Magic or mad?

No posts for some time as I have been mulling over the validity of taking on considerably more financial risk than I first thought, to bring the Iona project to fruition. The semi-final costings have come in and we’re talking 50% more expenditure to do this than even I, a hardened architect, thought. But, perhaps only an architect would be nutty enough to propose building on a soft site right next to a river, in a way that could be easily transported to some other site later, using a boat that was never designed to be on her side, and who will be forever trying to flip herself back onto her back, and needs to be tethered in place even throughout the worst earthquake the engineers could forecast, so our building remains a building! But as a designer sick of drawing up people’s extensions and bathrooms, the challenge was to create something unique, something magical, something that MATTERED. But of course during all this one wonders “Does it matter enough?” Does this beauty and magic and meaning, matter to others as it matters to me? Because if it doesn’t then we’re (excuse the pun) sunk.

Then the voice on my other shoulder says, haven’t you noticed how everyone’s eyes twinkle with understanding and a kind of childlike joy when you explain the project? Although the tradesmen who’ll help build this boat are doing it as part of their livelihood, this twinkle isn’t about money in the bank. It’s about meaning, and a challenge. They needed it too, I can see that. But do the internationally travelling public? Does Whanganui?

That Whanganui needs the Iona is undisputable. Currently we have very little accommodation at this level, and this will comprise only one ‘room’ in an accommodation sense, so she only needs one person to feel this way, every night. But do those who can afford it, want to pay for magic? For the unique?

We’re a town hunkered down to making do with the money we have, which publicly and privately is never enough. The Iona’s presence, in all her beauty and unaffordability, would remind us that there are people out there who do these things – they may not be local, but they do exist and hey, they might come here and if they did, what would we feed them? Wouldn’t they want to go up the river? How’d we take them? That’s the value of these projects – they can begin to give shelter to a whole new crop of lustrous plants, allowing them to grow and create opportunities, experiences, that weren’t there before. My definition of success would be if the Iona was so sought after that I could be tasked with making another absolutely unique piece at the edge between art and architecture – and this time I’d be able to seek funding for all my so-far voluntary time because it wouldn’t be such a crazy proposition any more. But this time – boy it’s scary making that first move toward stress and debt and potential failure!

A recent weekend in Rotorua with our kids was edifying. This town is, apologies to the locals, almost unerringly ugly (with certain notable exceptions) in its built environment, and sure knows how to scalp a travelling family for attractions. An exception to the rule is the new night walk in the canopy of the famous Redwoods forest, strung with wonderful arabian-looking stencil lanterns, mysterious moving glow worms, and magic fairy lustre weaving in and out of the canopy and understorey. The experience was an absolute winner for us and a high score on the Magic front.

Although I’m still wondering about staging the project somehow, I can report that last week my husband and i said ‘YES’ to going ahead with the Iona project. I’m hoping that’ll be a YES for Magic too.