Jul 13, 2009

The University of Canterbury's New School of Music

Designed by the beknighted Miles Warren, in what might appear to be a ponderous derivative of 1970s architectural style, is the proposed University of Canterbury's National Conservatorium of Music building.

The intended site is part of the renaissance medieval Gothic Arts Centre complex bounded by Worcester, Hereford, Montreal Streets and Rolleston Avenue.

Not previously built upon, it was originally the recreational ground of the 1881 Christchurch Boys' High School and a part of the rear garden of the 1883 Llanmaes House (much enlarged, the house became the University's Student Union building in 1929 and is now the Dux de Lux Restaurant & Bar).

The proposed site is to be seen below near the centre of this 1940 aerial photograph.

Below: in 1941 the Army erected a large radio aerial on the site, but other than that it's always been a recreational reserve, that is until the good burghers of Christchurch managed to turn it into yet another car park.

The predictable pre-construction media release advises us that the new building will be "in a style that complements existing buildings, none of which would be impacted by the new structure."

We beg to disagree; it could seem that the 80 year-old architect may be a little out of touch with more recent advances in architectural engineering. If the site must be built upon, and that's debatable, then perhaps something along the lines of this new building for the medieval centre of the Estonian city of Tallinn, might be more cost effective and inspiring.

In what might seem to be a conflict of interest, the venerable architect had more than a finger in the pie of his bronze likeness being erected in the grounds of the Arts Centre complex. Might we respectfully suggest that it could be time for him to consider bowing out gracefully in favour of a more imaginative architect among whose principal qualifications is not membership of our old-boy network.

Further reading:
Richard Sinke's extensively illustrated Save Our Arts Centre web site.

Arts Centre site 'only city option' The Press newspaper, 10 July, 2009.

The University of Canterbury's self-congratulatory new School of Music web site.
Photo credit: top image; detail from Wellington artist Ian Stantiall's perspective of the new School of Music building.


kuaka said...

And the good village elders wonder why the AA newsletter didn't even rank Chch in the top 10 NZ cultural hot spots...

One might also suggest the elders take a look at the architecture of the Chicago Art Institute's recent addition & surrounding developments in Grant Park for some inspiration. Or Milwaukee's Quadracci Pavilion. Even if they would have to make do with a much smaller budget.

A little imagination & inspiration can go a long way. Something the Chch elite has historically been short on.

Is there no end in sight to the Albanian school of design, circa 1960, that has come to dominate Chch?

Canterbury Heritage said...

Property magnate Sir Robert (Bob) Jones once alluded to NZ as being Communist Poland in the South Pacific. Robert Heinlein referred to us as a dreary dystopia. Three decades later Poland has moved on and now Science tells us that cultural development is consequent to population density rather than genetic factors, which probably explains why brain-drained Christchurch might now be considered as an unsophisticated version of Kazakhstan in the South Seas.

But it's a good place to knock the stuffing out of intellectual pretension and the livin' is easy.

Matt said...

Agree, agree. Step aside Miles, we love you, but it's time to go. I fell asleep looking at the design.

The University has a great architectural history and there are people in NZ capable of interesting work.

For a town that was an architectural leader in the middle of the last century, this is embarrassing.

Canterbury Photography said...

If the public library has outgrown its present site, what will become of that building when they move elsewhere? Would this not be ready made site for the new school of music?

Canterbury Heritage said...

The Library building looks to be a bit on the small side for the university's ambitions to return to the city.

Another possible factor is that next to the library along Oxford Terrace is the old Christchurch Working Mens Club building, which has been for sale for some years. The site could make for an attractive proposition for expanding the current Library building.

Heritage Alert Christchurch said...

Good to see concern about the proposed Music School but could I ask you to amend your reference to the Gothic Revival buildings of the Arts Centre as "renaissance medieval". That is simply wrong, I am afraid. Kind regards - Lesley.

Canterbury Heritage said...

Your opinion is noted, but disputed (the reference is renaissance with a small r).