The Princess and the Sausage

Most "pop-up shops" emerge in vacant retail spaces, but The Princess’ Bedroom was different: the shop itself popped up, in the form of a brightly-painted caravan in a gravelly old Ghuznee St carpark. Now it has company, in the form of a "Sausage Sizzle" caravan in the adjacent parking space, serving an odd combination of Kiwiana sausage sarnies, tempura vegetables and hearty soups & stews.

Neither this caravan nor its girlier neighbour fit in with the emerging highbrow designer vibe across the street (Milk Crate, Quilters, Customs and Bowen Galleries), but it sure beats a puddle-ridden carpark. Perhaps we’ll see more of this caravan urbanism setting up temporary shop in vacant spaces until we crawl our way out of the recession, and it looks like a cheap and flexible way for small businesses to get up & running in the gaps and fringes of the city.

An Eighties Eye

We’re indebted to the Architectural Centre for pointing out this fascinating architectural time capsule at NZ On Screen. David Mitchell (the architect, not the poet, novelist or comedian) talks us through the debatable delights of Wellington’s 1984 streets in this episode of his series The Elegant Shed.

Marvel at the sparkling mirror-glass towers! Admire Ian Athfield’s funktastic interiors and dashing scarf! Wonder at Roger Walker’s round windows and even rounder bouffant! Delight in the crisp daring lines of Massey House and Futuna Chapel! Be astounded by the "urbanity and drive" of mid-Eighties Wellington, when even the Oaks Arcade looked fresh and enticing!


Out, damned spot!

Despite my frivolous title, it seems that most people loved the Kusama installation "Dots for Love and Peace", and are sad to see it removed, dot by colourful dot, from the front of the City Gallery today.

Removing the Kusama dots from the City Gallery

The Gallery have been helpfully answering questions on Twitter, and unfortunately for souvenir hunters that includes the news that the dots will be "very carefully disposed of". On the plus side, the Hotere/Culbert installation Fault will be soon be making a glowing return.


I’m more likely to write about nightlife than wildlife, but I do like urban observations in general, so Project Noah caught my eye. It’s a website and shiny new free iPhone app that lets people track, record and find out about the species in their environment.

 Project Noah - spottings in Wellington

Not surprisingly, I’ve mostly recorded very urban species (that’s not quite what Baudelaire meant by "the botanist of the pavement"), but it could be very useful for mapping rare plants, spiders, invasive species or even neighbourhood cats, if you were so inclined. It’s all pretty new in this neck of the woods, so there’s only my lightly-informed spottings of scrappy roadside cabbage trees and frightened little penguins to look at, but if more Wellingtonians get involved it could become a really useful guide to local flora and fauna.


There’s a lot on at the moment for fans of Modern architecture. The Long Live the Modern exhibition is at the New Dowse until the 4th of April, including two bus tours this weekend.

Gordon Wilson's Post Office building, Naenae

Sunday’s tour will feature Bill Toomath talking about his design for the Teachers’ College in Karori. Wellington City Gallery’s exhibition on Toomath’s work, Liberating Everyday Life, finishes this Sunday. Eye of the Fish hosts two lively discussions on his waterfront plans and study, showing that Toomath’s contribution to Wellington architecture and architectural debate is still strong.

If you’re more interested in what the buildings of tomorrow might look like, have a look at Reactive Architecture at Te Papa. Some of the giant inhabited sails, human-powered slotcars and polyp-like motion-sensitive façades may seem fanciful, but it’s a much more inspiring approach to materials and design than just choosing which Hardie product to use.

Nice day for a (protest) picnic

If you haven’t heard already, the Big Tune-in Sit-in is on today from 1-2pm on Parliament lawn. Bring your portable radio and a picnic lunch to celebrate Radio New Zealand and its importance to New Zealand’s cultural life. As Sue says over on her Craft2.0 blog:

yup it’s a protest picnic, which really is an incredibly classy and special way of saying how much you love our national broadcaster.

I for one welcome our new mirrorball overlords

Te Papa’s forecourt may look as if it’s under attack by giant glittery space balls, but it’s actually the start of a two-year kinetic sculpture installation called "The Mimetic Brotherhood", by Peter Trevelyan.

Attack of the mutant glitterballs!

There’s not much kinesis evident at the moment, but once the installation is complete, expect the plinth-eating monsters to start pulsating in their full hydraulic glory.

Humanising the City

Among the opening exhibitions at the brand spanking new City Gallery is Regan Gentry’s installation Make Way. Along with much of Gentry’s work, it provokes questions about the contemporary city, and in this spirit the Gallery is hosting a panel discussion on "Humanising the City". It’s on Wednesday 4 November at 12.30pm (which is one of the Gallery’s popular free Wednesdays) in the Adam Auditorium.

I will chair the discussion, which will be around questions such as "How do planning and urban design in Wellington respond to human needs? What is the role of urban design in making our cities liveable, lively, and community-focused places? How do we create public space which balances environmental sustainability with infrastructure sensitive to the needs of its inhabitants?" The other participants are Associate Professor Penny Allan (Programme Director, Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture & Design, Victoria University of Wellington), Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman (Director, NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities), Philip Belesky (Wellington freelance designer, Eye of the Fish blogger), and Mike Mellor (Vice President, Living Streets Aotearoa).

Eating our way through the recession

Remember a few months ago, when doom and gloom dominated the hospo news? Well, there certainly have been a lot of closures in central Wellington, but many of those places have re-opened, and we’ve even got a few brand-new bars and restaurants to celebrate.

Here’s a list of reincarnations:

  • Vintage → Hashigo Zake
  • Calypso → Elixir
  • Epic → Rhythm
  • Chow Cabaret → The Library
  • Paradiso → Betty’s (I insist on the apostrophe)
  • State Opera House Espresso Bar → Pollux

Some brand-new places:

  • Portofino (at Kumutoto)
  • Red Ginger (underneath Hawthorn Lounge)
  • Lychee (in the wilderness of Arthur St)

A couple of rumoured upcoming openings:

  • "Cuba" (replacing Zeal in Garrett St)
  • Yet another Irish pub, replacing New Orleans in Allen St

That leaves a handful of recent failures yet to be revived:

  • Herd St Brasserie
  • Subway at Chaffers Dock
  • Emporio in Chews Lane

If anything, the industry looks to be healthier than a few months ago, and a few of the new places (Pollux, Hashigo Zake and The Library in particular) are among our new favourites. If this means that consumers have stopped spending on Plasma TVs while still dining out, then I applaud their good taste. Of course, it could mean that we’re all committing kuidaore (a Japanese term roughly meaning "to ruin oneself through extravagance in food"). But what a lovely way to go.

Off the Hook

While the Hook of Maui has been scrapped due to cost overruns and problems with the frickin’ laser, the Wellington City Council is still keen on the idea of a gateway sculpture, and indeed the competition will be re-run later his year. The proposal had some mixed responses, but now there’s a chance for a rethink.

So, what do you think? What (if anything) would make a suitable marker for the northern entrance to Wellington?