Friday, 27 June 2008

A visit to the big smoke

Last weekend we took advantage of a spell of unexpectedly sunny weather to take ourselves out for an airing. It was a bit too chilly for a stroll along the beach, so, seeing as Iain had a pile of old computer games he fancied trading in for a couple of new ones, we set off to the nearest big city, Palmerston North, for a rare shopping expedition. Palmerston North was given the second part of its name by New Zealand Post in 1871, to distinguish it from another town called Palmerston, which is on the South Island. Around here people simply refer to it as 'Palmy'. Iain and I like to call it 'the big smoke'.

The town park, where ducks rule

More ducks in action

When we say 'big' it's with our tongues firmly in our cheeks. It's the biggest settlement between here and the capital city, Wellington (which is a three hour drive away), but its population is only about 79 thousand. I wanted to look up a list of English towns and cities by population, so that I could find a town to compare it to, population-wise, but the only list I could find didn't have anywhere with a population of less than 100,000. So, it's probably safe to say it's not very big at all by UK standards.

Roses in June (the equivalent of December for all you 'topsiders')

Palmerston is a monumentally unattractive town, in stark contrast to Wanganui, and it has its own rather unfortunate microclimate that means it sees far fewer sunshine hours than here, gets a lot more rain, and is several degrees cooler, especially in the winter. When John Cleese toured New Zealand a couple of years ago, he referred to Palmy as the "...suicide capital of New Zealand. If you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick." According to Wikipedia, one of the municipal rubbish tips now has an official-looking sign naming it "Mt Cleese".

The city council offices

While we were out and about I took a few snaps with the little camera I always keep in my handbag, and hopefully these show some of the more photogenic sights that you can catch in Palmerston, if you know where to look.

The wild west saloon look, typical of old pubs and hotels

That's all for now; it's late and my brain is flagging. I hope to be able to post an update on the house build before the week is out.


Saturday, 7 June 2008

Apt and witty title suggestions welcome

A bit of an update on the house-building front.

Last week I went to meet Phil at the section, so he could get a better feel for the site and its outlook. He gave me printouts of the CAD drawings of his initial concept plan. These include a more detailed floor plan, all four elevations and two perspective views, one of the front of the house and the other of the western outlook. We can't post these here, unfortunately, because they're on A3 paper, which means they're too big to fit onto our scanner.

Iain and I studied the CAD plans and there are just a few minor tweaks we've asked Phil to make; mainly concerning the size and positioning of windows. Next step is for Phil to come up with a developed concept plan. This needs to be detailed enough for builders and other trades people to be able to draw up quotes for products and services. I expect this planning stage will take the longest to complete, as there will be so many details to consider, so lots of to-ing and fro-ing with the specifications. At the end of the process we aim to get something that fits the budget constraints, suits the smallholding lifestyle and excites us. Not a very tall order, really! ;-)

Phil says he's been inspired in his design by the architecture of Friedensreich Hundertwasser, an ex-pat Austrian who lived in New Zealand for the last twenty-five years of his life. Before I came to New Zealand I only knew Hundertwasser for his paintings, but he's probably better know for his architecture. His public toilets at Kawakawa, in Northland (the northern part of the North Island) are a well-known landmark here and are on the tourist trail.

Hundertwasser's public toilets in Kawakawa, NZ...

...the entrance

...interior view

Hundertwasser was famous for his dislike of straight lines and right angles, preferring everything to be wonky and curved. Looking at Phil's design for our cabin, it's difficult to see where the Hundertwasser influence comes in, because all the lines are straight, with no curves at all. I expect Phil's used straight lines for the reason most architects do; straight shapes are much cheaper to build.

One area in which we might be able to make the house more Hundertwasser-like is in the exterior colour scheme. Phil's proposing cladding the house in plywood panels, which can then be painted or stained in a variety of colours. Maybe he was thinking of this building in Vienna:

The 'Hundertwasser House' in Vienna

To get even more of a Hundertwasser vibe, it might also be fun to use coloured bottles and mosaic tiling in both the interior and exterior detailing. I've done mosaic work before, and I'd be keen to incorporate it into the new house. I especially like the idea of a mosaic on the wall of the outside room.

Anyway, I've got to go now; I've got a busy day today and my allotted 'posting time' is now over.