Who Am I This Time?


This page written circa 11 June, 2013.

Architecture influences personality, or at least mood. I think this is one of those things that seems so improbable and takes so long to understand that only older people accept it. Some never do.

I mention this subject because two things have brought it home for me in recent times. The most relevant is our move from Bywater Grange to this new house. If Bywater was to be characterised as "green", and reminded you of a warren situated near a creek in a somewhat Wind-in-the-Willowsy or Shire-like part of Middle Earth, this house would be "cream", and puts you in mind of an eyrie near a river in a more Rivendellian part. (I know this whole country really is Middle Earth, it's written in very large letters on buildings at Wellington airport.)

It is large and light and spacious. From the road it seems to be down in a dell and quite inconspicuous, but from the rear deck it feels as if it towers with the trees. You can get a little of this feeling from the picture at right. It is taken from the balcony of the master bedroom, looking down onto the rear deck and the gully.

To help put the view in context, you can see in this small photo the Juliet balcony on the corner of the house from which I took the larger photo:

The kitchen opens onto the room we use as dining room and lounge room both. You can see the view from the far corner of the kitchen at left. Real estate photography is quite difficult, and I doubt the photo leaves the impression of space quite as it is.

For the geeky amongst you, each of the floor tiles is 1' by 2', 30cm x 60cm.

It is winter now, of course, and all the deciduous trees have deciduated. The gully is rather stark, but when the sun does shine it streams in the windows. This house does have some spectacular windows. From this view, the reverse of the last one, you can see the skylight-style windows in the kitchen. It can feel as if you are rinsing the dishes amongst the fern trees.

It is very cool to know that there are glow worms living under the kitchen. No need to seek out any caves, you simply walk downstairs. Speaking of downstairs, there is quite a gully down there, and a pagoda on the path:

At left you see what was the dining room in the original plan, but it is my study now. Kay has the actual study. They are both about 3 times larger than the rooms we had at Bywater.

These skylight-to-window arrangements are a feature of this house. They make for a spectacular ensuite bathroom:

This house, it turns out, was at one time the residence of Professor Bruce Liley, one-time creator of the first tokamak outside the Soviet Union. He built it while at ANU, and then he eventually became foundation professor of Physics here at Waikato. One of our neighbours is a current professor of mathematics, and a contemporary of "old Prof Liley". When Kay told him who I was, he remarked that he had often visited Liley as he was dying "in that cavernous bedroom". It sure is cavernous. Sad that the size of a fellow's bedroom is what sticks in the mind of a colleague.

We do need more bedroom furniture, a table and chairs perhaps.

The second instance of architecture and mood concerns my old Alma Mater, Sydney University. The EE school there has become a dark and inhospitable establishment, as I discovered during a sabbatical in 2010. The "old-farts club", a group of ex-SUEE employees who meet weekly in Newtown, often speculate about the future for the old department. I have come to believe that a change in architecture will be a necessary ingredient for resuscitating the system. The old building was more suited for the old, pre-transistor style of electronics, the architectural equivalent of a plumber's soldering iron, compared to modern electroncs departments whose open-plan, interactive bustle is more of a heat wand. The place could come alive again but it will need modern, network-intensive, light, open-plan labs, glass-walled offices, and a decent postgraduate swamp of cubicles. It is not a surprise that the university does not feel like paying what it takes to rejuvenate the place.

The transition from Grange to Eyrie is already affecting my mood. I am more active. It is hard to describe exactly, but I like this house, and even now in the heart of winter with miserable weather I am moving things about and doing chores. I feel up-beat, like Ratty in Willows. I update light fittings. I am moving the maintenance of this web site to OSX, and I am playing with the LTS Linux machine on my desk. It is time for a new interest, though I am not sure what it ought to be quite yet.

Architect plans, if you are interested. Google Maps view, if you are interested.