The Dorset Street Flats in Christchurch were designed and built between 1956-57, and have been described as being “amongst the most important domestic buildings built in New Zealand in the second half of the twentieth century.” The work of Miles (later Sir Miles) Warren, the flats are one of the earliest attempts in the country to construct a building from load-bearing concrete block, and are the pioneer for what would later become known as “The Christchurch School” of post-war architecture. Lauded by critics, so radical was the design at the time that many of the public labelled it “one of the ugliest buildings in the city”, and tour buses were said to have driven past to allow for a viewing of “Fort Dorset”. Warren himself occupied one of the flats between 1958-65.
The buildings are listed as Highly Significant to the district in the Schedule of Significant Historic Heritage in the Christchurch City Council’s Christchurch District Plan.
In 1999, DOCOMOMO New Zealand added the flats to their “Top 20” list of Modern Movement buildings.
In 2010, Heritage New Zealand registered the buildings as a Category 1 historic place - the highest level available - citing them as having “set new architectural, social and aesthetic standards for domestic buildings in New Zealand and [recognising them] as one of the most important Modern Movement buildings constructed in this country.”
The flats were extensively damaged in the February 2011 Canterbury Earthquake, and 2022 saw a long-awaited restoration and strengthening project completed, with the flats again occupied and appreciated by a new generation of residents.