In the light of this week's news concerning neighbouring Bishopscourt, an edited excerpt from Miles Warren's 2008 Autobiography on his time apprenticed to Cecil Wood:
"When I told my father I wanted to be an architect he gave a noncommittal humph. Then, sensibly, and unbeknown to me, he called upon all the architects he knew.
So, as a 16-year-old, with no formal tutoring in art and no experience in technical drawing, I started as a junior, most junior, draughtsman in Wood’s office at 30 shillings a week, which was 5s more than the going rate. I was, in effect, an articled pupil, paid little but due to receive training from my employer. But I was employed by an architect I now consider to be one of New Zealand’s foremost architects in the period before and after the First World War.
Wood set about training his newest recruit. I was given the usual equipment, including an ivory-handled ruling pen, then set-up with a drawing board and told to produce lettering - never, but never, called printing. For an hour each morning I practised evenly spaced vertical lines. Cs were made with two strokes: one up, thickening as it went, and one down, both finishing a little above and below the line. My efforts were pronounced immature, whatever that meant. It seemed tedious and pointless at the time, but it was excellent training in the control of one’s pencil. I still enjoy making good lettering. Beautiful, clear lettering transformed drawings - a craft that will, I suppose, disappear with computer-aided draughting.
Next I was given the plans of Wood’s most recent building, his own house, to trace in pen and ink. I drew the elevation of the end gable. Wood asked me whether it would look better with the central window a little higher, wider, narrower, and with the roof pitch steeper or shallower. I drew each variation and was then asked which one I preferred. It was a simple, clear introduction to the delights of proportion, pattern making, window-wall relationships and the two dimensions of the art of architecture.
By today’s standards it was a very quiet, slow office - no email, no fax, the telephone rarely rang and few clients called in. In two years the only projects were the [Wellington] cathedral, the sketch plans for a New Zealand Insurance office building in Hereford Street that proceeded no further, sketch plans for an office gateway block for Christ’s College, which also stalled, and one small house. So there was plenty of time for Wood to look over my shoulder as I struggled with ink on linen and the technique and architectural conventions of watercolour.
Wood had a superb watercolour technique. His architectural renderings were the best of the time. As a young architect in London he had worked for Robert Weir Schultz, one of the best Edwardian architects, but one who had never had his work exhibited in the architectural section of the Royal Academy. Wood’s fine sketches of two of Schultz’s country houses were accepted.
At the end of my first year, Wood told me that I had earned more than he."
MILES WARREN, “An Autobiography”, Canterbury University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-877257-76-6, pp 9-12, 32.