Blog 059 #UrbanDecay

WARNING: The contents of this blog are quite deep. 

For some of those who follow my Instagram account, you would be aware that I’m running a daily imagery montage. The idea is that the pictures would correlate to whatever blog theme I was running on any given day so that it would have an extra layer of depth when written about. One night when I was deciding how the blog would all look I remember searching the likes of Tumblr, Pinterest, even Google Images for moments that would capture how I was feeling. After mixing my passion for visual imagery with the skill of blogging I came up with the idea just to use all of my own images to build a better picture of what I was trying to display.

When I started writing, it wasn’t a goal to find meaning in emotions that didn’t exist but to report on real feelings that made real waves in my life. One of my first focuses was on nature and how incredible it can be as a tool for lifestyle and as a measure of distinctive happiness. After moving away from my small rural hometown at the top of the South Island of New Zealand heading back into the urbanscape of city life Wellington in the North Island, I began to see a huge shift in my behavior. Now it’s important for me to note that during my first year of studying architecture the year prior, I was infatuated with how spatial design and the communications of people and recognizing the relationship and its historic significance throughout the development of modern day civilization. It was a huge moment for me, realizing how limitless man-made creations really were. That these massive ecosystems existed in bustling communities such as these and that in millions of places around the globe, these urban lifestyles existed.

But this year was a different year. Having struggled with my responsibilities as a friend to a group of peers who struggled with my personality previously, I thought it was massively important to spend time figuring out what my real aspirations in life were. My parents taught me that love was the only thing that ever mattered. When I was twelve years old, my brother passed away. Our family never really recovered because we never communicated well enough to be able to grieve in a way that allowed us to grow correctly. So it was a dark place to be. Not on a surface level, but on an emotional and spiritual one. My parents struggled to talk, and I don’t blame them. Their lives had been ripped apart. While I was in the same boat, being so young and unawares I couldn’t begin to fathom how deep the pain would have been for them. I still can’t. The only thing that I could fathom was the immense amount of energy my mum put into showing me how much she truly loved me. That through the wrappings of a broken family, her love for us and the love of our dad, my sister and our family still stood through the biggest test any family could face.

You’re probably asking yourself how this has anything to do with architecture or urbanism. I can’t promise you that this discussion will give you closure but let me explain. Architecture is a very loose term. It denotes and entails many things but my focus for today is that it helps businesses create the ultimate visualization of their wealth and power. These corporate enterprises produce huge amounts of revenue and one of the best ways of showing off this power is by creating a building that symbolizes a businesses pedigree, which is the role of an architect. This is applicable to even more than just creating a structure which signifies a business but can also be used on less commercial stuff, like housing. Families can be their own entities, they can ask for a guy who is skilled in drawing and utilizing tools designed by other people to create a space that defines their life’s entire wealth. To redesign or to completely create a space comfortable enough to accommodate a families “needs.” My argument is looking at what has become of modern day architecture. These cookie-cutter lifestyles where slight variations like the location of the toilet, a different colored tile and all of these miniature customizations simply to find a balance where that family feels unique or feels special in some sort of way and it never occurred to me that it is the ultimate materialism imaginable.

Holding onto that thought. The comparison between architecture and urbanism is too distinctively consider the relationship between architectures. The manipulation of a large collection of customized spaces to intricately reflect the socialism within an area to accommodate the needs of people. That in its essence it the art of the urban planner, for planning’s sake. By making the connection that the urban planner would look at more than just a building, more than just space but understand how people move within that space, understand how motorized traffic drives across a place. Urbanism is a much broader picture of the state of affairs in comparison to the visualization of power, money, and greed.

My argument lives within a society that means to create convenience but in reality, is making our people more numb to the recognition that life is becoming too easy and that we are increasingly becoming lazy. That we really don’t need another giant ottoman in the lounge. Auckland could probably do without a 3 billion dollar tunnel just to shave twenty minutes off Joe’s daily commute to the train station. That Christchurch probably didn’t need a Cardboard Cathedral. That Blenheim doesn’t need to polish the stone floors of its memorial square, that Wellington doesn’t need another tram line up the hill to university because it’d only be overrun by tourists, and cost too much anyway. When you look back and see how practical we have been in the past, or even if you visit a rural township in the south island of New Zealand, you get this sense of manualism that you have to be more proactive, that shit doesn’t come easy and that pretty pictures don’t define somebodies personality, but the love of others does. That there is more to life than the passive spatial manipulations of money hungry businesses looking to show off their biggest toy yet.

This is my scope on urban decay. The hashtag symbolizes the recognition that we are becoming numb to the incentives urban planners and architects create. Although I stand by the encouragement of creativity. The belief in creation is that we gain new philosophies. Why I’m all for the progression of architecture, aesthetic should never trump practicality and the history of the art should never be forgotten.


Thanks for checking in!

Blog 048 What is Architecture – Part Two 

By Mana Williams.  20 Minutes.

It’s such a massive topic. The idea of architecture is a really broadly described term that so often people really wonder what an architect does and what architecture is. Usually, the perception is that architecture is a building and an architect is somebody who designs the thing. But today’s chat we’ll look at how it is so much more than just a sketchbook and a few clunky computer programs, in the hopes that it clarifies to potential architecture students to be aware of what it is and know the road they’re going down, in a non-university like propagandised way.

Let’s get a few things sorted. The first blog chat around architecture (Part One) talks about architecture being a place custom made for a particular circumstance. Designed as a space that could be reflected in its owner or at the very least is tailored to represent a large brand or family name. We also discussed how significant it is that we understand the idea of Turangawaewae or a place where I stand. Architecture could be a place that holds memories for you. Somewhere you could consider as being a special place, a place you go to when you need some reassurances.

So clearly there’s a lot of answers and not a lot of explaining going on, right?

In today’s talk, I’ll narrow it down to how architecture is used as a vehicle for companies to shine out and the similarities between individual ownership and how people act in not many different ways from these corporate entities. In the hopes that a student is very clear about what they are studying and how they understand their market so that they go in with their eyes wide open.

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 3.24.38 PM.png

Above fig.  WHATMANASEES Instagram

My Story.

But to do that we will need a bit of context because everyone loves to facts check. Well first and foremost. I am a second-year landscape architecture student looking at double majoring in both architecture and public policy. It’s quite an odd mixture, but that’s because I’m not your usual lolly. Last year I battled with the thought that maybe all of this architecture work doesn’t really do much in terms of focusing on what matters, like people, family and friends and some of the wider impacts that policy creates.

So that’s me… A self-fueled rocket ship here to take you up and away from the rubbish that other students and the university bubble will tell you.

Money and power are very correlated. Architecture is a way for businesses to showcase the magnificent power that they have in a physical model, in a functioning eco-system of staff, clients and their brand. To create a space that identifies their values and markets their business.

There is also a niche market for people to design homes around the basis of creating structures that they might be able to love. They can also use architecture to refurbish a space and mould it in a way that maintains the existing structure. To be fair, this was my childhood dream. To become an architect and design my own home. I even knew what it was going to look like.

While it’s really cool to aspire to have that sort of dream, to dream in those sorts of ways. There is more to life than a lust for a well-sketched wall bounded mortgage. My challenge to you is to think downgrade. Think about becoming a person who understands and is actively aware on the small details such as there is a massive social decline in the number of homes actually available.

Architecture is historically a profession that benefits privileged people. People with a lot of money to accommodate their grand ideas and their huge aspirations, not dissimilar to the likes of mine and yours. But does that really warrant a three storied house with five bedrooms and three garages at the top of a lofty mountain? Not really…

Architecture is a process designed to benefit people with a lot of money to do frivolous tasks like design massive outdoor water features, a mezzanine floor, a granite entranceway. I’m happy that you want to be an architect, go you. But I employ you to see a better use for that money. To make a change in the way your client thinks, after all, that is your job.

Above fig.  WHATMANASEES Instagram

A quick crash course on the Architectural process.

An architect starts by meeting the client, finding out what they like, what they want, how much money they have to complete their desired project etc.

You then, as an architect, take that idea away into your little vault called a studio and come up with a million creative ingredients and produce a couple of iterations.

You go back to the client and discuss the concepts you’ve come up with. They tell you to make it better by pouring more and more money into it. They encourage development and refinement.

You go away and think hard about how to make the concepts better so you develop the ideas into a refined module. You then go back to the client again with a module in the hopes that they might buy the idea off of you.

Basically, the client has you by the short and curlies through the entire process. Or do they? In University they tell you not to stop at a basic concept but to think outside of the box. They imply that it’s significant for you to be using ideas that nobody has ever done before.

How many people downgrade and make the call to say that a building doesn’t need to exist but that this money is better spent on helping world vision extend their help of the billions of people living below the poverty line?


Above Source: Change, World Vision, 2017.

What I’m getting at here is that there are more important issues that need solving before we come up with an attractive solution to beautify an ugly building or idealise a brand or family home. 

the numbers don’t lie. Society is honestly doing piss all to make any tremendous change in how poverty affects the world’s kids. We can quite easily convince ourselves that it isn’t our problem, that it’s not our concern. But can you stop being so self-centered?

The truth is that architects have become passive authors who are content being somebodies bitch. Instead of standing up for themselves and those around them. They allow the client to rule the way they operate and rule the decisions they make because they are afraid to be put out of work. That’s the price of change, its a call to arms to look through the various social expectations and lay down the ethics that a person doesn’t need a ten thousand dollar Eames chair in their unused living room, or they don’t need a two-meter extension to their cantilevered bedroom balcony.

IT IS THE BIGGEST FORM OF MATERIALISM  IMAGINABLE. This is not dissimilar from most other professions, and although it’s cool that some people really do take a genuine interest in the various advocacies of major community led projects. It’s just not enough.


Above is the branding for the new advocacy service, VOYCE, which speaks out for the 36000 children in New Zealand who are in the process of or have already been taken away from their families. So it’s not impossible. To actually be a part of any change you do need money, true, but you also need a strategy. Something that can be utilised in order to be functional. VOYCE is mostly led by people who have been in the care system and who have experience rather than qualifications. This makes their cause better managed and more prepared for whatever shit storm unfolds over the period of time that it is operational. VOYCE in itself will grow to be the largest advocacy service specifically designed to speak out for children who are displaced simply so that they can feel the basic rights of care and protection, something that most of us have had or at the very least experienced.

This is an example of people who have taken action to make the change, and it’s being released this Saturday. The reason why I exemplify it here is because this advocacy service is led by people and organisations such as VODAFONE. These entities set a good example by doing this sort of work because they identify the elephant in the room which is that there are always bigger problems that we are failing to solve.

What is the one thing that sets any Architect apart from the rest? 

In a business or a design firm, what makes an architect shine is their experience. Because experience provides creative opportunity. If you had all of the tools in the world like every other architect, the only variation is creativity. When you mix two experiences to fix a certain situation, you are being creative. The better you are and the more hard work you apply, the better the result and the better the solution.

The challenge I’m setting is to use your wealth of experiences to create a solution that fixes the problem of social inequality. To build your designs with the pre-determination that you’re not going to design something that benefits the whims of an every day A-list celebrity. That you won’t buy into these fancy concepts which shit on the everyday person. That you won’t build a solution for a business just to show off how much money they have. But instead will take a cause, and literally pour the inspiration into fixing that problem in a spacial dimension. Then present that to your client, and give them a lecture on how fucking disgusting they are for implicating a material lifestyle just to accomplish domination over a neighbourhood.

“When you take a Trump sign and slap it onto a building, it becomes a Trump tower.”
– Me.


At the end of the day, it’s your career, I can respect that. I hope this blog has changed your perspective of Architecture and that you re-evaluate the robotic nature of answering to a set eco-system. And as always!

Thanks for checking in…

Blog 005! What is Architecture?

So what is it? By Mana Williams 10-14 Minutes 

In my first year studying Architecture, I remember one of the first reports was to write about any building in the world that meant something to us. A Turangawaewae, or Maori for a place to stand, suggests an emotional response to a particular location that you hold most significant. Most people were all about beaches and Mountain passes, some more sentimental reports included backyards, grave sites and physical objects like boats because home is where the family is. From a distance, all of these different locations fall under the same umbrella and that is Architecture.

We learned the different segments of the Architectural society consist of:
-The umbrella ‘Architecture.’
-Landscape Architecture. Beaches, Mountain Passes, Grave sites etc.
-Interior Architecture. Homes, caravans, boats even Kombi’s fit into this category.
-Lastly is Building Science. The logistical construction and project managing of a site.
The four categories merge into a process that has been used for centuries way back to Prehistoric Architecture. The simple affinity with molding site into form, by taking one’s hands and carefully crafting a shape or object is a better way of explaining the process of Architecture. By taking an everyday space and changing its layout, its context, into an arrangement that is customized which makes that object Architecture.

But we already knew that… My Turangawaewae is an abstract concept that my work space was the place I stood. In the case of my old workspace, a supermarket inside of a small shopping mall within a city of New Zealand. A place where I could be effective and complete my tasks.

A tree grows in one place but it’s rooted outwards.

When you think of where you work, you know where things are, who the banter is best shared with, where the bosses office is, and where the boss is in regards to where the banter is facilitated. More importantly, when you work hard you feel productive, like a well-oiled machine, utilizing the space available to you.

But that’s all a part of the crafted space. Some of my Architecture Schoolmates will cringe at the name Vitruvius. Markus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman Author who lived in the Century before Christ. He envisaged three golden rules in the design and construction of a building. Firmitas – Strength, Utilas – Functionality, and Venustas –  Beauty. Although his golden rules were due to his age in the days when The Roman Empire had an immeasurable consideration of wealth, many Architect’s today are still influenced by Functionality and Beauty (or aesthetics).

In the purposes of my workspace, the flow and efficiency are ruled by the proximity from one place to the next. This is where I elude more so to Vitruvius’ second law of functionality. It is not so much the Beauty or indeed the Strength or firmness of the site, but the functionality in regards to how well placed every area of work was.

I was growing. Branching outwards knowing where the funniest guys were working when they were working and where their respective departments were. Where their supervisors were stationed and how a ten-second gap near the avocados was all the allotted banter time required to have a great laugh. After spending three years, growing in this space, getting to know the flow, a weird sort of institutionalization occurred where I honestly felt more comfortable at work than in many other places…

Now I’m not cuddling up to my old work and there were no relationships, asides from the obvious work flirts. For me, Architecture is this umbrella that spans out to many different sentiments and that it means many different things to different people. However, this is where I stand. It is a space unrepeatable and a space where you grow.