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The living room

1 November 2023

Christchurch locals now have the unique opportunity to spend time in celebrated architect Sir Miles Warren’s living room, located at his seminal former dwelling and workplace at 65 Cambridge Terrace, with leading design and craft gallery Objectspace moving into the special space earlier this year. We spoke to Objectspace’s Victoria McAdam to find out more…
Words Josie Steenhart | Photos Natalie Bascand

Tell us a bit about this very special space that Objectspace has settled into in Christchurch?
Objectspace’s architectural outpost in Ōtautahi is the former workplace, home and gallery of Sir Miles Warren. Designed in 1975 to wrap around the back garden at 65 Cambridge Terrace, the room is crafted in Sir Miles’ iconic style and is a small but perfectly formed exhibition space.

How did this partnership come about, and what was involved?
The Warren Trust generously gifted the use of the gallery space to Objectspace, with the support of its current tenants, Te Kāhui Whaihanga NZIA Canterbury Branch and Athfield Architects.

We moved in in March this year and opened the space with an exhibition of photographs taken by Dr Mike Austin during travels across the Oceanic region – images that formed the basis for Mike’s architectural anthropology studies of house forms and cultures in the Oceanic region.

The latest (and last show for 2023) has just opened in the space, titled Living Room.

The site is well known by the architecture and design communities of Christchurch, so has quickly become a well-warmed and happy South Island home for us, enabling Objectspace to scale our programme to two cities and two venues.

And what a remarkable second venue to have, designed in Sir Miles’ iconic style and nestled beside his renowned garden.

Has the gallery and garden area changed much from Sir Miles’ original 1960s design, and how has/will Objectspace adapted/adapt the space?
Minor renovations were made during the set-up of the gallery – a fresh coat of paint, a bit of gardening, new signage acknowledging the partners and philanthropists who have made this new space possible.
Architecturally, the site was designed by Sir Miles as a living room-cum-gallery, so was perfect in our eyes from the get-go. Apart from needing a bit of TLC and a wi-fi connection!

Our approach to exhibition-making in the space is always ‘light touch’ – we’re interested in the design and history of the space and don’t want it to feel like anything it’s not.

It’s been a real joy to make exhibitions in this way (outside of the ‘white cube’) – to see work in conversation with the space and to host opening celebrations that feel like having a couple of hundred close friends over to your house!

Why was it important for Objectspace to have a home in Christchurch?
Christchurch is an important and distinct city in Aotearoa, especially for design and architecture. Creating a new home for thinking around these disciplines made sense in the context of the city.

Objectspace is a national leadership organisation for craft- and object-based practices, mandated by Creative New Zealand, so this new space creates a physical outpost in the South Island for our national programme delivery.

Scaling Objectspace to two sites sees the best of design, architecture and craft presented across both islands, expanding our national footprint and engaging wider audiences in these disciplines.

What kind of a programme can we expect from this gallery?
Thoughtful, maker-led exhibitions that say something about architecture and design in Aotearoa.
As we continue into 2024, our work in the discipline of craft will work its way in too.

The mission is to offer exhibitions and events that support discourse and provide a wealth of opportunities to engage and expand knowledge of material cultures in Aotearoa.

Tell us more about the Living Room exhibition…
For Living Room, 10 artists respond to Sir Miles’ remarkable architecture and the use for which it was designed.

Drawing on our personal and cultural associations with the objects and architecture of daily life, the exhibition features work that responds to the notion of being lived with, considering how we design and adorn domestic spaces as an act of self-expression.

We’re incredibly happy with how this show looks in the space – like a bombastic living room brought together by some of Aotearoa’s best makers, a majority of whom are Canterbury based. It looks and feels like a place you’d want to live.

A previous exhibition showcased Sir Miles’ watercolour paintings…
Throughout his architectural career, Sir Miles Warren produced watercolours that both documented and promoted his buildings. As a painter, his perspective was avowedly architectural, as was demonstrated by the watercolours discovered at Ōhinetahi [Warren’s historic house and garden in Governors Bay] and exhibited in Grand Tourist at the Sir Miles Warren Gallery.

It was special to facilitate returning these works to a space Miles lived and worked in, and to be visited by so many people who knew him.

The exhibition was curated by John Walsh, who is predominantly a writer specialising in architecture and is someone we love working with.

Will there be further exhibitions connected to Sir Miles/the space, that you know of?
Maybe! Probably, actually. The design and history of the space is so strong and present, we’d hazard to say that any work we exhibit is in conversation with the space and the legacy of Sir Miles Warren.

Anything else that might surprise/interest people to learn?
Objectspace is the only public gallery in Aotearoa focused on design, architecture and craft. Like a small-scale Design Museum for Aotearoa (and we’re growing at pace).

We receive hard-fought public funding, but a majority of our resourcing comes from people like you!
Alongside the brilliant creatives we work with, it’s our formidable community of supporters that makes Objectspace special.

Click here to read this story in our digital issue of 03.

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