Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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New Zealand Architects Abroad

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posted on 2021-11-22, 20:21 authored by Michael DuddingMichael Dudding

This thesis is an oral history based investigation of four recently graduated architects (Bill Alington, Maurice Smith, Bill Toomath and Harry Turbott) who individually left New Zealand to pursue postgraduate qualifications at United States universities in the immediate postwar period. Guided interviews were conducted to allow the architects to talk about these experiences within the broader context of their careers. The interviews probed their motivations for travelling and studying in the United States. Where possible archival material was also sought (Fulbright applications, university archives) for comparison with the spoken narratives.   Although motivated by the search of modernity and the chance to meet the master architects of the period (Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Wright) what all gained was an increase in the confidence of their own abilities as architects (or as a landscape architect in the case of Turbott who switched his focus while in the United States). This increase in confidence partly came from realising that their architectural heroes were ordinary people. Although searching for modernity, their encounters with the canon of architectural history also had a profound effect. This detailed knowledge of what these four subjects felt about architecture, architectural education, and their experiences of studying, working, and touring abroad has helped to shed light on the development of and influences on postwar architecture in New Zealand.   The series of oral history interviews that were recorded during this project not only form the basis of the research material for this thesis, but are, in their own right, a significant contribution to the knowledge and understanding of New Zealand’s postwar architectural history.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Vale, Brenda; Skinner, Robin