Author(s): Philip Smith
As long as people have lived in New Zealand, they have left traces of all kinds upon the land: stone walls, sculpted earthforms, urban benches, farm fences, boardwalks, walls, steps and drains. These everyday parts of our landscape form the backdrop to our lives, but are a frequently overlooked and underappreciated part of our cultural legacy. Landscape architect Philip Smith and photographer David Straight have travelled the length and breadth of New Zealand to document a wonderful diversity of forms and objects that make up our everyday landscape. Far from being ordinary, these landscape features often display a considerable degree of invention and innovation, and great aesthetic appeal. These landscape features sometimes have a large scale, as is the case in the beautiful steps and paths of Kauaeranga Valley on the Coromandel Peninsula, or the long sinuous water races of Central Otago. But just as much, these built objects are often modest and small - benches, manhole covers, bike racks and suburban gates. Fascinating, idiosyncratic, often beautiful, Vernacular is a unique book, created out of the authors' desire to record and value a very distinct part of the landscape we inhabit, and the cultural legacy of Aotearoa/New Zealand.
PHILIP SMITH is an Auckland-based landscape designer with a particular interest in design that engages with the context of the places in which he works. The pieces that go into forming this context are sometimes seemingly paradoxical; such as the distinct layers of native ecology and human culture. One of the major strands within Philip's design work is advocacy for New Zealand's threatened plant species (often through the unconventional path of sensitive integration with certain flowering exotics), although he is equally fascinated with the human imprint within New Zealand - particularly the forms and objects that arise from everyday life. DAVID STRAIGHT'S interest in the built environment started as a street photographer in London and New York. Long and frequent wanderings lead to a greater understanding of the importance of cities - of public space and public life, and the city's social and psychological importance. This has followed through to documenting the built environment in both personal and professional work, from shooting architecture for some of New Zealand's leading architects to an ongoing exploration of the transitional landscape of post earthquake Christchurch. Born in Christchurch, David graduated from Massey University School of Fine Arts, Wellington and now lives in Auckland.