Gavin Hipkins

Gavin Hipkins

The Habitat

8 March - 1 April 2000

A joint project with the Adam Art Gallery, Wellington

There are designers who make interiors not so people can live well in them, but so that they look good in photographs.
—Adolf Loos

The first building designated as 'new brutalist' was a school in Norfolk, England, built in the early 1950s. The style was more than an aesthetic, it was an ethic, or so the rhetoric goes—the English equivalent of Soviet architecture. In Rayner Banham's words, New Brutalism aimed to 'make the whole conception of the building plain and comprehensible. No mystery, no romanticism, no obscurities about function or circulation.' New Brutalism and education must go hand in hand for in the 1960s, when education was free, New Zealand architects turned to the style to accommodate tertiary students. But there's something horribly ironic about this now, as today's tertiary students pay dearly to study in the People's Architecture. With The Habitat—a frieze of 'straight' photographs of late-modern and new brutalist New Zealand university buildings—Gavin Hipkins continues his exploration of the legacies of modernist utopianism. Hipkins' grainy, grey prints may emulate the New Brutalists' 'truth to materials' dictum, expressed in their preference for visible steel and primitive concrete, but times have changed, and so has the truth of these buildings.