New Zealand Architecture and Literature

By | December 1, 2021


With the aim of analyzing the impact of globalization on its architectural production, in 2014 NZ was invited for the first time to participate in the Venice International Architecture Biennale; David Mitchell, creative director of the pavilion, is a leading figure in the architectural panorama of a country characterized by a unique geographical, climatic, demographic and cultural connotation, where the pre-existing Polynesian indigenous traditions are flanked by recognizable European influences. Modernity, which has matured by shifting the center of gravity from a nationalist architectural production to a global language, has not lost its close relationship with the construction techniques of the peaceful cultural area; a ‘light’ architecture, made of wooden poles, beams, panels and large roofs. For New Zealand 2015, please check

The cities most on the rise are Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch: in the latter, a true symbol of rebirth after the devastating earthquake of 2011, the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban built a cardboard cathedral in 2013, as a temporary and emergency structure. able to accommodate up to 700 people for the time necessary for the reconstruction of the original 19th century one. Among the many projects that mark the country’s commitment to architecture, in Auckland alone the following are worthy of note: the Point Resolution pedestrian bridge (2013), by Warren & Mahoney; the civic center Te Hononga-Christchurch (2013) by Athfield Architects; the shopping mall on Mackelvie Street (2013) by RTA Studio; the building at 387 Tamaki Drive (2012) by Ian Moore Architects; the extension of the Auckland art gallery (2011) by FJMT + Archimedia; the Performing arts center at St. Cuthbert’s College (2011) by Architectus; the Geyser Building (2011) of Patterson Associates; the Ironbank Center (2010) by RTA studio. In Wellington, the following should be remembered: the Telecom Central office (2008-12) of the architecture + studio; the headquarters of the Supreme Court (2010) of Warren and Mahoney Architects; the Visitor center of the Waitomo Glowworm Caves (2010) by Architecture Workshop; the passenger terminal of Studio Pacific Architecture’s Wellington international airport (2010).


In the wake of the international success achieved by Janet Frame (1924-2004) and the affirmation of native cultural movements, contemporary New Zealand literature seems to present as a distinctive character the leading role assumed by both women and the Maori community. Examples of this are the historical novels on interethnic relations The captive wife (2005) by Fiona Kidman (b.1940) and Ned and Katina (2009) by Maori Patricia Grace (b.1937), while Marilyn Duckworth (b.1935; Playing friends, 2007), Shonagh Koea (b.1943; The kindness of strangers (kitchen memoirs), 2007), Fiona Farrell (b.1947 ; Limestone, 2009) and Emily Perkins (b.1970; Novel about my wife, 2008) prefer to investigate the more domestic dimension of ‘white’ NZ. At just 28 years old, Eleanor Catton (b. 1985) won the Booker prize in 2013 with the historical novel The luminaries (trans. It. I luminari, 2014). Christian K. Stead (b.1932), also active in the poetic field, continues to stand out among the novelists, who in Risk (2012) offers a reflection on NZ after 9/11, and Lloyd Jones (b.1955), with the metaliterary exploration of the Dickensian Mister Pip (2006; trans. it. 2007). Damien Wilkins (b. 1963; Somebody loves us all, 2009) and Nigel Cox (1951-2006), who in Tarzan Presley (2004) rewrites the myth of the ape-man, creating a legal controversy that led publishers to change its title in 2011 (Jungle rock blues) and names of the characters. In order to reconstruct the collective memory of a people, Maori fiction has often used the form of the historical novel, starting with Witi Ihimaera (b.1944) who, after the plagiarism scandal of The Trowenna sea (2009), then withdrawn from the market, he published the intense The Parihaka woman (2011). Conversely, in Who sings for Lu? (2009) Alan Duff (b. 1950) prefers to represent the contemporary native condition.

Among the poetic voices stand out those of Elizabeth Smither (b.1941), Bill Manhire (b.1946), Leigh Robert Davis (1955-2009), Michele Leggott (b.1956), Alison Wong (b.1960) and Gregory O ‘Brien (b.1961). In 2008 the greatest Maori poet, Hone Tuwhare (b.1922) passed away, whose inheritance was taken by Robert Sullivan (b. 1967). The theatrical scene can count on the talent of Roger Hall (b. 1939) and the Maori Hone Kouka (b. 1968).

Bibliography: Floating worlds. Essays on contemporary New Zealand fiction, ed. A. Jackson, J. Stafford, Wellington 2009; M. Moura-Koçoğlu, Narrating indigenous modernities. Transcultural dimensions in contemporary Maori literature, Amsterdam 2011.

New Zealand Architecture