About the Journal


Ahakoa he iti he pounamu.

AHA's beginnings lie in the annual New Zealand Architectural History Symposium, first held in December 2004.  The symposia aimed to address a gap and provide what I thought was needed space for the discussion of the architectural histories of Aotearoa.  They were also a reaction to the increasing cynicism of some academic conferences as a series of unrelated papers motivated by an idea of conference participation as generating yet another line in an author's CV.  From its beginning, the New Zealand Architectural History Symposium has been a one-day conference focussed on a specific time period.  The whakapapa of this format was the conferences that Linda Tyler organised while she was Curator of Pictorial Collections at the Hocken Library in Dunedin in the late 1990s.  Linda's conferences drew a diverse group of people together, and provided space for genuine interest, generous sharing, and furthering matauranga of the conference subject.  These conferences were focussed on a specific New Zealand artist - Colin McCahon (1919-1987) and Frances Hodgkins (1869-1947) were two I remember.  A highlight of mine was Jonathan Mane-Wheoki (1943-2014) recalling his childhood memories of Colin McCahon and his house in Titirangi.  This focus seemed to me to be part of the reason for their success, and the focus of each Architectural History Symposium on a specific timeframe was the result of this.  The one-day format followed the advice of then Head of School of Architecture, Gordon Holden, who noted that as soon as a conference was longer than a day the budget became unmanageable.  The kaupapa of no "keynote" speaker was also adopted to ensure a manageable budget and low conference fee in order to support the widest participation possible. The symposia are organised under the umbrella of the Centre for Building Performance Research, and the support of Mike Donn, the Director of the CBPR and a great believer in a liberal interpretation of building performance research.

The topic of the inaugural symposium, 1900-1918, was the idea of Robin Skinner.  He saw the conclusion of WWI as a natural end point.  This first conference was held in December 2004, on the eve of the centenary of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 2005, so the time period that Robin suggested was particularly relevant.  The practice following this, of selecting a decade as the theme, approximated the duration chosen in this first conference, the specific decade of each next symposium being decided by participants at each conference.  Consequently each issue of AHA has a decade theme and there is no chronological order.

Since about 2010, it has been an intention to digitise the conference proceedings. For various reasons this has taken longer than desired.  A decision was made in 2019 to create a standalone journal, the title, AHA: Architectural History Aotearoa, was a prosaic first draft confirmed by the meaning of its acronym in te reo Māori, and its English "A-ha!" - collectively reflecting the complex kaupapa of the journal.  The initial page format of the journal papers was influenced by the page layout used in Interstices 4, the CD Rom version of the 1995 ACCESSORY/Architecture conference.  This was the first digital issue of an architectural periodical in New Zealand, and an early example internationally.  It was Matiu Carr, Colin McCahon's grandson, who had the idea to produce the ACCESSORY/Architecture issue of Interstices in a digital format using html and pdfs.  This connection to ACCESSORY/Architecture conference also acknowledges that conference's importance in the early academic careers of a number of us involved in the New Zealand Architectural History symposia, mostly as postgraduate students, and our involvement initiating, organising and participating in that conference and the resulting issue of Interstices, including Peter Wood, Robin Skinner, Gill Matthewson, and me.  After initial feedback, the AHA page format shifted from a two-column portrait format to a three-column landscape format.  Nigel Isaacs can take the credit for this change and his observation that the initial portrait format would be irritating to read on a computer screen.  Perhaps this re-orientation makes the journal properly an artefact of the digital era?

The New Zealand Architectural Symposium and its offspring AHA are the result of ongoing support from the community engaged in studying the histories of the built environment of Aotearoa: amateur historians, archaeologists, architects, architectural historians, archivists, building science historians, building conservationists, council heritage advisors, furniture conservationists, heritage advocates, Heritage New Zealand | Pouhere Taonga staff,  independent scholars, Ministry for Culture and Heritage | Manatū Taonga, public servants, public historians, university academics and students, and other architectural history groupies of various persuasions.  It is also the result of ongoing support from administrative and technical staff and Heads of School at the School of Architecture, Te Herenga Waka, Victoria University of Wellington. Thanks are due to all of you.

Christine McCarthy

January 2021



Copyright of individual papers is held by the author.