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Institutional origins

edward bartley
1905 NZIA Auckland Branch president Edward Bartley .

One from the Really Old Web. I think I have just stumbled across the issue that caused New Zealand architects to unite and form an institute (now known as the NZIA ). Way back in 1905 the builders of New Zealand, having formed the NZ Federated Association of Builders, were trying to introduce a standardised building contract. This lead to an “acute” disagreement between architects and builders, causing much construction to halt.

The Wellington Association of Builders tried to clarify the dispute for the Evening Post in a letter of September 18th, 1905. Here are some extracts.

architects vs. builders

Some [contracts] were so one-sided and stringent that when those concerned went to a legal man for advice, they were told that it was a waste of time to advise builders who were mad enough to sign… so it was determined to endeavour to get one uniform set of general conditions for the colony…

The question then arose as to the best means to adopt to get the desired change. It was found that only one or two centres had Associations of Architects – and these might be called dead. In other centres (Wellington included) there was no such association, so it was deemed impossible at that stage to approach the architects, there being no cohesion between them, and each centre thinking, as they still think, that their own particular set of conditions was the best in the colony.

I well remember that the clause that provides for the payment of 1 1/2 per cent. by the successful contractor to the architect for working drawings was one of the bones of contention…

It was decided that each Builder’s Association should approach on a given date the architects in their own district, and get them to adopt them…

So the Wellington builders tried to come to an arrangement in February 1905 with the five or six Wellington architects who responded to their invitation to discussions. In July the architects rejected most of the clauses. The sticking points for architects of the day were around what we now call Defects Liability Periods and Retentions – still troublesome today. The builders were most unhappy that these architects were suggesting a “maintenance period” of “six months and more”. Back to the letter:

If there is one thing these conditions will do, they will make the architect more particular as to how he draws his plans, and especially more particular as to how he draws up his specifications. They want to be straightforward and plain, so that there can be only one meaning to them…

[Builders] have sought to confer with the architects; but unfortunately whilst the builders are united, and therefore strong, the architects are so many units, jealous of each other. When they join hands and send delegates with the power to act, the New Zealand builders will be only to glad to meet them and give them a good time, too.

The builders suggested a twleve month trial of the new conditions. Ten days later, an Evening Post reporter spoke to a “leading architect” and learnt that the architects were about to take action.

It is understood that while the Wellington architects are willing to have a conference, they desire that it shall be one representative of the whole of the colony on each side. The machinery for this already exists in the NZFAB, but the architects of this country are not yet similarly banded. An institute is now being formed in Wellington, however, and a meeting is to be held next Monday to draw up rules, etc… Steps are being taken to form with the least possible delay a Federation of New Zealand Architects that will be able to make definite and binding arrangements on behalf of the architects of the colony in all matters affecting their interests.”


The institute was quickly established, and all was sorted by the end of the year.

From the Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle, October 31, 1905 .

Builder's dinner

Posted by Peter on 02.09.10 in guilds and practice




Good stumbling.

by Paul Litterick on 9 September 10 ·#

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