Roger Hay, Architect, long time Arch Centre member, recent Fellow of the NZIA, tireless battler for the rights of the disabled and a scourge of incompetent officialdom everywhere, has died aged 76. Roger will be missed by many for his tireless championing of the rights of the disabled and for his work on revising the building code. Suffering from bad emphysema, and with his partner Valerie disabled as well, he knew first hand how hard it is to be disabled in the modern world.
Born in 1934, and gaining his degree in Architecture at Auckland in the 1950s, he worked for / with Ministry of Works on projects such as the massive South Island hydroelectric dams, and their powerfully massed structures housing NZ’s turbine power, including the mighty Benmore power station. He was taught in the days when every standards were set, firmly, by the MoW, and this continued on in his time with the NZ Standards Association. His love of getting details correct, and of setting out his argument in a logical, numerical manner, probably was generated in this period of his life. He continued his work with IBS in the 1960s, and still had a passionate fervour for systems to logically industrialise buildings – the photo above by Invercargill architect Bob Simpson, was taken in February 2010 at the PrefabNZ building symposium. Hay wrote a lengthy, detailed and carefully structured appraisal of Invercargill in 1963 “The Face of Invercargill – A Critical Survey” for the NZIA Journal, which probably still stands as one of the better discussions of architecture in our southernmost city (NZIA Journal, vol 30, 9, 1963 pp188-207). Other written works for the NZIA journal include an article on “Professionalism” (NZIA, vol 37, 7 July 1970, pp 216-217), on “The Fire Bylaw – a Trojan Camel…” (NZIA 4. 1981 p48), on “Two for Te Aro” (NZIA 6. 1983 pp21-27), and “Control Debate” on the battle with the law over Building Standards (NZIA Mar/Apr 1990 pp39-42).
Roger Hay was an active member of the Architectural Centre, being the Secretary in 1961, and on the committee in 1967 – 68, where he was responsible for the newsletter. In recent years Hay has been a guest lecturer at both Victoria University and Weltec, where his knowledge and entertaining storylines will be sorely missed. Gill Matthewson, at Weltec, notes:
“Roger used to teach for us at WelTec. When I told some students that he had passed away they said “Oh no – he was so cool; he had great stories.” And it is that repository of great stories and experience that we’re going to miss from Roger. His mind was sharp and he remembered from way back everything that has happened in the profession and why. He had clear ideas about what had all gone wrong. One of those was the dismantling in the 80s of the Ministry of Works where he first worked and received training of the kind that no school could replace and nothing has replaced the MoW. Another was the incorrect application of research about building performance badly implemented in the various Building Acts since the 1990s. His knowledge and skill in these areas stemmed from a period when he worked for New Zealand Standards working on the Fire Code and Timber preservation.”
Hay positioned himself as an Architect & Policy Advisor, with particular regard to Building Codes and Standards, in his later years, and never ceased to rain invective hell upon those he saw as less disciplined than himself. Over the past 10 years subscribers to the NZIA Chatlist have watched with intrigue and respect as Roger would proceed to launch into every mismanagement of the Building Code, and set his points out in terrifying, logical, numerically rigid manner. People on the receiving end of one of Hay’s missive’s certainly knew when they had been Rogered. Increasingly restricted in mobility over the last couple of years, Hay had restricted himself to desk bound activities where he could concentrate his rigorous mind on tasks at hand.
Hay’s unbridled desire to give others a ticking off for their incompetence deserves special attention, reaching back as far as January 1953 where he wrote to Design Review and rebuked them for being too pessimistic.
“Intuition is perhaps a gift given to very few people, but it nevertheless does exist and there is no reason for pessimism. I dislike pessimism—there is far too much of it in New Zealand at the moment.”
There have been a number of other letters in the intervening years, including several to the Listener about the Leaky Building debacle and the ensuing Building Code revisions. But my favourite of all the Roger Hay comments was the one he posted on the Arch Centre website in November 2009, where he exploded in wrath at what he saw as the sheer stupidity and incompetence of the City Council planners over the resource consent for the Johnsonville Mall.
Hay lived in Johnsonville for much of his life, and is survived there by his partner Valerie. He cared, passionately about the suburb, and submitted strongly on the proposals for the mega mall redevelopment in Johnsonville. His submission undoubtedly made more sense than most, as it looked at the centre of Johnsonville in a full three dimensional manner that had escaped the keepers of the District Plan, but was ultimately unsuccessful against the commercial might of one of NZ’s largest property developers. But, that was the character of Roger Hay – never one to bow down and be beaten by officialdom if they had got it wrong. As with the Building Code, where he took on to have the Building Code not just revised, but completely repealed and started again, Hay saw nothing wrong with that approach, and undoubtedly was a thorn in the side of those who did not have the sense to listen.
Perhaps the only way to end this obituary is to, as always, give the last word to Roger himself. The following is taken from his comment on the future for Johnsonville:
“I have just put in my formal submission on WCC’s Suburban Centres proposals (DPC 73) : What a ghastly and complex set of documents ! Why can’t our planners explain themselves clearly and simply, as well as fully ?
Only now have I found that WCC has NO PLAN AT ALL for the Johnsonville Centre : just one miserable little map with bloody silly height limits that totally contradict its own Design Guides. I.e: once the debacle of the J’ville Shopping Centre redevelopment was won by the DNZ developers and their Oz architects, WCC seems to have been left without a single idea on what to do with the rest of the Centre.
Turns out that WCC’s Johnsonville Town Centre Plan was not a statutory document, so could not be enforced. I.e, WCC had no formal design criteria by which to evaluate the grossly out-of-scale DNZ re-development, so the DNZ developers simply walked all over the J’ville Town Centre Plan and blithely ignored its Key Point – which is the need for a pedestrian Street / Place connecting the J’ville Rd on the east to Moorefield Rd on the West, along the alignment of Hawea St (which WCC seems to have sold off some time ago).
The obvious objective was a two-storey pedestrian Mall on that line – but DNZ came up with a totally pathetic and obviously false argument that left the existing east-west blind-ended ground-floor mall in place, and then added a notional first floor mall (with no lift access) displaced to the South. What an utter Shambles of a design !
Yet WCC’s planners did not put up a single argument against it !
Now we have a bloody great blind building, with car-parking desert at its roof, (contrary to the new Design Guides) squatting on the urban centre of Johnsonville like a bloody great white toad, with its arsehole onto Broderick Rd, opposite the pub and the library.
So much for Urban Design !
The only thing left to do is to create a new urban pedestrian space on J’ville Rd itself by curving the Road sharply east into the wasteland of the Woolworths carpark. But, are WCC’s urban designers now proposing that ? NOT AT ALL: THEY ARE PROPOSING NOTHING WHATSOEVER !!!
What the hell is going on ?”