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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.