As the first publication from leading Aotearoa New Zealand architecture practice Irving Smith Architects, ‘UNFINISHED & FAR FAR AWAY: The Architecture of Irving Smith Architects’ is a book of inspiration for even the most seasoned architect.

Aaron Betsky, Professor at Virginia Tech in the USA and renowned architecture, art and design critic, edits this book and he travelled with Andrew Irving and Jeremy Smith exploring the land of Aotearoa New Zealand to understand the country and the architects themselves. This shows in his words that are a delight to read.

This book cements the place of Irving Smith Architects as leaders that make a significant difference through their work and approach to architecture to Aotearoa New Zealand and indeed globally.

UNFINISHED & FAR FAR AWAY is divided into the most enjoyable composition from Betsky and words from Smith and Irving at the beginning, moving to a variety of projects interspersed with 10 essays from illustrious practitioners, friends and colleagues. This is a rich publication not only with excellent double-page and full-page images by Patrick Reynolds but with words that explore the far reaches of Irving and Smith’s architecture to present various perspectives to the reader.

Images, plans and sketches populate the pages of the projects and included are five houses: Bach with Two Roofs, Alexandra Tent House, offSET Shed House, House with Villa Silhouette and Feather House. Meanwhile, commercial projects include NMIT Arts and Media Building, Te Kōputu a te Whanga a Toi: Whakatāne Library and Exhibition Centre, Trafalgar Centre, Nelson School of Music and Te Whare Nui O Tuteata, SCION. Last, but by no means least, are Borderless and Wallé the Irving Smith Architects Studio in Nelson.

Commentary throughout comes from a diverse group from around the world – Marlon Blackwell and Jonathan Boelkins (USA), Neelkanth Chhaya (India), Shane O’Toole (Ireland), Peter Rich (South Africa) and Aotearoa New Zealand’s Julie Stout, Chris Barton, Andrew Barrie and Julia Gatley. These participants, champions of the practice, contribute commentary on a variety of aspects of architecture and the place that is Aotearoa New Zealand seen as far, far away but brought front and centre by their words.

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While this is the first publication from Irving and Smith it should not be the last. The practice has left an indelible architectural imprint on the Aotearoa New Zealand landscape on every level. The thinking behind Irving and Smith’s projects is profound. They touch the earth lightly and are sensitive to what is appropriate for people and place, all the time assessing available resources and refining building techniques. The practice subscribes to the idea that less is more and this guides its architecture and design.

While the title UNFINISHED & FAR FAR AWAY conjures up a picture of Aotearoa New Zealand as a country a long way from the madding crowd, this book places Irving Smith and Aotearo New Zealand at the beating heart of global architecture and the work of the practice and the contributors attest to this.

Perhaps the sentiment of the book is best summed up by Jeremy Smith: “Floating around way down here in the South Pacific you learn to participate. On islands you look outwards, you see connections and work with the communities and materials around you. We really are far, far Away. So, while much of the world builds to establish new landscape, we work to understand the landscapes we already live with. It is this approach of participating with existing landscapes before generating new contexts that we send out over the horizon now, what we call Soft Architecture.”

While UNFINISHED & FAR FAR AWAY is certainly a book for the coffee table, it’s also one to comprehensively read and take notes on. It explores the essence of Irving Smith Architects and lights a fire for architecture that has meaning. Congratulations on a creating a book that has meaning and is also easy on the eye – but most of all for sharing the stellar work of the practice with the world.

Irving Smith Architects


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