Keeping it real key to Fresh Concept

By Zoe Walker

A selection of public and private items make up the treasures of Fresh Concept director Simon van Pragg.

Simon van Praag is proud of the contribution his company has made to Auckland's public spaces. Photo / Babiche Martens
Simon van Praag is proud of the contribution his company has made to Auckland's public spaces. Photo / Babiche Martens

Auckland's waterfront Silo Park in Wynyard Quarter continues to develop as one of the most exciting areas of the city. Its summer season launches this Friday with markets, bands and open-air cinema (this Friday's film is The Blues Brothers, projected on to the side of the huge Silo7).

Simon van Praag is one of the faces behind the area's burgeoning development and community feel, as director of multifaceted company Fresh Concept, which works on creative public projects. In addition to the Silo Park season, van Praag and his team have also worked on recent projects including Queen St's Christmas decorations, a collaboration with designer Brogen Averill and the Auckland City Mission Angel Wings campaign.

He talks us through some of his favourite things, from the deeply personal to public structures.

10 FAVOURITE THINGS

1. Michael Smithers' screen print Easter Egmont 1974
This print has been with me for many years. It was lent to me by my parents a long time ago and I'm hoping they won't call it back in any time soon. It sort of has psychedelic Neapolitan icecream qualities.

2. Tallis
My tallis (Jewish prayer shawl) is very special to me. My grandfather (opa) was given this tallis on his bar mitzvah in Belgium in 1935, and passed it on to my father for his bar mitzvah who in turn passed it on to me for mine. It was hidden by my opa's neighbour when the Germans took control of Antwerp. A few religious items were spared during the war, this being one of them. It is a lot more refined and simple then many other examples. When I put it on I feel a sense of history and pride.

3. Wood and concrete - Karanga Plaza
There is a subtle gesture in Karanga Plaza on Auckland's waterfront, where concrete pillars transform to wood, just as you approach the bridge heading east.

This was to pay homage to where the old sea wall used to stand. I walk past it daily and find this simple gesture really resonates with me.

4. Silo Park market structures
The market structures at Silo Park were designed as a collaboration between Fresh Concept and Chris Morley-Hall - a fulfilling project to work on.

We were awarded the gold pin at the recent Design Institute of New Zealand Awards and I am proud of what we all achieved here.

5. Piano - Silo Park
The Piano at Silo Park has been there since the opening of Wynyard Quarter and has a strong and passionate fan club. You can spend millions of dollars on a development, but often the most simple, low-fi elements are the most cherished. I think it has proven to Aucklanders that there can be an element of trust in the community, and the fact that it's had minimal damage over the past year is testament to this. It is played day and night by every sort of person imaginable. A sign of good things to come.

6. Photo of my brother Sam
This photo was taken of my brother on his travels through central Asia in 2010. While in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, he had this photo taken with a large free-standing pinhole camera. The photographer had been taking portraits for more than 50 years and had never had his own photo taken. Sam asked if he could take his photo and the photographer agreed, as long as he could have a copy. He stuck the picture to the side of his camera.

This one is on my fridge and is one of my favourite photos.

7. My collection of Monocle magazines
Monocle magazine is my monthly treat to myself. I am often inspired and educated by this well-crafted publication.

8. Maori lamp collection
I have been collecting Maori-inspired lamps since I was 18. I have them throughout my office and house, (with still more in storage). From warriors to waka and wahine, I love them. My bedside lamp is Pania of the Reef.

9. Breakfast at Rakinos
Most mornings I have breakfast at Rakinos on High St. There is a pretty serious regular following there in the mornings and most people have "their table". This is often followed by my second cuppa at Barbara on Princess Wharf, another low-key joint with calming views of the water and one of the best cups of joe in town. I enjoy the morning ritual.

10. Hungry Bin Worm Farm
I love the fact I'm an inner city farmer. All food scraps at home end up in my Hungry Bin, a locally designed product. Reducing food waste/resource to landfill will hopefully become a thing of the norm in the not too distant future. We've just ordered one for the office as well.

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