Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Architects on unforgettable places, indulgences and the best room on earth

The brilliant minds at Cheshire Architects are to thank for some of central Auckland’s most significant spaces, including Britomart, City Works Depot and many other high-profile commercial and residential sites. For 16 years, co-founder Nat Cheshire has channelled his passion and versatility into the firm’s various offerings, moving effortlessly across development strategy and architecture, branding and product design on a day-to-day basis. With Cheshire’s latest project Hotel Britomart set to open later this year, the award-winning creative delves into what makes him tick.

My personal style can be defined by: Pre-lockdown: Slimane without the sparkly bits. Lockdown: Frozen II’s Ana to my daughter’s Elsa, with all the sparkly bits. Post-lockdown: Confused. Missing Elsa.

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The last things I bought and loved were: From friends: A pair of deep indigo linen pyjamas from Greta at General Sleep and a diver pendant by Maeve at Hera Saabi – both for my wife. I already have special things.

An object I would never part with is: A decade ago my wife and parents bought me a folded steel Cité chair by Jean Prouve. I would fight for it and the generosity it embodies.

Cité chair by Jean Prouve

An unforgettable place I visited was: The razorback crossing on the Kepler Track in a snowstorm. For a few hours we ran on whiteness, through whiteness, into whiteness. The drop either side vanished into whiteness, white crystals clouded eyelashes, snatches of the surrounding alps gleamed bright white through swirling dull white. Every sound muffled except the filling and emptying of lungs, the whistling of wind through rocky crags. I am a beach person. Being up here was like being on another planet. And I was a little bit scared. It was perfect.

Next place I’d like to travel to: What a country to be trapped in. So now to explore it with the awe of our visitor; to find someplace special made by people who care, and help them keep it alive. For me, a small old shepherd’s hut in the fold of a hill in the high country. A little fire, a heavy pot and a safe filled with ice and food. Perhaps a tiny creek for water. Some mountains to run in. I’m sure there’s such a thing to be found.

An indulgence I would never forgo is: I can live without all of them, but a small shard of darkest chocolate has become a ritual  – Miann’s, made of beans from Tokiala in Papua New Guinea, is all smoke and tobacco and really, really good. I also get to eat Bo’s dumplings in the lane next door whenever I need to restock, and watch our little Morningside hum and grow.

Bo’s dumplings

The last things I added to my wardrobe were: They were gifts: Murray Crane made me a special shirt with a rolled club collar; Eddie von Dadelszen give me a pair of dark waxed boots after George Gregory and I finished his atelier, and most recently my tattooist brother Hal gave me a black, reaper-emblazoned ‘Cheshire Tattoos’ tee. I treasure Hal’s entire back catalogue.

The person who inspires me is: I look into my daughter’s tiny slumbering face each night, nestled between blanket and teddy. Often I see my grandfather in the curl of her lip, sometimes some memory of my infant self. I see something continuous passing through us – a thing that precedes us and outlasts us. Something like the baton in a relay race, only we get to run alongside each other for a while, sharing it, handing it over carefully, preparing for the time when one day our children will run without us. I want to run so fast for that little girl.

Also: my father, who sees having one leg as a perfectly good reason to live only in places accessible by climbing steep hills, and to pursue the balance-intensive art of surfing. His is a good model for life.

I can’t miss an episode of: Country CalendarRick and Morty

Rick and Morty

My favourite app is: Sunseeker. It is old, and good.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city it would be: I love the Marais and I love Omotesando and so on but right now fuck the Marais, you know? I will shop instead wherever our own sisters and brothers are working and fighting to hold together a dream, to keep each other employed, to create something where once there was nothing, to keep the culture moving forward. We do extraordinary things here. We are capable of so much more. Repurposing a fraction of our expenditure on generic global luxuries would supercharge so many parts of this little culture and its economies.

In my fridge you’ll always find: Lewis Road butter, Cathedral Cove yoghurt, Batchwell Kombucha and a bunch of East Imperial tonics to go with the Scapegrace Gin.

Hotel Britomart

I recently discovered: What our little clay brick and glass Hotel Britomart looks like naked. And that it is satisfying to make tall buildings that have the qualities of tiny buildings. In the next couple of months we’ll finish the rest of the city block and unfurl what we hope to be a delight full chaos. Dajiang Tai – its architect and my collaborator – says it is all of the things he wanted to grow up and do.

My favourite room in my house is: It’s a fight between my bathroom and my library. The bathroom is dark roasted oak and a little creamy stone. It smells like cedarwood, and the light is soft and pooled. It is peaceful. But in my heart I still think the best room on earth is a room made of books. When I work really hard there is, in ours, a little felt daybed to sleep on every now and then; a saffron niche cut into a wall of words and pictures and little momentos. So I guess the library wins.

The people I rely on for my wellbeing are: Many. Our studio for their extraordinary energy and care. Katie Lockhart and Rufus Knight for their camaraderie of all kinds. Maggie Carroll and her partner Jessica Walker, who is somehow the best at every part of being a human. Nick McCaw for convincing me that we are lucky to have found more stairs to climb. Mimi Gilmour for the nakedness of her heart  and the fervour of her husband. The Cheshire family for so many reasons. I am just a person in a thousand pieces held together like a rock by these people.

The one artist whose work I would collect is: Kate Newby. She and a group of extraordinary young women gently adopted me when I was 16 and a late arrival to their art class; her work carries that gentle, observant generosity still. After that, my art obsessions start getting heavy.

Kate Newby

My favourite website is: Our friends Andy Campbell Design and Blake Ramage of The Artistry Online just finished collaborating with us on our own, so that’s my new love right now. They took such care.

The last meal out I had that truly impressed me was: Han. Careful, intelligent, unfamiliar, dark, generous, crunchy, slurpy, unctuous, fucking delicious. Also my last Burger Burger chocolate thickshake was just as impressive as my first. It might be perfect. Like any drink I ever have at Caretaker, and the dumplings at Xuxu, or Bo’s in Morningside.

The grooming product I can’t live without is: DDMMYY made a beautiful tin for Triumph and Disaster, and called the sticky grey earth inside Coltrane Clay – a basic hair product. I can live just fine without it, but you’d look at me funny.

The podcast I am listening to is: 13 Minutes to The Moon. A story about, amongst other things, little donuts of iron. Metal beads woven into a tapestry of filament wire by unemployed textile workers. Each thread of the weave delineating a one or a zero. Coding when it was a tangible thing. Coding you could feel with your fingertips; that you could physically wrap around a little capsule atop a thirty-storey high gas tank; that would set fire to that gas with such force and precision that it would fling three of we humans out of our heavy planet to land softly in the Sea of Tranquility, three hundred and eighty four thousand kilometres away. Then we get out and walk about on another planet. And then we do it all backwards and go home for a hug and dinner with the kids. All driven by a tapestry of beads, the coordinated endeavours of four hundred thousand people and a mission control whose average age was…27. It’s devastating.

It’s also a story of what this species is capable of when it fights not for land or resources or cultural imposition, but for the expansion of what it is to be human. So now we need an Apollo programme for the ecological resurrection of our own planet…and the dismantling of all mechanisms and drivers of systemic prejudice, both passive and active. Ours is an extraordinary responsibility in a time of unprecedented, but asymmetrically distributed, empowerment.

The last music I listened to was: Terribly noisy and angry sounding. My favourite.

If I wasn’t doing what I am, I would be: Trying to.

I have a collection of: Unrequited but not yet impossible dreams.


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