Written by John Williams
Tracey Lee is a brand strategist, agitator and cultural curator. You’ll find her launching, building and exporting brands, active in the tech sector and diaspora network. After over a decade of doing so in New York and Shanghai, she has found a home in the rainforest in Titirangi.
How long have you lived in Titirangi?
We have lived in Titirangi for five years now. It doesn’t feel that long, and yet you fall into the rhythm of the seasons; the lengthening and shortening days. Right now, it’s all about the Kauri cones crashing on the deck.
Eventually, the land calls you home. While we loved working and living in the thick of it when we were away, we wanted to b-r-e-a-t-h-e when we came home. In Titirangi we are minutes from the beach and the bush. We are still very much city dwellers and work in the city but I love climbing the hill to the village as we come home. Your blood pressure drops as you ascend into the trees.
Tell me something about your home?
Ah, and then there is the rainforest modernism! When we started looking for a home our biggest criteria was ‘no villas’. We had spent a lot of time in California and loved the coastal and desert modernism. We became aware of the modern gems out here and were very fortunate to find ours.
We bought our home off of John and Dawn Baker, who built it in 1963. John was a meticulous master builder and worked on civic buildings and schools in the neighbourhood. He gave us the copy of the Californian Sunset Series Hillside Homes and a Harry Seidler book he used as inspiration.
What’s special about the architecture in the area?
Our house is one of many beautiful modernist homes in the area, built with love, a fresh spirit, and an open-ness to the new. They are all nestled in the landscape and reverent of their surrounds. If you are patient, persistent and lucky enough to inherit one, you’ll find beautiful native timber and open plan vistas. The neighbourhood has always been a refuge for creative and collaborative folk, and that continues today.
Can you tell me a bit about the history of the film festival and your involvement?
The Resene Architecture & Design Film Festival celebrates its fifth year this year. It was originally brought to audiences in Auckland by Resene and Rialto Cinemas, with help from Design Onscreen, a Colorado-based foundation that produces and promotes wonderful architecture and design films. The festival has grown to include the country’s four main centres, and has a passionate following.
My dear friend Clare Buchanan and I have been curating the festival (as Clearly & Co) for the past two years, and extended it to Christchurch last year. We share a commitment to the importance of engaging and inspiring communities with the possibilities for architecture in our lives; not just ‘buildings’, but the possibilities for how communities are formed, shaped and made sustainable.
This year we have brought together 19 sublime and exceptional films from all over the world, grouped in four themes: Concrete Love (Brutalism, Brazil and Bauhaus); Experiments at Water’s Edge; Design Trailblazers; and Living Cities, a series of films that consider how we are navigating the challenges of creating sustainable cities.
What’s your top-three pick for the film festival, and why?
There are so many brilliant films this year. The Concrete Love films include some knock-out modernism, but I do have a special love for the Experiments At Water’s Edge films; Built on Narrow Land really resonates coming from an island nation, and captures a very unique time with the influence of the Bauhaus school on Cape Cod. Strange & Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island is crushingly spectacular on the cinema screen and emboldens us with Zita Cobb’s and Todd Saunders vision for this Newfoundland island community in change. And Double Happiness, having lived in China, is a poetic and poignant look at how we navigate our futures.
Where and when is it being held?
Auckland May 5 - 18 @ Rialto Cinemas, Newmarket
Wellington May 26 - June 12 @ Embassy Theatre
Dunedin June 16 - 26 @ Rialto Cinemas
Christchurch June 30 - July 13 @ Academy Gold
Tracey's favourite places in Titirangi
Come out and stay for a weekend. There is a wonderful hidden B&B, Fringe of Heaven, where you can experience Titirangi Modernism for yourself. Get your art on at the Colin McCahon House museum and artist’s residence at French Bay – a must if you haven’t been. Staying on the art theme, Te Uru is coaxing our art friends away from the city. Also, head up to the Arataki Visitor Centre on Scenic Drive, just beyond the village, for breathtaking views of the West Coast and treetop walks. My favourite hideaway is also nestled on Scenic Drive – The Refreshment Room, a beautiful restaurant that has a seasonal menu and a roaring fire as we head into winter.