A Summer Place: postcolonial retellings of the New Zealand bach
University of Otago, New Zealand
Copyright (c) 1998 by Christine McCarthy, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.
Imagine if, 5000 years from now, archaeologists were to excavate the remains of a Kiwi bach. What would they make of it? Perhaps that baches were built by a primitive race that co-existed with twentieth-century New Zealanders, that they were a people who hadn't the technology to build vast cities of steel and glass and were forced to build crude shelters in remote places amidst the cast off goods of a superior society, that they were maritime hunter-gatherers who cooked on open fires. Their currency was sea shells. They wore crude footwear and wrote on strange tablets. Of course they would be wrong . . . mostly. (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place)
- These are the opening words of presenter Maggie Barry in A Summer Place. This 1996 televised documentary looks at the New Zealand bach (Fig. 1), a building that has "become a characteristic local typology in New Zealand, where it is usually a simple seaside holiday home" (Miller 100). This paper discusses the other side of Barry's reticent "mostly": the location of the bach in relation to iconographies of architectural primitivisms which "co-exist . . . with twentieth-century New Zealand," and the construction of the bach as a post-colonial re-playing of a nineteenth-century colonisation (a "primitive" race co-existing with a superior society). Superimposed through the broadcast documentary form, the bach's seaward window and the television screen provide places where this co-existence and replaying can occur. Juxtaposed spaces become adjacent, and issues of seeing, vision, and distance are architecturally reconfigured.
- "[S]ince before the First World War . . . [the] transmission of pictures by radio was theoretically possible."  Albert Abramson traces earlier beginnings of the televisual in "the urge to produce a system of 'seeing over the horizon'" (1995, 13), a far-sighting and a seeing from a distance literalised in the etymological derivation of television [Gr. tele, far, and vision] and paralleled by the expansionist, disciplinary imperial gaze. This horizontal urge provides the impetus for Alexander Bain's "automative copying telegraph" of 1843 and Frederick Bakewell's "electric telegraph" of 1848. Bains' copying telegraph was
[a] comb-like probe containing insulated metal points [that] scanned the type to be transmitted. . . . At the receiver, a similar metallic comb reproduced the letters on chemically treated paper. (Abramson 1995, 14)
Bakewell's telegraph is described as follows:
At the transmitter a specially prepared message was made by writing on tinfoil with varnish or other insulating material. The tinfoil was rolled on a cylinder and explored by the stylus, which sent a continuous signal except when it was passing over the varnish.
At the receiver, a sheet of chemically prepared paper was placed on the drum and the stylus put into contact with it. As the needle of the transmitter traced the drawing, current passed when the tinfoil was contacted and turned off when the needle hit a varnished surface. Thus current flowed intermittently in the circuit and at the receiver caused a reproduction of the picture to be made. (Abramson 1987, 6)
- Here lines reiterate across a tinfoiled drum, constructing the "reproduction of the picture to be made." Tactile explorations of surface by the stylus become the consequence of a nineteenth-century "urge to . . . 'see . . . over the horizon.'" The cylinder, around which the image is wrapped, is the televisual site of exploration and graphic transference, a transient and geographic crossing of distance. This production of images revisits the colonising desires of nineteenth-century Britain projected across the oceans to Aotearoa/ Te Wai Pounamu, which produced surveying images of the land. These were
sent back to London, to be used as propaganda to encourage settlers to emigrate. They were, basically, advertising, albeit in a most attractive form; and the artist can be accused of some of the faults of the advertiser, such as exaggeration. (Minson 10; see also Belich 281)
- A seeing exaggerated over distance, colonial image production finds relation with the geographic transplanting in which television also invests. The illusion of immediate transmission (where geographic difference is suppressed by temporal co-incidence) is located in the imperial translation of images from a "timeless" Maoriland, whose northern hemisphere reception projects British time onto the image of this Other's space (Blythe 17). It becomes, in the words of Homi Bhabha, "the difference of space . . . [returning] as the Sameness of time"(300).
- Mapped with foreign images sent from the survey hut, the con-toured land is made two-dimensional, transmittable and manifest as networks of a coherent and systematised triangulation explicated in surveying: the cutting, sectioning, wrapping and parcelling of the land into sections of property.
Envisaged as reflective of the British and of Britain, New Zealand is construed as the "Britannia of the Southern hemisphere" (Ritter 15), through the survey's cutting and naming of the land(Fig. 2).This colonial division is also integral to how the televisual sees: "the television camera, unable to interpret the whole of the scene instantaneously . . . divides up the scene into a number of horizontal strips or lines and examines them from left to right and from top to bottom" (Birkinshaw XIII: 518-519), rendering sections easily transmittable. Marking horizons, or rather marking "the urge to 'see . . . over the horizon,'" the survey locates the relation of seeing to ownership as sighting becomes siting -- and as horizon lines drawn by the colonial surveyor and transmitted to England in the 1840s are reiterated in the image on Channel 2's identification chart of 1960 (Fig. 3).
- Initially canvas and portable, landscape paintings and the tent of the survey gang inflect each other. They are taut structures desiring sight via tactile exchanges--the paint brushing of canvas and the peggings of ground re-markings on the land, reliant on the frame upon which they stretch. When no longer canvas and portable, these inflections produce the survey hut as an architectural machine. It constructs the view, manufacturing New Zealand as occupiable, contextualised by an "evolutionary" assumption "that whoever could best use the land . . . was entitled to have it irrespective of its original inhabitants" (Blythe p. 308, note 24). Televised lines, transmitted along taut wires, also construct the retellings of a painted view and its canvas. The televisual manifestation of the bach is, as C. K. Stead, interviewed on A Summer Place, describes, "just a permanent tent really."
- These colonial images of space are produced by the forging of a frontier - the negotiation of an ever-shifting line, the border between "Maoriland" and New Zealand, Maori (tangata whenua - people of the land) and Pakeha (New Zealanders of British or European descent). It is a complex line that at points entangles, blurs and crosses over itself, as the distinctions between Maori and Pakeha do not always simply exist, but it is a line nevertheless and it is not singular. It is a line perimetering New Zealand, in an European conception of nation, and a line which is a frontier dividing a nation unable to clearly differentiate inside from outside. It is
no longer a limit that separates, excludes, dissociates, a Cartesian limit; rather it is a figure, a convention, its aim is to permit a relation that has to be defined continuously. (Colomina: 1994 80)
- The colonial implements of this figure vary across the land (including land confiscation, legislation, and war) as British ideas of sovereignty and nationhood are attempted through political strategies of domination, integration and (most recently) biculturalism. These strategies are constantly redefined by a Maori population that refuses to be simply read or unified. Surveyors, who were at times literally accommodated by Maori, finding "shelter in abandoned Maori whare . . . [or sharing] whare with Maori at their villages" (Easdale 39), at other times met effective Maori opposition to the surveying. Such opposition is manifest, for example, in the pulling up of survey pegs at Waitere, Taranaki and the Waingongoro river (Byrnes 107).
- The possibility of contemporary television is likewise the image of space, in another space, produced via the construction and negotiation of a line. Its history derives from a varnished edge facing a tinfoiled surface. Here "writing . . . with varnish" (the finishing and translucent surface of architecture which, now written, is implicated in the linguistic), electrically makes this image via interruption - the turning off of electric current "when the needle hit a varnished surface." Television crosses the edges of the finished (varnish) and the unfinished, mimicking the "civilised" (constructed via notions of finish) and the "uncivilised" of the makeshift and pioneering frontier, further conflated with constructions of Maori "savagery" as threats to civilisation (Phillips 48, 49). The production of the televisual stretches across this ever-shifting border, edging between political and architectural constructions of cultural finish and civilisation, between transmission and reception. Distant (tele) from "the assumedly civilising influences of a wife" (Thompson: 1985, 7) and the civilisation which is Britain, the frontier of New Zealand demands the televisual conflation of geographic space manifest in the survey hut, and its terrestrial reproduction. Here the temporal assumptions of progress (advancement in time) conjoin with the spatial transgression of geographic colonial expansion. Television transmits across space conflating (but not confusing) the time and place of transmission with the time and place of reception. Likewise, the colonial transmission of progress conflates temporal and spatial sites of transmission and reception as British time is traded for Maori space (Blythe 17). Ungrounded images are produced in "a strange temporality . . . a kind of 'future perfect'" (Kristeva 189), which projects British notions of progress (time) onto New Zealand (space). It is a 'future perfect' which settlers arriving at Port Jackson preempt. Their British time (progress) pales when faced with New Zealand space:
"the passengers were all on deck straining their eyes to catch a glimpse of civilization. Little was said, though disappointment was visible on the countenance of everyone." Where were the fields of wheat, vines and olives, let alone the banana orchards? There appeared to be nowhere to live as well as nothing to live on. (Belich 338)
- Time mismatches as Social Darwinism predicts that the time of "Maoriland" is a time in Britain which is long since past. Similarly, the chronological structuring of A Summer Place documents the bach as occupying a time strategically misplaced when seen in the contemporary space of its viewing. Its beginning positions the bach as an archaeological site - a ruin (a poignant beginning, if Macaulay's 1840 image of the New Zealander sketching the ruins of London is remembered). The programme draws to an end with shots of the destruction of baches in the 1980s, the statement that "the bach has become an outlaw" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place), and the positioning of the architecturally designed holiday home as an inauthentic substitute for the bach. It concludes, after repeated assertions that "the old classic kiwi bach is probably a thing of the past," (Lee Hopper, A Summer Place; c.f. C. K. Stead, Dave Cull, A Summer Place) with a reflection of loss: "we may lose the bach, [but] we must never lose the bach state of mind" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). This tone of inevitability repeats an ungrounded colonial preoccupation with the consequences of fatal impact theories for the Maori race.
- A Summer Place negotiates evolutionary notions of difference - the attempt to make up a perceived lack of time (progress) - in the binary constituence of the bach's inhabitant who attempts to civilise time, space, and "savagery" via metaphors of architectural degrees of finish and incompletion. These tensions of colonial geography become manifest in a figure that leaves the everyday civilised existence of the suburb for the "crude conditions" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place) of a bach where "the veneer comes off and you revert to being a happy primate" (Keri Hulme, A Summer Place). Veneer presumeably returns on one's departure from the bach to the suburb. Here (at the bach) the civilised figure revisits the nineteenth-century frontier (time and place) where the uncivilised is to be negotiated and, in order to do so, one reverts and becomes a "happy primate." This move from the villa to the bach is also a move from Barry's "vast cities of steel and glass . . . of a superior society" to buildings of "a primitive race" as Pakeha (rather than Maori) occupy "crude shelters in remote places amidst the cast-off goods of a superior society" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). As Rawiri Paratene puts it:
It seemed like the Pakeha had this urge once the school bells rang and the last whistle rang at their Dad's work for the summer holidays they had to get away from their house and go and stay in some sort of a bach. (Rawiri Paratene, Nga Puhi, A Summer Place)
- The relation of Social Darwinism and evolutionary theoretical models (e.g. ideas of human progress and advancement as a linear progression from "savagery" to "civilization") needs not be elaborated here more than to remind that issues of racial advancement were used to position indigenous people as primitive. The frontier, of course, is the meeting of the "advanced" with the "primitive." This meeting is made contemporary in A Summer Place, where the bach is suggestive of "a primitive race that co-existed with twentieth century New Zealanders" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place) as architectural materials and construction stand in for its inhabitants. Likewise, the documentary's use of architecture to reveal the "happy primate" evokes an evolutionary reversion. The building's "primitive" or "unvarnished" truth of construction is traditionally located in architecture as a binary opposition of structure and ornament:
The structure is as much haunted by the ornament as the ornament is by the structure, and this convoluted "relation of haunting" exceeds the institutional space produced by the system of philosophical oppositions, calling into question the always, at the least, political logic of place and identity. (Wigley 1993, 189)
- In this architectural discourse, the bach locates itself as without ornament - the unadorned hut without seductive surface - Laugier's "little hut which . . . is the type on which all the magnificences of architecture are elaborated" (Laugier qtd. Rykwert 44). In a drawing after Laugier, tree trunks become architectural columns as nature becomes the irreducible structure of the "primitive hut." The bach is New Zealand's "primitive hut," and timber frames are the predominant material of "structure" in New Zealand domestic architecture. Perhaps it is no coincidence that timber is frequently veneered: the stripping of veneer is the stripping of a material which pretends to be "natural" and "civilised." For architecture, then, veneer is a surface-faking structure, and in the primitive hut this structure fakes nature.
- The distinction of surface and structure is made possible through an ideological space located between construction and veneer, finish and unfinish, and through an implied chronological progression from the primitive (the unfinished or the crudely finished) to the veneered. The "ragged look and primitive standard of the bach" (Thompson 9), whose "charm is that they were so roughly built," (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place) operates as if the bach's "unfinished" construction is immune from style and veneer. "[T]hese quaint, gaudy, unpretentious shacks" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place) are the measure of the space or gap between pretension (veneer) and egalitarianism (honesty of construction) on which New Zealand pretends to have based its notions of nationhood and architecture. This gap or distance which television operates across, is the gap which Homi Bhabha locates as "that intermittent time, and intersticial space, that emerges as a structure of undecidability at the frontiers of cultural hybridity" (312). It is a space the veneer acknowledges and needs to exist. It provides for colonial projection and evolutionary reversion: the attempt to relocate "man" as [close to] nature and the positioning of the bach as effecting this primitivism and egalitarianism.
- Stripped of veneer (a moment in architecture where the surface skin promises lack of "integrity"), the bach's inhabitants assert, via the bach, a belief in the integrity of vision (the nationalist, the egalitarian and the colonial) -- a belief that what they see in the bach is not a veneer. It is a naive belief because it relies on an ideology of the detachable surface, a belief that the veneer can be taken off. At the bach it is a belief that beneath eveything, "all men are created equal," as it "seems that from the beginning 'roughing it' was an essential part of the bach experience - regardless of your station in life" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). Accordingly, the colonial production of surface images as the surface of the land is literally made into a wrapping, paper-thin, a tabula rasa available for settlement, and "the blank sheet of paper" on which modern architecture is also rendered (Mike Austin, A Summer Place). It is a veneer able to exist separately from the land and a belief that skin simply locates difference and that its ideological removal erases cultural, political and class difference. The surface, then, locates that difference dismissed when the bach effects a transcendence of surface and to make its decorative surface essential. Architecture made "honest" is signified by "timber left unpainted to weather and give a natural finish" (Thompson 81, emphasis added), unable to be removed. When the bach is not unpainted, when its surface is "unnatural," the excessive application of paint and intensity of its colour ("Valencia Orange or Bright Topaz" [Thompson 9]) "reveals" the New Zealander as uninhibited, unconstrained by "what the people next door might think" (Paul Thompson, A Summer Place). Such colouring is enacted in the televised surface of A Summer Place whose hyper-reality intensifies the orange cupboards and yellow bench tops of Bob McKinley's bach, the brilliant greens, apricots and blues of others, and the presenter's auburn hair (Figs. 4 and 5; see also Fig. 1).
- At odds with conventional architectural manifestations of home (of the hygenic, safe, warm, comfortable domestic space), the makeshift bach gains its authority in notions of "roughing it." Bunks replace beds, there is a "bucket for a shower" (Jennifer Wolfe, A Summer Place), and "armchairs that'll give you a backache within a day" (Dave Cull, A Summer Place). The bach returns its occupants to the bachelor experience where inconvenience and discomfort are valourised by restaging a New Zealand (as if) in the process of colonisation. Holiday-makers, like pioneers, "get back to basics": the "ability to knock up a bach - albeit of a fairly basic construction . . . [is seen as] a rare quality which ensured New Zealand an architectural genre of its own" (Barnett & Wolfe 102). The bach is hence positioned as the moment that New Zealand owns architecture, as nationality it is proved via building. A Summer Place endorses this sentiment; "if it can be said . . . a country's architecture embodies and enshrines its most cherished values, then what could speak more elegantly about New Zealand and New Zealanders than the humble bach?" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). Ranginui Walker reiterates this sentiment, asserting that baches "are quintessentially the expression of being a self-made Kiwi" (Ranginui Walker, A Summer Place).
- This "quaint," "charming," "humble" architecture of the frontier is produced by colonial mechanisms of the view which erase Maori habitation. These viewing mechanisms render pre-contact Aotearoa/Te Wai Pounamu and its architecture invisible, as New Zealand architecture is defined by the colonising which produces "New Zealand." The architectural articulation of nationality festers in notions of basic, do-it-yourself, pioneer construction which causes Maori to be "'homeless in their own land'" (Pat Hohepa qtd. Blythe 138).
- But the bach itself is a building that is not a home; it is an escape from home and the suburb. It is home-less. Historically the bach is implicated in the colonial making of a Pakeha home (a domesticity which is a nation) and consequently the making of Maori homelessness. It occupies a space contrary to the colonial domesticity it manufactures and inhabits and contrary to the Maori land it makes no room for. It is the location of "away from home" in the seasonal migration of holiday (the present space of leisure) and the historic migration from Britain to New Zealand (the past space of colonial work). Its colonial operations continue to be mythologised on television as "even today the time-honoured pattern is still happening. A bus, truck, or caravan arrives, loses its wheels and evolves into a bach" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). Here mobility enabling colonisation - the occupation of the land - "loses its wheels" and is rendered architecture and grounded.
- Occupying an interior of the colonial space it manufactures, the bach becomes a contained but punctuating foreign space. It operates like a piece of furniture that disturbs and redefines the limits of the room in which it is located. As a piece of national furniture, the bach is a cabinet whose joinery edges locate the veneer negotiating spaces within and without it, ensuring domestic acceptance. The bach, then, is accepted within the confines of nationhood as the television, cabineted as furniture, is accepted within domestic interiors. Veneered so that its physical qualities are foreign to itself, the bach shifts physical notions of domesticity (hygiene, safety, warmth and comfort) to the psychological: "the bach is a site of instant warm fuzzies" (Claudia Bell, A Summer Place). It likewise locates the psychological negotiation and reassurance of nationhood, embodying mechanisms of colonisation and safeguarding them. It is a cabinet -- "[a] little cabin, hut, soldier's tent; a rustic cottage" and "an ornamental piece of furniture . . . containing a radio or television receiver" (OED II:748). As cabinet, the bach resembles the
television [,which] is no longer simply outside of architecture or some kind of furniture within it. The limits of architecture have been disturbed. This is an architecture on, in, and after television. (Colomina: 1991 25)
- Pretending that distant (tele)vision coincides with the domestic, the bach and the television are equally penetrating spaces. They are architectural moments whose ever-present framing of a contrary unheimlich space reminds that one is at home now. To be outside, but in sight of, the space of the bach and the television is to inhabit a domestic interior. An image partitions the interior from the invasive outsider, protecting the home from, yet engaging it with, the unheimlich. The bach's seaward window and the television screen are interfaces between these spaces and between geographies of interior and exterior . . . interfaces desirous of a view.
- Sited on the beach, the bach marks a tensile line demarcating land and sea. Built to produce views, the bach drags the sea into the land, as the television and A Summer Place drag the bach into a more conventional domestic space. Yet the bach manifests another line, the horizon separating the sea from sky. Earth, water and air denote the construction which modernism claims through "hints taken from the airplane, the motor-car or the steamship . . . to produce a twentieth-century architecture" (Le Corbusier 1931, xii). The machine (which Le Corbusier desires as a house) of the bach pronounces linings, just as modern mechanized domesticities (ocean liners, airliners and land liners which make architecture a line) delineate air, ocean and land. In New Zealand, the tram becomes this modern house-machine. Its delineation reinforces colonial lineage, as the phasing out of Auckland's colonial past is the material which literally constructs the bach:
In 1951, when the Auckland City Council was phasing out trams, Mr E. J. (Ted) Russik bought the lot and took them to the Coromandel on the back of his logging truck. Here, he sold them as baches, farm sheds, and sleep-outs for twenty pounds each. (Thompson 26)
- As a delineator, the bach is neither securely interior nor exterior; likewise, the tram is an interior outside. They mark a line one sees through and through which one sees lines. These lines denotate an a-trophic essentialism of architecture: architecture as a line. An atrophied domesticity stripped bare and dressed in nostalgia, the vestigial bach sacrifices domestic function to the view, to nature and the sea, to the imagining of New Zealanders at leisure and at the beach. But the beach is also "the site where coloniser encounters [the] indigenous and the Pacific location of exchange, and so often of death" (Austin, after Davidson 1996, unpaginated). The beach is a line and a national boundary, and "[i]n crossing that line we go to war" (Colomina 1991, 15). It is perhaps not strange, then, that A Summer Place traces the Bayly Town Camp Club, one of the first instances of a planned bach community, to 1914, the beginning of World War I, or that baches line the shores of New Zealand as gun emplacements (camouflaged as houses during WW II) also line it. Such coincidences of war and architecture anticipate Beatriz Colomina's later formulations of architecture's engagement with the mass media:
[A]rchitecture becomes "modern" . . . precisely by engaging with the new mechanical equipment of the mass media . . . [a]nd further more, this engagement cannot be thought outside of war. Indeed, it is a military engagement from the beginning. (1994, 73)
- Drawn horizontal lines separate interior and exterior and construct the scan lines of the screen fronting the bach and the television. Constituted of and drawing lines, the television screen recalls Bakewell's "electric telegraph" of 1848. One hundred and ten years later, "the Government announced that 'when television is established in New Zealand, it will operate on the 625-line standard' - replacing an earlier policy to use the British 405-line standard" (Boyd-Bell 70). New requirements for lines, different from the maternal country's, construct the horizon lines the bach valorises. This is the view which marks the sea as interiorising:
The horizon is an interior. It defines an enclosure. In its familiar sense, it marks a limit to the space of what can be seen, which is to say, it organises this visual space into an interior. The horizon makes the outside, the landscape, into an inside . . . The horizon organises the outside into a vertical plane, that of vision. Shelter is provided by the horizon's ability to turn the threatening world of the "outside" into a reassuring picture. (Colomina 1996 CD Rom)
A wall of lines reiterates "a reassuring picture" (Colomina 1996 CD Rom) framed by the bach and the television. Using conventions of objectivity and distance, these lines miniaturise the view: the land, which appears immediately present via television or the bach, is always some distance away. Deriving from the most conventional traditions of landscape representation (framed and constructed of a foreground, middle ground and background), the view the bach televises is required to be what Susan Stewart describes as a "preservation of an instant in time through a reduction of physical dimensions" (138) and "the transformation of exterior into interior. Spatially, as any postcard tells us, this works most often through a reduction of dimensions" (137).
Colomina likewise locates the construction of modern architecture (which we should not forget the bach, in many ways, is) as specific to Le Corbusier's engagement with the postcard and a violation of the view: "[a]fter all, the window like the photograph is first of all a frame . . . it cuts something out of the view" (1994, 128, emphasis added).
- A Summer Place (after Mitchell & Chaplin 21; c.f. Colomina 1994, 7) locates the bach as a "machine for appreciating a view" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place), a sentiment particularly poignant as it is made while one is watching another "machine for appreciating a view" (the television). The televised A Summer Place proliferates framed yet sweeping views of the sea and coastal environs. These are views beheld at the bach, locating the suburban living room interfaced with the bach and the television viewer's vision as if they were there (Figures 6 & 7). Le Corbusier specifies this connection between the machine and architecture when he terms the house "a machine for living in" (Le Corbusier 1975, 133). His assertion that "[t]he camera is a tool for idlers, who use a machine to do their seeing for them" (Le Corbusier 1960, 37) enables a connection of the machine of the house with the machine of the view, via notions of leisure and mechanized extensions of the body. These are the connections from which Barry's "machine for appreciating a view" is manufactured, contrived in leisure as a machine to see for idlers, assisted by the television remote.
- Both television and the bach claim a relation to ground through their manifestations of mobile and portable space. They move from place and time in a liquid relation to land and occupation, consequences of long sea voyages and the political necessity of malleable images grounded by an Other's space. They occupy the interior in a colonial politics that constructs New Zealand as spatially inexhaustible and accessible to all. This constructed image undermines conventional understandings of land as geographically exclusive because land and space in New Zealand are images and their immateriality is what matters. The bach also locates a condition, perpetrated by Le Corbusier's modernism, where
The house is . . . described in terms of the way it frames the landscape and the effect this framing has on the perception of the house itself by the moving visitor . . . It is immaterial. That is, the house is not simply constructed as a material object from which certain views then become possible. The house is no more than a series of views choreographed by the visitor. (Colomina: 1994, 312)
- Makeshift and mobile spaces, the bach and the television are moving visitors and an immaterial architecture reconfigured on the ecology of images. Colonial images extort the land in a
pictorial attitude to nature in New Zealand, [which] is a European code of behaviour. The Maori did not paint landscape, nor feel the need to. Landscape, the pictorial attitude to the land, is purely an imported convention . . . landscape painting, for the first [Pakeha] settlers in New Zealand . . . was a way of inventing the land we live in. (Pound 12 - 14)
- The land therefore is invented in a number of ways and from (according to Pound) a number of landscape genres. For example, the painting of the colonial Sublime provides a vast, empty, supposedly unoccupied property available for occupation by the bach. As George Meadows put it in A Summer Place, "First up, best dressed got where they wanted. There was [sic] no building restrictions, no bylaws and if you got there first you took that site." The vacation at the bach is the occupation of "vacant" land and the occupation of "free or unoccupied time" ("Leisure," OED VIII: 816). It is the specific occupation of "a summer place," where time (summer) becomes a descriptor and the space of the bach and the colonial painting's "depiction of permanently beautiful weather" (Minson 10).
- A revisiting of a primitive and nostalgically manufactured past (a colonially painted summertime), the bach negotiates the discourse of the souvenir occupying a "world of nature idealised; nature . . . removed from the domain of struggle into the domestic sphere of the individual and the interior" (Stewart 145), a world also occupied by the television via pictorial composition and habitation of the interior. The bach hence is implicated in the fabricating of the land and "nature" as domestic and domesticated: a nation and interior. The bach, like New Zealand television, creates "images of the rural . . . [and] provide[s] . . . conceptions of community . . . although most New Zealanders . . . live in towns and cities" (Perry 49). Perpetrating an image of national culture (and thus nation) as associated with the bach, its imaging, and "nature," the bach and television instate themselves as domestic habitations from which to view New Zealand, and as devices where one might occupy the view as another domestic interior.
- The sea is the view specific to the b[e]ach. As sea voyaging and water transport play important maritime roles in both Maori and Paheka pasts (Belich 40), this relationship with the sea is one on which the colony utterly depends for its link with, and signifying of, "Home" (Polynesia and Britain). Hence this image of the sea becomes the signified of the homes where New Zealand's inhabitants once lived. In the attempt to construct a New Zealand national domesticity, images of "nature" and "the Great Outdoors," which are not "Home," manifest and signify the desire for "Home." The sea interiorises this view, locating nationalistic desire in the signifier of the coloniser's "Home." The bach perpetrates this view and in doing so constructs New Zealanders as united colonial subjects and the bach as "a place where we all . . . [become] a united family again" (Robyn Jamieson A Summer Place, Fig. 8). A nationalist unity, historically asserted in notions of racial integration, inevitably constructs Maori as a unified undifferentiated group able to be engulfed by Pakeha and New Zealand into a nation unified within the boundaries of the land (Blythe 155). This boundary is that of land and sea, the coastline the bach locates itself on. It encircles the nation and implies that the relation to the land is a common one because geography and space can be unifying constructions.
- The bach obsesses itself with this viewing and with the sea; like television, it archetypically configures itself as a box with a screen. It arises "as a pared-down, no-frills version of domestic bliss," which in New Zealand "became the model for the new wave of post-war architects" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). This was also a time when "New Zealanders had their first chance to see themselves on television [as] in the early months of 1951 . . . closed circuit demonstrations toured the country" (Boyd-Bell 61), a time recalled in the documentary's closing lines:
"A Summer Place was made with the help of your broadcasting fee so you can see more of New Zealand on Air" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place).
- The fifties was also a time when Auckland architects (Mitchell & Chaplin 48) justified, via nationalism, a drawing from the "international" Modern movement. Architects such as the Group and Vernon Brown "looked for inspiration not to houses or 'homes' by other architects but to sheds" (Shaw 144-145) whose architectural
lack of fussiness . . . [and simplifying of] the planning of the house . . . [was] both a combination of the bach's origin but also notions of modernism and the free plan . . . the idea of the completely open space, the non-subdivided building. (Mike Austin, A Summer Place)
- Outside, the "completely open space," is made inside to these boxes as the geographic tensions of interior and exterior, more conventional of television, are played out in the construction of the bach as "a space which is neither an inside space nor an outside space" and as a "non-subdivided building" (Mike Austin, A Summer Place). Fond of a colonial iconography that forges an outside land as one's own interior, the bach
displaces the point of authenticity as it itself becomes the point of origin for narrative . . . It is a narrative which seeks to reconcile the disparity between interiority and exteriority. (Stewart 136)
- The ground the bach is fabricated on (located on the coast and displaced from the interior) is also constructed as "non-subdivided." This construction is via the presumption of a lackj of ownership premised on European notions of land entitlement manifest in the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852. Here voting rights were restricted to men aged 21 years or more, who individually possessed freehold or leasehold land. Tying political power (voting rights) to a specific relationship with the land denied Maori (who largely held land in common) and the lower classes (who had no land) political input to the developing nationalist vision. Television also plays a game of undivided divided space (and its consequential privileges) as it presents a singular image of space to a network of interiors divided from each other. Likewise the nation is a negotiation of division and unity:
[the] liminality of the nation space . . . [is where] 'difference' is turned from the boundary 'outside' to its finitude 'within,' the threat of cultural difference is no longer a problem of 'other' people. It becomes a question of the otherness of the people-as-one. (Bhabha 301)
- Smaller windows, self-conscious of their framings, give way to the architectural imposition of the view. They also allow the "paring-down" of architecture which is not so much "a strip[ping of] the ornament off a building, but [an effort] to preserve the building from the fast-moving time of the fashion world that would render it ornamental" (Wigley 1995, 174). To locate the bach as timeless (or rather to effect its temporal recollection of the colonial as ever present), it is reconfigured as a viewing box, a television. Its walls are lined with domesticity, bedrooms occupying the peripheries, its back wall lined as kitchen, its bathroom (once cast outside) standing obligingly under the same roof, unwillingly functional. One wall becomes a window, as window becomes wall and the view a Semperian textile hung from it, reclaiming the construction of the tent and the canvas from which the bach derives. This textile locates "the tension [Colomina writes of] between inside and outside [which] resides in the walls that divide them." (1994, 274) It is
a space that is neither inside nor outside, public nor private . . . It is a space that is not made of walls but of images. Images as walls . . . [as] the walls that define the space . . . have been dematerialized, thinned down with new building technologies and replaced by extended windows, lines of glass whose views now define the space. (Colomina 1994, 6)
- Residing in this window wall--the viewing wall towards which everything points, a large Ranch-slider epitomising an interior-stretching exterior--is a television screen, the contorter of geographic spatiality. Its "trade name 'Ranch-slider' made an apt myth of the revived association . . . as we tried to bring the inside out and the outside in" (Mitchell & Chaplin 21) and as "[i]t becomes ever more obvious that architecture is almost literally carved into the flow of images" (Wigley 1996, CD Rom).
- Aluminium and cast in rust, the screen frames the very view we occupy and is
[t]he modern transformation of the house . . . a space defined by walls of (moving) [sliding] images. This is the space of the media, of publicity. To be "inside" this space is only to see. To be "outside" is to be in the image, to be seen, whether in the press photograph, a magazine, a movie, on television, or at your window. (Colomina 1994, 7)
This screen fits the bach, the room, and the wall to itself. The bach refitted and rescaled is a screen with "a high regard for the view outside" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). It fits its occupants in its image, in its wall, a limit which is "not simply the limit of a place" (Colomina 1994, 27).
- Historically, the technology of television and of architecture desire their coincidence in a screen which Foucault places in an heterotopia of cinema: "a two-dimensional screen, [on which] one sees the projection of a three-dimensional space" (Foucault 25). A temporal as well as geographic coincidence, it is a re-emergence of the "strange temporality . . . of a kind of future perfect" (Kristeva 189). The screen enables a coincidence of future with the perfecting of technology where
the visionaries of technology look forward to the time when we shall . . . watch television on screens as large as our living room walls. (Hood 103)
Buckminster Fuller likewise desires architecture as
a glorified television tube whose picture can be seen all over its surface, from both inside and outside. It is a two hundred foot TV, not so much sitting in your living room, as being your living room. (Wigley 1996, CD Rom)
The view at the bach is a window and a screen--it is a wall and a living room. It is the moment where interiority collapses with the interior.
- Based within the electronic and on notions of the ephemeral, television proposes an "unmediated" viewing via immediation, where "virtually instantaneous" (Birkinshaw XIII: 518) transmission can occur because it is not slowed down by material transfer. Immediately and temporarily present, the televisual, reliant on a precise co-relation and occupation of space and time, is also immediately past. It hence depends for its construction on rememberings: memory and nostalgia and the illusion of transparency--a vestigial inheritance from the televisual prototype--where the tactile interchange with a varnished transparency produces the immediately transmittable image and the bach. Their declension and refusal to record the view, encourages and manifests "the necessarily insatiable demands of nostalgia" (Stewart 135). Unrecorded, memory festers.
- The bach similarly constructs itself of accumulated signifiers of things now past. It necessarily negotiates the ideology of the souvenir where, as Susan Stewart explains, "nostalgia . . . plays in the distance between the present and an imagined, prelapsarian experience" (139):
the souvenir [which] is by definition always incomplete . . . must remain impoverished and partial so that it can be supplemented by a narrative discourse, a narrative discourse which articulates the play of desire. (Stewart 136)
- Consequently the bach physically addresses an ideology of partiality manifest in an exchange of incompletion and dilapidation--of being not yet finished and of being so past finished that its state is that of ruin, a state which draws assumptions of a natural and naturalised architecture. This tension architecturally desires a moment of European colonisation when New Zealand is marked by and in the process of a British attempt to colonise Aotearoa/Te Wai Pounamu/New Zealand, a time when British makeshift dwellings were found in the processes of completion and serial occupation.
- Built of architectural and colonial hand-me-downs (the surveying hut and the rural shed), the bach in addition makes itself from that which does not matter. "[T]he pipe handrails [which] were despised . . . are now re-used" (Austin 1992, 33), they supplement an ephemeral remembering which is also not mattered. Vested in [manufactured] nostalgia (a clothing whose interest in erasure is intensely architectural), the bach makes itself of the stuff which remembers it. It effaces architecture by privileging photographs, holiday logs, family scrapbooks and hand-me-downs manufactured by the bach, and by the intensity of "unfashionable colours" (Thompson 40) consequent of leftover paint and paint shop sales. In the bach, architectural and arbitrary constructions and measures that regulate building (numerical and alphabetical ordering of construction materials--their size, treatment and grade of finish--and building codes themselves) are substituted for by a regulating nostalgia. Such nostalgia allows paint to peel and a wilderness to grow in a yearning for and construction of an originating architecture equally beyond the recourse of matter. Here conventionally legitimating notions of building (building inspectors, health officials, planning codes) are abandoned, avoided and effaced. Here the architect "himself" is effaced as he gives way to illegitimate and unauthorised building:
There was [sic] no building inspectors, no health inspectors in this area; when these were done we never heard of them. (George Meadows, A Summer Place)
- Investing in and finding authority in the volatility of space, the bach negotiates colonial and contemporary constructions of time and space. Televisual layerings of interior and exterior manipulate ideas of nature, the land and the nation, participating heavily in the construction of the natural New Zealand site. New Zealand, of course, has whole-heartedly bought this view of itself--one of purity, naturality and a unique, isolated and untouched landscape. Architecture and the colonial exist in this political landscape as vulnerable and unstable slighted edges--crude, unsophisticated and subject to the whim of nature's harsh realities. Iconographically located in the pioneering hut, they play nature's game of unadorned pretension. But this game of effacement is of course only a type of architecture, and modernism has warned us about this ornamented desire of "nakedness." Equally, the New Zealand bach is a colonising site, whose colonisation has been effaced, as if "at ease with the land" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). The bach becomes a concentration of living room, and living becomes inextricably situated inside outside and New Zealand's "natural" architectures (Orsman 19, 22, 52, 102).
- New Zealand's obsessive and possessive claims to "nature" pervert and endorse the scenic perpetration of the bach. The beach is what the bach desires for its interior, as the television also desires the complex spatial contortions of interior and exterior. Situated at the water's edge, the bach casts its interior without itself, outside inside New Zealand and the natural. It is here in the bach's external interior that New Zealand's national identity founders and in that act of foundering, colonisation (literally) takes place in A Summer Place and the desire to "knock up a bach in front of a great view" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place).
"[I]n 1908 a British scientist, Campbell-Swinton wrote an article in Nature, the scientific journal, describing how television would function, and in Russia in the same year Professor Rosling in St. Petersburg demonstrated the practical possibility of television" (Hood 57). Back
"The Maori were 'timeless' in the sense that they supposedly had no concept of time until the Europeans arrived to provide them with one" (Blythe 17). Back
Numerous books attest to this description of New Zealand, e.g. Hursthouse and The New Zealand Handbook. Back
Treadwell and Tuck describe Barnicoat's survey huts as: "[a] station-point from where surveying and recording devices ordered and parcelled up an already owned and occupied land. The process of constructing a system of occupation of the external-world did not occur on a blank slate but within, on, through and over another system of land use. Here the violence of the survey . . . is repeated and masked as a domestic construction. . . . The devices of the surveyor are already domestic items" (Treadwell and Tuck CD Rom). Back
New Zealand is the country most distant from any other country. It is 2,145 kilometres from its nearest neighbour Australia [Great Circle Distance from Auckland to Sydney] (Britannica Atlas 303). Back
Both Paratene and Keri Hulme (Kai Tahu) locate possible Maori connections with the bach with the culinary structures--the whare kopae and the kauta. Professor Ranginui Walker (Whakatohea) locates the Pakeha as having given "the bach, this idea, more permanent form, a structure that's clearly identifiable as New Zealand" (A Summer Place). Back
Abbé Marc-Antoine Laugier was an ex-Jesuit and architectural theorist writing in the late eighteenth century. Back
This is explicitly located in A Summer Place by sociologist Claudia Bell. She claims that in the "popular symbolic imagery of New Zealand, the bach is egalitarian. . . . [There was an] idea that we all have access to nature and everyone could go to a bach and enjoy nature for free and have a good time." Maggie Barry, the programme's presenter, continues describing the baches of "well-to-do . . . doctors, lawyers, professionals and farmers who could have afforded more luxurious holidays. Among them was Prime Minister Joseph Gordon Coates. It seems that from the beginning 'roughing it' was an essential part of the bach experience--regardless of . . . station in life." Back
"Rather than being regarded as inconveniences, these conditions were actually pluses, and gave the experience of being at the bach its flavour" (Thompson 6). See also Phillips: "The ability to endure these physical hardships and to cope successfully without domestic comforts became the mark of the adapted colonial male" (23). Back
Land line is defined as "[t]he outline of the land against sky and sea . . . [and] an overland . . . line for telecommunication" (OED VIII: 626). Back
"'Lines' are also associated with the colonial. Colonial surveyors talk of 'cutting lines,' revealing the violence of the activity; in Papua New Guinea when the Australian patrols pacified the villages they talked of 'lining' the inhabitants; and indentured Indian labourers in Fiji lived in overcrowded sheds called 'lines'" (Austin 1996, unpaginated). Back
"Indeed Le Corbusier not only collected postcards but incorporated them into his architectural projects. . . . [F]or Le Corbusier . . . the window is first and foremost a problem of urbanism. . . . The house is installed in front of the site, not in the site. The house is a frame for a view. The window is a gigantic screen. But then the view enters the house" (Colomina 1994, 318-323). Back
It is important to note that the bach is also ideologically associated with notions of occupation [work] contextualised by the working man and his family ("By the 1920s and 30s, the bach was firmly established as the great get away for the working man and his family," Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). British colonisation of New Zealand also depended on the working man to settle New Zealand ("The men who came to nineteenth-century New Zealand were predominately British . . . [and] largely manual workers," Phillips 11), and further the mythology of egalitarianism is reliant on every New Zealander's (especially bach owners) ability to reconstitute themselves as working men. The state housing scheme initiated in the nineteen thirties continues this interest in the accommodation of the working man and his family. Back
The bach is figured as an "incubator for New Zealand writers"--with specific reference to Frank Sargeson and Janet Frame--and as "folk art or folk architecture" (Maggie Barry, A Summer Place). Back
"To be 'inside' this space is only to see. To be 'outside' is to be in the image" (Colomina 1994, 7). Back
The "happy family model cannot accommodate difference inasmuch as it effaces domestic violence. The production of a single house can only be understood as the eradication of all military and political conflict if violence is understood as something that only occurs between houses rather than within them. . . . But the very idea of the house is structured by a very particular politics, a very particular violence" (Wigley 1996, CD Rom). Back
For the production of a single house as a single space, see Wigley 1995, note 16. Back
"This Semperian sense of a space produced by polychrome fabrics became completely literalized in the tapestries that Le Corbusier produced from 1936 onward, culminating in the huge wall hangings he did for Chandigarh between 1955 and 1956. . . . They become the wall rather than simply decorate it" (Wigley 1995, 250). Back
"The recording medium is a very passive element, simply recording precisely whatever the camera presents to it" (Abramson 1987, 3). Back
"Others have lived here and reminders of them are built into the colours, textures and decoration. Of course only the owner knows of these references" (Austin 1992, 33). Back
"I think all nostalgia is manufactured" (Mike Austin; A Summer Place); c.f. "memories continue to be manufactured, as it were . . . each time we go to a crib" (Keri Hulme, A Summer Place). ["Crib" is a dialectical variation (both architecturally and linguistically) on "bach" used in the south of New Zealand's South Island.] Back
For a detailed account of the relation of dress and architecture see Wigley 1995. Back
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