What I Like About You: Issue 77

Ben Daly from Palace Electric shares thoughts on a favourite building from the last century.

Martin House and Kamaka Pottery • 1969

Bridge Pa, Hastings, New Zealand
Architect: John Scott

Architecture often holds a tension between the design and construction process versus its conceptual and theoretical practice. For me, the power of conceptual architecture is its ability to evoke and influence our emotions and thoughts. It was on a visit to a local potter that I had my biggest and perhaps most influential moment with architecture, that has helped me develop more as a craftsperson.

That visit was to Bruce Martin’s place, where his house, studio and kilns all sit amongst a thoughtful landscape. You are welcomed by Bruce, who in his 90s has one of the most peaceful and purposeful natures about him. As he walks you through his studio and gallery, the architecture unfolds in what can only be described as in an intimate way. What starts as a studio tour, ends up in a studio, anagama kiln and house tour. I have visited several times now and what started with going to see Bruce and his late wife, Estelle’s pottery, is now visiting Bruce for a talk, cup of coffee and friendship.

For many architects in NZ, the Martin House, as it is known, is one of the best. A lot can be written about John Scott, the architect; his care to detail and awareness of materials, culture and nature. The thing that makes this building inspirational can be summed up by meeting Bruce and listening to his stories. When he talks of his house, there is a childlike wonderment still in his eye, with the joy that it brings him, the life that he has had and still shares with it, and the pleasure he has in sharing it. For Bruce, the architecture, the pottery and his family all are considered together. As a craftsperson, Bruce allowed John Scott his own space to make the best work he could make, rather than a list of wants and requirements. It is a rare thing to see architecture working synergistically with the love and joy someone receives from their craft and whanau, as in Bruce’s case. For this reason alone, I think the Martin House sits amongst one of the best experiences of architecture.

“A building becomes important only when it lifts the person onto another plane or complements that person’s purpose” – John Scott.

Ben Daly
Palace Electric

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