 1970s architects. It deals with something outside time.
I love the way it was drawn with crayons, strong, purposeful and colourful. A million miles from today’s ubiquitous uniform computer renderings.
It’s strange that I could never have written about this piece of work, like this, at the time. It is in review some 30 years later that I’m able to disengage from my self criticism and really enjoy the idea for what it is.

This drawing represents a little world that is still alive for me. Building regulations, money and “look mum, no hands” type of architecture have no place
in this world.
This is a creation of mind, complete and subservient to itself.

Reflecting back on the work years later I wonder why the presentation was so innocent, so child like and I think there are a couple of reasons. Firstly the ‘client’ in this project is 6 year old Storm so the drawings had to be done in a way that she would understand the scheme. Secondly, often children’s drawings have a directness about them, a clarity about them and a simplicity about them. These were the qualities I was trying to capture.


First up a sketch page done about 20 May 2013 and starts with a question.
Good question… what will happen next? A few characters doing their thing. I like the busty woman with the French poodle.

Also the comment
This is really a comment about whenever I turn my computer on, I get images of beautiful houses constantly flowing across my screen. It seems to me that it is not difficult to do these dream houses….. the real difficulty is getting the crew with enough money to pay for these creations and then having the skill to land these dreams so that they don’t upset the regulators too much.

Wheeehee we’re away. The blog is running. Some will be good, some will be bad. I just hope collectively they will be of interest and best of all bring a smile to your face.


Time to write another blog page… it’s been very quiet for a long time. The question is ‘ what do you write about that is remotely interesting in these days of flooding information?’

I think you write about stuff that interests yourself. If you, the author aren’t interested, then the poor reader will be bored quickly and they will move on.

So, something I do have is journals of sketch books with ‘random’ information in them. Sketches, notes, bits of mind stuff that floats through the studio. I fill these books and then forget about them so the BIG IDEA is to randomly pick a page and post it. It gives me the chance to review the content but more importantly I don’t feel the need to invent some new idea.
It has already been done in the last two or three years so I’ve just got to find something that tickles my fancy. (and hopefully yours)
First up photo of the 8 journals sitting in the studio.




ardwork website which shows drawings was launched last week.

Just click on the ardwork logo above at the top of the page.

Trees and Buildings can be found in the colour section of the new web site.



Yellow is lemons

fresh from the tree

on a blue dish

in soft winter sun


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