Herriot Melhuish O’Neill Architects - Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland, Tauranga

Patterns and Textures


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While HMOA’s Karl Wipatene and his wife, architect Anne Kelly, were in Europe, back in rain-soaked Wellington we were sustained by Anne’s social media feed. Stunning shots of the five countries they and their two children visited over five weeks — UK, France, Morocco, Italy, Malta.

As Anne was capturing grand galleries and museums, ancient cities, streetscapes, and plenty of donkeys (see some of her images on our Instagram), Karl was struck by the detail on the buildings; the patterns and textures that are still on his mind. Currently working on a significant corporate fit-out on the Wellington waterfront, Karl says his approach and material choices for the project have been influenced by what he saw on the trip:

Colours and Patterns, Chouara Tannery in Fez, Morocco

‘Looks like an artist’s water colour palette’, Fez is famous for its quality leather. Stone pots are filled with dyes and other liquids, including cow urine and pigeon poo, to treat the animal skins. We can only imagine the smell. In the blazing sun, the tanner is often up to his waist in these caustic solutions, using bare feet to knead the hides.

Motif, Exterior of Louvre Gallery, Paris

Viewed from the Louvre’s Islamic Arts pavilion, designed in 2012 by Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini, these patterns are on part of the original gallery building. ‘Opulence and intensity…. I love the way the architecture has allowed it to be revealed’.

Handmade Tiles, Amanda Levete’s Porcelain Courtyard

Part of the the Exhibition Rd Quarter, V&A Museum, London

On Day 1 of the trip, it was off the plane for a jet-lagged-family visit to the museum. Here, UK architect Amanda Levete and her practice, AL_A  have created a new entrance to the V&A, an art and design museum known for its decorative collections. Levete’s insertion features the world’s first porcelain public courtyard — paved in 11,000 handmade tiles, all different. Karl says, ‘The variety of textures and patterns, which continue up into the folded roof forms, add so much interest; a harmonious transition between roofs and the ground plane. Seamless!’  Read more here.

Mosaics, Riad/Hotel, Fez

Not a bad pad for a few days, this was the Wipatene-Kelly’s hotel. A riad is traditionally a house or palace with an interior courtyard. Plain, street-facing facades disguise the ‘unbelievable detail and utter opulence’ of the interior finishings. With water features on the ground floors, there’s also a clever eco-system to moderate temperature.

Moroccan mosaics, zellige, only ever form abstract patterns. Incredibly complex designs are skillfully laid glaze-side down, so the tiler must remember the patterns and colours (there’s no way of checking once laid out). The arranged mosaic is then sprayed with powdered cement, covered with an adhesive backing and applied to a wall or floor in one piece.

Street Art, Brick Lane, London

Moving well beyond graffiti, there’s now a real appreciation and acceptance of East London’s abundant street art, and a confidence that it won’t be painted over. On a public tour, in main streets and down alleys, the family discovered large works and discreet markings, including the odd Banksy of course.