Poetic engineering

February 10, 2013

This unusual and beautiful power pole from Canterbury is a good example of the importance of recording our landscape culture. This series of metal poles recently disappeared, as part of infrastructure works. However, in the intervening time, David Straight and I noticed a series of these poles on the main highway between Christchurch and Ashburton.

The serpentine pattern of the bracing metal in the centre of the pole forms a distinctive motif, and illustrates how there is often considerable beauty to be found in everyday landscape forms, such as those built for infrastructure. Although not as striking as the central serpentine line, the economy of design demonstrated in the photograph below (showing the connection of the pole with the lateral) is also noteworthy.

In the time since I first saw these poles, we have recorded them for posterity in the book that David Straight and I prepared, ‘Vernacular’. Part of the impetus for that book project was the sense that if such things from our landscape culture are not recorded, they pass silently from our awareness.

In a country that is often too quick to proclaim that we do not bear our own distinctive heritage (in comparison with older nations), we need to look at the myriad of (often aberrant) forms that inhabit our landscapes. Maybe then, we’ll realise that we have a culture worth valuing.