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New Zealand Institute of Architects









A Warm Welcome

by Camila Puricelli Callau

What is architecture to you? For me, it’s woven into the ongoing chatter at home. It is also the roots of where I live, where everyone lives. Have a look around you: there’s no doubt that a piece of architecture is staring back at you. The angles of the roofs, the way everything is designed specifically for its purpose, the way that when you look at one building you see nothing and when you look at another, you notice the details. Notice the true meaning behind the purpose and what it’s meant for, what the designer really wanted. Architecture is a very broad term, for me at least. It is the design of the structures that make these places come to life; the work behind it all is magic. Architects turn these blurry concepts into ideas and real-life plans.

Through my eyes, it means a lot. I’ve seen it transform people’s lives, their way of living.

I can recall a lot of architectural journeys, but I am going to tell you the story of one specific home. I remember the piling papers, filled with complicated designs and technical names and numbers I didn’t understand. Files filled with plans and pictures. I remember the talks and meetings discussing the same things over and over. As I watched from within, but also from afar, months passed and things happened and the continuing hard work never stopped. Their soon-to-be house was still an empty spot on a hill. I was waiting for it to jump out of the flat plans on paper, but I knew that it would take more than that.

Finally, a slab of concrete. My eyes saw it happen from the start; I remember their smiling faces, and happy excited laughs. Again, time flew by, and I got to venture through the labyrinth of beams and wooden structures, and hear the chatter of who’s going to have which room. Now looking back at it, it’s so evident how big the transformation was. That’s what architecture does: it changes people’s lives and transforms spaces.

Later, when they moved in, it was a whole new space. No longer a muddy, empty terrain. Warm, welcoming and open. The atmosphere was now filled with a happy, comfortable family, and each time I step inside, I love it. The exposed beams, textured walls, how the architecture of each room reflects the personality of the people who use that space. After seeing all these houses get transformed into homes, and all these people finally having a warm, lovely space to live in, I can see the importance of the job behind all of this.

Each and every single building has its own character, and I’m sure that if you look closely enough, you’ll be able to find something about every design that stands out from the rest. Architecture is unique, and the best designs are those that make you gasp inside and make you think of the history behind it, read between the lines and look beyond the walls. Analysing different buildings and designs gives me a thrill. It may or may not be in my genes, But, nevertheless, I think architecture is a marvel when done deftly.

To me, architecture means transforming lives, creating unique art, and having the capacity to make things beautifully designed to fit their purpose.

This essay was highly commended in the Tamariki category of the 2022 Warren Trust Awards for Architectural Writing.

Photo: Diogo Nunes, from Unsplash.