From literature to architecture

“I have always been more than a little fascinated with the physical world and how we engage with it,” says Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Master of Architecture student Patrick Kelly. “There isn’t really a point in my life where I can remember not wanting to be an architect.”

Patrick Kelly crouches with a wooden architectural model in front of an exhibition of architectural models and maps
Photography credit: David St George

That commitment to architecture has paid off, with Patrick recently receiving Highly Commended at the NZIA Resene Student Design Awards for his Master’s work—Translating Ulysses: The House That James Built.

Translating Ulysses is a translation of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses into architectural form.

“Famously, nothing particularly interesting happens in this book,” Patrick says. “Instead, it takes a single day and deconstructs it, examining all of life’s foibles and the little inconspicuous aspects of life we don’t tend to think about. In doing this the novel acts as a lens, allowing us to examine our own life and discover a certain beauty that is found in the everyday world around us.”

By translating it into architecture, Patrick wanted to examine how the specific techniques James Joyce used when writing the novel could be applied to architecture, and how this could create a type of architecture that would draw the user into a closer examination of the world around them.

“My ultimate ambition was that after you had engaged with the architectural objects [created using this new technique] you would be filled with a sense of wonder and intrigue for the absurdity of the world—the same feeling you get from reading a book.”

“My research was a culmination of the two worlds that fascinate me, literature and architecture.”

Patrick will graduate soon from his Master’s degree, and he says his time at Victoria University of Wellington has truly exceeded his expectations.

“I initially moved to Wellington to work, but the decision to enrol at University has worked out really well. The staff and students have been really friendly and supportive. I have been amazed at the quality of equipment the school offers, from the building lab to the software on the computers. Everything is so accessible and there is an abundance of people willing to help you if you are a little unsure,” Patrick says.

Patrick felt particularly supported by the enthusiasm of his supervisor, Associate Professor Simon Twose.

“The support he gave was backed with a genuine sense of intrigue for my project, yet it never felt overbearing. He allowed me to develop the research in my own way, not necessarily telling me what to do, but rather showing me how to be critical about my own work and develop it in my own style.

So, what’s next for Patrick?

“For the first time in my life I’m not entirely sure,” he says. “The ultimate ambition is to open my own architecture firm, which will take a couple of years. My experience [as a Masters student] over the last two years has been so enjoyable, though, that I’m contemplating continuing to study and learn about the world.”