All these buildings were designed within what is now regarded as the high point of New Zealand modernism, whose basic tenets were that the form should derive from, or at least be generated by, what took place in the building, its function, and, that how the building was built, and with what materials, be demonstrated.
The briefs were mostly for special one-off functions, a crematorium, a wool exchange, a student union and a university hall. All were built with concrete, fairface exposed inside and out, in situ, leading to precast concrete in more and more complex forms, the ultimate tour de force, ‘look how clever we are’ being the Canterbury Students’ Union, aptly described by Professor Danks as a ‘skeletal encrustacean’.
European travels and working at the London City Council had introduced me to the substance and weight of masonry walls, the complete opposite of our New Zealand light-weight, thin timber wall tradition. The flats in Dorset Street started our use of load bearing reinforced concrete block, developed with the brilliant engineer Lyall Holmes. The technique and resultant forms were developed via a number of small blocks of flats and reached its peak at 65 Cambridge Terrace and Christchurch College.
The exposed concrete and white painted concrete block contrasted with timber roofs of exposed rafters and boarding, carried on the New Zealand tradition of architects trained and thinking like carpenters, a tradition which culminated in the next generation of architects.
“New Territory: Warren And Mahoney: 50 Years Of New Zealand Architecture”, Warren and Mahoney (eds), Balasoglou Books, 2005, ISBN 0-9582625-2-7, p.16.
Forward by Sir Miles Warren