What has been the most challenging part so far?
The most challenging part so far has been navigating the processes of being one tooth on a large insurance industry cog. There are many ways to repair the building, but most aren't appropriate for this very special building, and I have needed to be very aware of this as I've navigated through the initial contractual stages, and discussed options with the many different people involved, including insurance, construction, compliance, and heritage parties.
The best surprise I've had so far is the project managers being so keen to do the right thing and ensure that this very special building is repaired to the best condition possible.
You have been involved with rebuild of the J.J. Connor Flats in Papanui Road, really a sister block from the same period of Sir Miles’ career. How has that project differed to Dorset Street Flats, and are there any learnings from one that can be applied to the other?
These flats are damaged beyond repair, and cannot be structurally upgraded sufficiently, so are being demolished, and rebuilt as closely as possible to the originals (upgraded structurally, acoustically, and thermally to comply with current code requirements). The demolition of the J.J. Connor Flats allow us to salvage imperial sized concrete blocks for use in the repairs of the Dorset Street Flats, if required.
The J.J. Connor flats have taught me two main lessons.
Firstly, a critical factor to getting the best result is to have the support of all of the individual owners.
Secondly, it would be impossible to replicate The Dorset Street Flats with today's compliance requirements. It has been extremely difficult both architecturally and structurally on the J.J. Connor flats to replicate the detailing and proportions that the originals had.
6 owners, not all in Christchurch. How has it been dealing with a group of far flung parties?
It has been an absolute joy. All of the owners are passionate about the flats, and I get on extremely well with everyone - it makes my job an absolute pleasure.
You have met with Sir Miles Warren. What was his take on the project, and did he give you any advice?
Sir Miles stressed the simplicity of the flats. This is something that I will focus on with any changes we need to make. He also gave his support if required to shake his fist at people if needed - we'll keep that up our (or his) sleeve for now!
You have said yourself that this is a high profile job, and that the eyes of the architectural community are looking on closely. How much pressure is that?
Rather than call it pressure, I'd rather call it "focus". This repair is incredibly important to me, with great responsibility ... But when your everyday job is to design people's dreams, that is nothing new.
What are the next steps?
As I said, we’re currently working through big picture options for how to re-level the buildings, and the repercussions of that - once we have this worked out, the rest becomes much simpler. I'm also looking at the aesthetics of some of the strengthening requirements, before making any firm decisions.
You can read the whole interview on the website link below.