As long as people have lived in New Zealand, they have left traces of all kinds upon the land: stone walls, sculpted earthforms, urban benches, farm fences, boardwalks, walls, steps and drains. These everyday parts of our landscape form the backdrop to our lives, but are a frequently overlooked and underappreciated part of our cultural legacy. Landscape architect Philip Smith and photographer David Straight have travelled the length and breadth of New Zealand to document a wonderful diversity of forms and objects that make up our everyday landscape. Far from being ordinary, these landscape features often display a considerable degree of invention and innovation, and great aesthetic appeal. These landscape features sometimes have a large scale, as is the case in the beautiful steps and paths of Kauaeranga Valley on the Coromandel Peninsula, or the long sinuous water races of Central Otago. But just as much, these built objects are often modest and small – benches, manhole covers, bike racks and suburban gates.
Fascinating, idiosyncratic, often beautiful, Vernacular is a unique book, created out of the authors’ desire to record and value a very distinct part of the landscape we inhabit, and the cultural legacy of Aotearoa/New Zealand.