Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Humdingers of the Grid City


(thanks to a tip-off from bloggy friend, and talented N.Z. artist Sally Reynolds)

I was lucky enough to discover the photographic work of Nicholas Burrowes. In particular his Hum Dingers of the Grid City pics, which capture the concrete loveliness and hard edged sculptural beauty, of Christchurch's Modernist commercial buildings simply, elegantly and honestly.

Hum Dingers is a tribute (some of the buildings, sadly long gone) to the Brutalist architecture some of us love (and the rest of us love to hate. Ahem!) And Nicholas doesn't call them hum dingers for nothing! To say they took my breath away when I looked at them would be a huge understatement - they moved me to such an extent that I contacted Nicholas to ask him if I could share them here with you (a big deal for someone shy like me). I'm happy to say Nicholas very kindly agreed "help yourself and post anything you need", so if you've got a soft spot for Brutalist architecture - or even if you haven't (and why not?), you're in for a treat...

171 Main North Road

7 Whiteleigh Avenue
(originally The Wool Exchange, designed by Sir Miles Warren)

O Bridge Street
(racecaller's box at the Pleasant Point Yacht Club. Since demolished. I love this one, it reminds me of a bird house)

55 Sandyford Street

Here's how it could hang at your place

These are just a few of Nicholas's "hum dingers". You won't be disappointed if you take the time to check out the rest of them, and you can, here. You can also have a bit of a sticky-beak at some of Christchurch's residential hum dingers on the fabulous Christchurch Modern (a bit like our own Modernist Australia - which I'm happy to say, is now back online).

One more to end

43 St Martins Road
(St Martins Presbyterian Church, designed by Ernst Plishke)

As always, thanks for reading, and thank-you to Sally and Nicholas for giving me something to write about.

p.s. it would be remiss of me not to mention Thomas Ryan here - Thomas is a Tasmanian photographer whose awesome photography documents Mid-Century, Art Deco and Brutalist buildings in Australia. You've got to check out "Marjoy"


  1. Oh, Kylie, these are beautiful. I followed the link you provided, and I fell in love with the Lyttelton Tunnel Traffic Command photo. Thanks so much for sharing these!

  2. That yacht club building goes on my mental list of 'tin sheds/dream homes' that Mr A-P and I are compiling.

  3. Hi Kylie, glad these humdingers spun your wheels! I remember alot of these buildings from my uni years of living in Christchurch. But back in those days I was more into the Victorian architecture of the city, how times change! Tis quite sad that so many of them are no longer with us. While others such as the Warren & Mahoney designed Town Hall (built in 1972, and now deemed a historic place - how old does that make us feel!!) will probably take years to restore. Sx

  4. Well I must admit to gasping aloud when I saw Whiteleigh Avenue which blended with a shriek when I scrolled down to 55 Sandyford Street! Thanks for the link to Thomas Ryan too - those Tassie buildings were a trip down memory lane (and strangely a trip through some of my bad dreams I have where I'm lost in Launceston - but that's another story!)

  5. We share many loves these and these pictures are yet another! Thanks for sharing xx

  6. Hi Kylie, great to hear from you. As usual you have shared something interesting with us all, love that yacht club building x

  7. i find i'm very drawn to hard lines myself, which is the least one can say about brutalist architecture, not being an overly connoisseur. i like what brutalist stuff i've seen so far, and all i've hated has at least moved me significantly. london has quite a bit of it, not all of it is, i.m.o. mentioning. i saw an interior design show challenge on keeling house (by denys lasdun) in bethnal green. look it up, it's tall and slender, the building talks, has been refurbished, is home to the posh (unfortunately) after the social label'd been lifted off. but let's face it : it hasn't been demolished.
    i've read all of your previous (...) here, and i just can't believe you're having this trouble over a bathroom, i'm so sorry! all is feasable, and you live through it, but fun is just not really in it. i hope the end is in sight.
    and besides everything... i hope you are fine.
    in the meantime? f**k, yeah!

  8. I usually don't find myself drawn to Brutalist concrete, but these buildings have interesting shapes and a quirky charm - who knew concrete could be quirky? You live and learn. And I always love it when you get all passionate and demonstrate your great knowledge about design, Kylie!
    How's it going? How's the bathroom? Been thinking about you; in fact, Nina and I were only talking about you this morning, as she went off to school in her owl hat! xxxx

  9. Love them, and would hate to see them disappear over time. The style may not be for everyone but it existed and it's so important to preserve the buildings.

  10. I grew up down the road from the racecallers hut at the yacht club LOL.

    1. OH an forgot to say due to all the earthquakes Christchurch has been through many of these great buildings are gone or going. :(

  11. Hi Kylie, I didn't think I was a fan of Brutalist architecture but I enjoyed the photos especially Bridge St and Sandyford St.

    I really hope your bathroom is sorted out now, Kylie. Sounds hideous. Poor you! We've STILL got the builders coming in on a weekly basis checking out the damp course because it's still wet after all these months and we can't decorate and everything is a mess. Boo hoo! Sorry to moan Kylie but it's really getting on my wick. Oh well, just think, one day it will all be a distant memory...xx

  12. Hi Kylie,
    Wow, thank you so much for making such an effort to show us these, they're stunning!! You know me, I'm a fellow brutalism lover:-) You would love London's brutalist architecture from, some if the social housing projects are so unbelievably large, they're almost megastructures. Do you like Le Corbusier? I'm guessing some of his work might be right up your alley! Google Sainte- Marie de la Tourette, some find it hideous, others beautiful.... I'm definitely in that last group:-) Good brutalism rarely leave you indifferent!!

  13. Kylie, these are amazing! I love the birdhouse too but the angles on some of the others are striking too. Hope your reno situation has improved. If it makes you feel any better mine is not finished either, after 2 attempts to install the range hood and 4 months since we moved back home, maybe next week will finally get it sorted so I can finish painting and share some pics! mel x