My favourite modernist building … Alington House

I last went to the Alington house (Karori, 1962) 20 years ago as part of the Architectural Centre’s 50th Anniversary.

I had been a couple of times before, and again I felt a feeling of calmness sweep over me – a sense of everything in its place. Perhaps this was due to the Golden Mean – the so called mythical proportion that Alington used (also used in the Parthenon and by many modern designers including Le Corbusier). It was believed to give balance and harmony.

When Bill Alington built this house for his family, he was working at the Ministry of Works and had recently studied at the University of Illinois, School of Architecture. While there he had met and was influenced by Mies van der Rohe.

I arrived at the house after climbing up the bush path from the road. It sits like a pavilion in a Japanese garden, the eaves spreading out to the posts. The flat roofed house has a post and beam structure with a timber lined ceiling sweeping out to the eaves, full height timber doors and windows and cork tiles on a concrete slab floor.

The house has a simple plan that belies its complexity.  It is symmetrical with the hearth/kitchen at the centre. A partial height brick wall separates the living space from the dining space/kitchen, this has the fireplace on the living room side and backs onto a galley kitchen. The hearth is literally the heart of the house. Both living and dining spaces look out to the native garden through floor to ceiling windows.

The bedrooms are then to the outer four corners of the house, two to each side of the living area, symmetrically placed either with a bathroom or laundry /shower room between.

Even with its concise plan the house has a feeling of spaciousness. I haven’t seen the house for many years but the memory remains strong.

Marguerite Beere

The “My favourite modernist building …” series is in support of Gordon Wilson Flats which is facing threat of demolition


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