Through the 1960s, photographer and architecture researcher Duncan Winder had a mission. He was an enthusiast for good architecture and set himself the task of documenting it, all around Wellington and in other cities. It is a fascinating archive of over 5,000 photographs, most of which can be seen on the National Library website
This is one of them, the newly built home of architect Derek Wilson, on Burma Road in Khandallah. Wilson was part of a new wave of post-war architects, influenced by modernist ideas coming out of Europe and America. Some of the other influential architects helping reshape post-war Wellington included Wilson’s long-time business partner Bill Toomath, James Beard, and European refugees Ernst Plischke and Helmut Einhorn.
Like other modernist homes, the design of the Wilson house emphasises the simple, the unadorned, and adaptation to the local environment. Wilson had been brought up in the Wairarapa and has suggested that rural farm buildings were one influence. A particular challenge was the need to build towards the sun to the north, while still taking in the spectacular southern views.
It worked. In 2002, the house won a 25-year award from the New Zealand Institute of Architects. The house, said the institute, “has aged beautifully and is architecturally just as relevant and challenging as when first built”.
Wilson designed over 50 houses in his career, and many commercial buildings. Many will also remember him as a very active local campaigner against nuclear arms and other issues. He is still going strong, well into his 90s and as alert as ever.
But what, you are probably thinking, has that old car got to do with it? Well, it is a design classic too, a Model T Ford, abandoned there long before the house was built. Winder clearly enjoyed including it in his photograph. Wilson remembers his children playing on it for years, before it finally fell apart and was pushed out of sight into the bush below.
Wilson house, 1967. Photo: Duncan Winder, DW-3395‑F, Alexander Turnbull Library.