It’s a big scarey world at the moment: Side-lining RMA trauma, capitalism getting egg on its face, the planet going down the climatic toilet, and Memorial Park on hold. Let’s not even mention the National Library. It’s in times like these that irresponsible flippancy becomes one of the few critical tools left unshakable.
Enter the Architectural Show Pony …
While the OED defines the Show Pony of the extra-equestrial as “a person who is overly concerned with his or her appearance; an ostentatious or showy person,” you’ll no doubt be pleased to know that “show pony” (in the non-equestrian sense) is a word of Australasian origin and dates from the 1998 paperback Dingo.
The Urban Dictionary is equally productively in its description. Here a Show Pony is: “A person that shows off in the public eye and does things just for the hell of it, usually dyeing hair regally” or “someone who not only looks better than the rest but just is” … and I recommend these definitions of the term over more peripheral and icky ones (such as the “backyard show pony“).
The Show Pony has even become somewhat of a designer cause célèbre – in that soft toy sense – sprouting at least one UK design company and an earnest teenage fashion & art “installation” in California. Even young-ish stallion Brad Pitt has been taking architectural lessons from the Starchitect Pony Trainer of them all: Frank Gehry.
So what happens when we bring architecture into the New Zealand showjumping ring? Flowing locks, playing dress-up, and flaunting media sluttage plus buildings. What exactly are the NZ architectural qualifications to be best-in-show?
Roger Walker might be most televised architect, Athfield the most filmed, and perhaps they once were architectural show ponies in bygone drug-infused era of the 1960s and 70s – but alas no more. The expertise of the Urban Dictionary strongly suggests that the show pony is young, virile – and not necessarily heterosexual. Current media-flossed and blow-waved designer spots suggest: Guy Evans – architectural poster boy for the Master Builders, Tommy Honey – agent provocateur to Katherine Ryan’s nine2noon design spot. Even Sam Kebbell has been a bit-part in a national media campaign, doing social good for the Alcohol Advisory Council of NZ. Pete Bossley (in his days of architectural show ponyship) had his own run in with alcohol – followed closely with censure from the NZIA. Rember that seemingly innocent endorsement in a Whiskey (or was it Scotch?) advertisement, which apparently brought the entire NZ architectural profession into disrepute no less?
Architectural show ponyship certainly seems to be a field where the stallions outnumber the fillies. Mitre10 Dream Home is one of the few media outings attracting the young female pony-ettes. Perhaps then there are insufficient architectural gymkhanas for a decent display of one-up-ponyship? In these times of scarcity perhaps we need to lobby for some more. Think of the potential of: Dancing with the Starchitects, New Zealand’s Next Top Architectural Model, Builder Swap, Client Swap, “Survivor” Architect … with a bit of imagination it’s a wonderful world!