Studio Alexander Montrose of Penrose

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Directors
    Grant Alexander, Alice Murray
  • Kaitautoko / Contributor
    Sololmon Mortimer Photographer
  • Client
    Montrose Foundry

Montrose of Penrose
An illustrated social history of Montrose Foundry

A few years ago I had the good fortune to visit the Montrose Foundry in Auckland. A semi rusty corrugated iron clad factory on the edge of Penrose.

I was there as a customer. My reason for being there was immediately upstaged by the interior surroundings and the eccentricity of the manager. Time had stood still. The office interior resembled a 1958 set for a Tom Stoppard stage play. Nothing had been moved or dusted since. The machine shop and the Foundry proper, the beating heart of the business were equally representative of mid last century. I felt a need to record it 'as is' as soon as possible.

I shared my phone pics and design vision with photographer Solomon Mortimer who identified with the creative opportunity. He made two visits to the Foundry over a period of three months. Photographing the staff and the interior using a medium format film camera with available light. 80 shots taken and 75 published. I edited the photographic essay to represent a sequential walk through the Foundry. No text or retouching. Images speaking for themselves.

After the initial design work was complete I invited a fellow designer to work alongside me to complete the project. Often in different parts of the world. Each of us pushing and pulling the others work until the book was the best it could be. Using expressive typography and found imagery to make the story more thought provoking and capture the unexpected nature of the place itself. Large drop caps adorn several pages, drawing reference to the industrial nature of the work the foundry does. Colours used have been influenced by the Casting Process. Especially the melting, pouring and ejection steps that involve molten metal and the prevalence of intense reds.

After an early discussion with John Abbott the Foundry manager he agreed to support the project and the social history story waiting to be told. I conducted several interviews over two years until the story had been recorded and written from John's point of view. Seventy years of industrial history honestly told and embellished by time. The Lost & Found section in the book thematically represented the employment of older skills and techniques at the Foundry to solve modern day challenges. Skills and techniques that had been largely lost but are now being found again.

1960’s printed ephemera in the form of industrial machinery instruction booklets and magazines found at the Foundry complimented the look and feel of the book.

An Editor, a Proof Reader and a Print Manager were employed to ensure the content and production values were to the highest standard.

John Abbott the manager of Montrose Foundry provided unwavering support and belief in us and the project from beginning to end.