As one of the four founding directors at Makers of Architecture, Beth Cameron has played a fundamental part in the design of our new workroom, and our flagship store opening early next year. We met with Beth to learn the myriad of things that influenced her career.
Story photographed by Yoan Jolly.
Tell us about your upbringing and background...
My parents brought my sister and I up on a beautiful lifestyle block on the Geraldine Downs, South Canterbury. This land of rolling hills, bush clad pockets, flat plains and scenic mountains provided a framework for a semi-rural lifestyle, one of freedoms to explore, create, imagine, share and nurture. At a young age, I would spend hours making (many paper clothes), drawing, creating huts, gardening and horse riding, attending sports and playing music. As a family, we were lucky to travel. These trips provided impressionable insight into the world beyond the familiar and opened my eyes to the scale and experience of different countries and cultures.
Moving from Geraldine to Wellington to study my Master of Architecture Professional at Victoria University, allowed me to become embedded in a world of research through design, and I really enjoyed my time studying.
What was the house you grew up in like?
My childhood family home was designed and self-built by my parents. They created an incredible environment, from a bare paddock on the hill, into a wonderfully integrated home and garden. The house became nestled amongst large native trees, spanning three levels as it interacted with the hillside. It was built with solid timber floors and ceilings (local Oak and Rimu), white walls and floor to ceiling glazing in places. It wasn’t large, but comprised of a collection of spaces and buildings; an open plan living area, three bedrooms, a separate guest space that doubled as a secondary lounge, with my father’s workshop below.
This home had a profound effect on my understanding of spatial environments and how a designed space can facilitate activities and allow you to connect with the interior and exterior environments in various ways.
The experiential notion of entrance to the home through a tunneled tree lined driveway and pathway into the home created a sense of privacy, intrigue and destination. We didn’t have fences between our home and the neighbor, this set up a condition of freedom and sense of community between the properties, many of these experiences of my childhood environment have informed the various perspectives and values I’ve come to appreciate now.
What do you think makes a good home?
A good home comes in many forms and personalities! Ultimately, given the opportunity, it is an expression of yourself, a sense of place that allows personal freedom, supports your lifestyle values, connects you with its context, community, and assists with daily life in a delicate, sympathetic and sometimes unexpected way. A home should not only provide shelter, enclosure, a point of reference and a base, but should promote a sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
Where would you like to live?
I love living in Wellington, I anticipate maintaining a base and connection with this city for the foreseeable future, however, in time it would be wonderful to travel and live overseas for periods of time, whether this is through work based opportunities or personal exploration, it’s something that I hope to experience.
I think experiencing different modes of living and lifestyles creates enriched understanding, wider perspective, empathy and broader social, political, environmental awareness.
Has there been anything on recent trips that has inspired you?
I love observing and experiencing different climates, weather patterns and how various local cultures respond to these conditions architecturally. I recently visited Byron Bay in Australia and experienced some intense tropical downpours, unavoidably heavy rain from time to time! It was beautiful, resulting in freshly cleansed air, as if every dust particle was removed from the atmosphere allowing the colours to become vivid strong and clear.
It’s so nice to stop for a moment and absorb these moments, noticing how the vernacular architectural environment responds to these conditions. I like to find inspiration through simple observations, noticing how architecture can strengthen and craft these momentary experiences.
What is your favourite building and why?
There are many incredible buildings, it’s difficult to choose just one as they offer such vastly different experiences! I like to collect moments from many buildings that have provided insight, perspective and experiential memories. There are a few that have been particularly influential, one of them being Peter Zumthor’s Vals Therme spa in Switzerland, this building has been conceived for pure experiential purposes, it provided the most beautifully crafted journey, through scale, sculptured space, material authenticity, simplicity and surprise, words don’t do justice in an attempt for explanation!
There are many buildings I hope to visit that will also no doubt have similar lasting effects, however, at a smaller more domestic scale I equally appreciate more humble architectural expressions, specifically homes and bach’s here in New Zealand, there’s something refreshing about modest simple and functional.
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