The boathouse / by Matthew Trzebiatowski

The architect Renzo Piano has said that every architect should design a boat. Piano has done just this, as have other prominent architects and designers such as Louis Kahn, Alvar Aalto, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, Philippe Starck, and John Pawson. In his manifesto Vers Une Architecture of 1923, Le Corbusier devoted a chapter specifically to ocean liners. He was extolling the virtues of their sleek dynamism and urged architects to follow the modern industry refined and machined aesthetics that these objects presented.

Boathouses - Stewart Island, New Zealand

Boathouses - Stewart Island, New Zealand

The boathouses shown here, perched delicately at the edge of Golden Bay on Stewart Island in New Zealand, do not shelter the sorts of ocean liners or yachts designed by the architects mentioned above but rather more humble vessels. These structures are straightforward sheds, unadorned and elegantly crafted, minimum, but not minimal. Le Corbusier described an image of the Canadian Pacific ship Empress of France as “an architecture that is pure, crisp, clear, clean, sound.” Sleek forms, portholes, or the banded fenestrations derived from ship bodies do not compose these boathouses however this description applies perfectly nonetheless.