3 August 2017

The Art of Selling Houses

An on-going artwork by John Radford has evolved into a wonderful and somewhat unintentional parody on the Auckland real estate market.


Most of you will know John Radford’s work – well at least his most famous one. He’s the artist responsible for the three sunken buildings whose parapets pop out of the ground at the top of Western Park. Collectively, they are called TIP, and refers to a loss of our past via the wholesale demolition of parts of Auckland City, dumped in countless, nameless landfills.

One of Radford’s more recent works is Graft©, and it too laments the loss of the city’s architectural and cultural history. Graft began life as a reaction to the decimation of much of Auckland’s inner city suburbs, when Spaghetti Junction and its associated motorways ploughed their way through the city’s landscape, destroying thousands of homes.

“It all started back in 2009 when I had an epiphany after walking across the bus-stop bridge on K Rd and looking down at the massive concrete walls that go down to the motorway,”

“I then went into the city archives – where you can time travel around Auckland looking at photos that go way back – and holy crap, I found this aerial photo that showed that not only was there no bridge there, there was no gap there either – it was a solid ridge. Not only that, there were 14,000 inner-city houses that are now all gone.”

K-Road, back in those days, was the place to go to at the weekend, with streams of trams coming up Queen Street, and crowds travelling in from far and wide to enjoy the bustle of Auckland’s busiest shopping street, with its many department stores and coffee shops.

“I wanted to try to express that loss in some way,” continues Radford. “So I came up the concept of suspending 256 individual, miniature houses that would come together to form part of an virtual neighbourhood. I conceptualised two chunks of imagined suburban oblivion, stitched roughly together from memories I had from walking around the streets of towns and cities around New Zealand.”

Radford’s original plan was to make the artwork in its entirety, tour it around the country, then bring it back and get a real estate auctioneer to sell off the houses.

“I was telling this to a friend of mine, Jackie O’Brien, and she said, ‘lovely idea, John, but that’s a lot of work to do without any guarantee of sales. Have you thought about selling them off the plan?’ With that, she wrote out a cheque out and said, ‘here’s your first sale’.”

That was in 2009. Fast forward to 2017, and Radford has now sold 211 of the 256 houses, meaning there are just 45 left. Over the past eight years, house values in the Graft neighbourhood have skyrocketed, with prices now starting in the mid $2,000’s, and homes coming back onto the market and re-selling for many times more than their owners originally paid for them.

There are four styles of house available, with each having its own address on an interactive site plan. This plan indicates which sections are still for sale and who owns every house that’s been sold. The price of each house depends on its style, the street it’s located in, and how high up the slope it’s situated. Every new owner is issued with a purchase agreement, guaranteeing ownership of their house and section. It’s just like buying a real house in a real community.

Taking the concept of community further, Graft has so far had four street parties. The first was in 2010 in the construction site of the Q Theatre; the second and third in 2011 and 2013, in the Ironbank Building on K-Rd, and the last at the Gundy Street Old Folks Association Hall in 2014.

At these parties, all the houses that have been completed are suspended in a wonderful formation that exactly mimics how they would appear in the streets of Radford’s imagination. Owners are invited to come along and meet their neighbours, bring a plate and a bottle, and get to know each other, thus creating a new community of owners in this virtual suburb of Graft.

Once the final 45 houses have been sold, Radford plans to take Graft on a nationwide tour of public art galleries, before disassembling the suburb and returning each house to its owner – but not before throwing a final street party.

Radford’s artwork is wonderfully surreal and has literally taken on a life of it’s own, bringing to mind the words of Oscar Wilde when he wrote ‘life imitates art far more than art imitates life’. And that’s certainly the case with Graft.


Return to blog

More recent posts

17 August 2017

Making His Mark

Decorative artist Ross Lewis ‘love affair’ with wall space began when he was just four years old. Since then his art has developed and exploded across walls and ceilings.

10 August 2017

Sound and Vision

Retrofitting the latest, smart audio-visual and security systems into an older-style home may be easier than you think.

3 August 2017

Tranquil Sanctuary

Unique is a word that should be used sparingly. However, there are exceptions, and this Westmere house is it – a truly one-off design and something very special indeed.

27 July 2017

Global Clean-Up

The energetic Co-founder and CEO of Sustainable Coastlines, Sam Judd thinks big - and he’s rapidly making inroads on a global scale.

24 July 2017

June Market Wrap

Although there’s been a decline in the number of properties for sale this month, this has led to stiffer competition for buyers and a slight increase in the median price.

20 July 2017

Change Maker

Hell-bent on realising the full potential of Auckland’s Unitary Plan, energetic Generation Zero hustler Leroy Beckett discusses the group’s latest agenda.

6 July 2017

Modern Twist

With more than thirty houses to his name, Cameron Ireland can reasonably call himself a specialist in the art of converting small, draughty villas into edgy family homes.

29 June 2017

Over the bridge and far away…

After a long week in the office, head to Birkenhead and start the weekend with one of many energising walks.

22 June 2017

Thoroughly Eco

An innovative and inspiring energy-efficient home shows the many ways we can go green in the city for all sorts of benefits.


Contact Us

Are you interested in knowing more about one of these articles? Please fill out the form below to get in contact with us.