The Manifesto Interview: Nat Cheshire

By Andrew Glenn

Nat Cheshire. Picture / Babiche Martens.
Nat Cheshire. Picture / Babiche Martens.

Nat Cheshire is reshaping the way we live in Auckland, and we have lots to thank him for. A delineator of all things gorgeous and relevant, Cheshire is a design impresario who has spent the past couple of years fitting out most of Britomart and a slew of its great restaurants, and inventing the City Works Depot.

He attacks everything with equal energy and aggression, seeking the extraordinary rather than the perfect, and pursuing a new vision for both architecture and this city. We caught up with Nat at the studio he co-runs with his father Pip, where a talented team of two dozen designers work to make Auckland the great place that it is.

What are you currently working on?
Auckland!! Both Britomart and the City Works Depot continue their reinventions, and that generates huge energy in the studio. It feels like we are beginning to shift the focus of the whole city, and that's incredibly exciting. Pip is leading a couple of important new plays that extend our ambitions into the inner suburbs too.

We've just started several more super-compact buildings in the countryside, a special team is driving some very careful luxury work, and we released our next two light fittings for the Resident label in Milan last month. So ... cities to light fittings.


CLOTHES

Shoes: Old Prada tobacco derby shoes.
Shirt: White heavy cotton with skinny, rounded club collar, or a black button-down, buttoned-up and with chains on my wrist.
Jeans: Black and skinny like the death metaller I secretly am.
Blazer: Black paper with a deathly pale silk flower in the lapel.
Sunglasses: Sunglass Bar. They put 50s brown lenses into a pair of simple black spectacles. Beautiful.
Underwear: Yes.
Trainers: Always white: Common Projects leather for the city; old dirty canvas for the clay court.
Wallet: Ettinger from Crane. Black on the outside, cadmium yellow on the inside. It's like split agate.


German designer Karl Lagerfeld. AP Photo / Jacques Brinon.
German designer Karl Lagerfeld. AP Photo / Jacques Brinon.


FASHION

Designer: Slimane, Dries, Prada, Margiela, especially Albaz for women, but we can learn the most from Lagerfeld (above): the work rate is eye-watering and he is ruthlessly brave.
Work clothes: Depends on the pain level. A bow tie when it's really bad. Always one of my few but precious suits: we are spending millions of dollars and trying to invent a new future for the city and for architecture. I think this is important and humbling. I am not showing up in flip-flops.
Store: I prefer shopping for others: Scotties for Lanvin for my mum and my wife when I can - even if it's just something small.
Online store: I just heard Beth Ellery is starting up again, so I've been trawling the net for her daily.
Swim shorts or speedos? Good Lord; shorts. Speedos and surfboards don't mix.


GROOMING

Product you can't live without? The Wella beard trimmer Greg Murrell at Ryder got me years ago is old, heavy, sharp and perfect. But I could happily live without it. As with everything.


ARCHITECTURE

Favourite building: Any small Zumthor, CCTV Beijing. A little black, burned wooden cabin a friend of mine has.
Local treasure: Anything made with bricks in this city that's not yet been demolished.
Local eyesore: Me?
Favourite architect (past): Impossible ... Borromini, Mies. I want everything distilled to almost nothing.
Favourite architect (present): Koolhaas vs Pip vs Zumthor.


SPORT

Exercise? Early this morning, I ran an hour up the muddy forest trail of a modest mountain, so I knew I was alive.
Sport: Architecture in the city is as intense a blood sport as one might ever need, but at least once a year, when you can almost see the adrenalin in front of your irises, surfing reminds me why it is still the most beautiful dance.
Team: This one I'm sitting among in our studio right now: two dozen extraordinary, hungry and exquisitely able architects. Not a matching jersey or mouthguard in sight.
Snowboard or skis? Surfing is like snowboarding on a mountain that moves and throws things at you and has sharks on it. So much better.


The short ribs on the menu at Rosie in Parnell. Photo / Babiche Martens.
The short ribs on the menu at Rosie in Parnell. Photo / Babiche Martens.


FOOD

Cuisine: Sicilian, Northern Chinese, whatever Jo Pearson cooks.
Restaurant: Spuntino London only because of the deafening Johnny Cash and no chairs. How can I not say Mexico and Milse and Hanoi and everyone else? They're like my children.
Cafe: Ortolana or Rosie (above) for three meals a day, every day. Takapuna Beach Cafe for breakfast in a proper cyclone, though.
Bar: My beloved old IKTO, made from a disused lift shaft, some candles, a phone with the volume turned up on its speaker, a wheelbarrow full of ice, liquor and glasses, and six tired, excited, hungry people too scared to stop or sleep.


TRAVEL

Favourite destination: Tokyo vs Rome. Melodrama and age and elegance and chaos and passion and refinement in different measures. Shanghai next.
Favourite hotel: Those ones where someone gets you the best table at the beautiful restaurant with wild strawberries and Roman goddesses, then gives you a phone on which you can call them day or night for anything, anywhere.
Airline: Air New Zealand for so many reasons.
First, business, economy ... private? Economy comes with an armchair, private television, staff and liquor. I'll spend the balance on better things than sleep. Helicopters are my Achilles heel though - so very beautiful.
Luggage - Louis Vuitton or Samsonite? Neither, and as little of it as possible. I go to New York for a fortnight with a suit bag and a briefcase.


- VIVA

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