23 Jan 2015

Hundreds farewell Sir Ian Athfield

6:48 pm on 23 January 2015

Hundreds of people gathered across the rooftops of Sir Ian Athfield's rabbit-warren home in Khandallah to farewell the lover of blues, ladies and architecture.

A tribute at Sir Ian Athfield's home in Khandallah

A tribute at Sir Ian Athfield's home in Khandallah Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

The Christchurch-born architect, who was widely admired for his pioneering and often provocative architectural style, died on 16 January 2015, aged 74.

His sprawling hillside home links multiple residences and caused many conflicts with the Wellington City Council and some neighbours.

Ian Athfield

Sir Ian Athfield Photo: The Arts Foundation

Sir Ian's friend of over fifty years, Tom Scott, who lived in the home for a while, said Sir Ian's natural and intuitive style set him apart from the rest.

"He seemed to work without a parachute but he actually had complete knowledge of the laws of aerodynamics and if he had to he could float to the ground just using his fingertips really. He was such a clever man."

New Zealand Institute of Architects CEO Teena Pennington said Sir Ian's ability to alter the look of a city is best showcased by Wellington's Civic Square.

Tom Scott - the MC at Sir Ian Athfield's funeral in Wellington

Tom Scott - the MC at Sir Ian Athfield's funeral in Wellington Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

"Civic Square was previously a street and a road and today you go there, it's the heart... It sits between a civic area of the council, the city-to-sea bridge, connecting the waterfront with the city. So it's a public place that people actually move through and enjoy."

Wellington City Councillor Helene Ritchie chaired the civic centre project in the 1990s.

She said some councillors were wary of Sir Ian's maverick reputation but his work had put Wellington's CBD on the map.

"I don't think anything compares with Wellington. I don't think anything compares with the architecture and the integrated nature of this public space which Ath and his architects were able to create."

Sir Ian's skills stretched across borders including his work on the rapid transport system in Thailand and low-cost housing in the Philippines.

He was awarded the New Zealand Institute of Architects' highest accolade, the Gold Medal, in 2004 and was made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the recent New Year's Honours.

A public memorial service will be held in Wellington's Civic Square on 1 February.

People pay their respects and leave messages for Sir Ian Athfield.

People pay their respects and leave messages for Sir Ian Athfield. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

Hundreds gather to farewell Sir Ian Athfield at a service in Khandallah.

Hundreds gather to farewell Sir Ian Athfield at a service in Khandallah. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

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