Architect Greg Young of Young Architects has been tasked with leading the Dorset Street Flats rebuild project. Greg is uniquely placed, in having worked for both the flats original architects (Warren & Mahoney) and engineers (Holmes Consulting), before forming his own company in 2003.
Here, Greg answers some questions about taking on such an important project.
What has been your experience of living and working in Christchurch post-earthquake?
Living and working in Christchurch is very challenging; it is an absolute roller coaster ride of being surrounded by the despair of broken buildings, lives, and infrastructure, intermingled with the rebirth of the city and new opportunities.
Dorset Street Flats are “A” category listed by Heritage New Zealand, they are protected in the City Plan, they make the top ten modernist buildings on the DOCOMOMO NZ register. What qualifies you to be taking on repairing such a respected and highly-regarded building?
I have the relatively unique background as an architect with structural engineering experience. I have worked for both the original engineers, and the original architects. The Dorset Street Flats are a building that expresses the structure as part of the architecture, and vice versa - to work them, in my opinion, you need to understand both, to appreciate the synergy.
What was your awareness of the Dorset Street Flats prior to becoming involved in this project?
Every architect in Christchurch is very aware of the influence of The Dorset Street Flats on the architectural fabric of our city, and in the evolution of a style of architecture so dominant and influential on the built environment in Christchurch. I am no different, and they have had strong influences on my own work.
This is a complex job. How would you break down the phases of what needs to be done.
The way to deal with complex jobs is often to look at the big picture. This is particularly important in this case. In order to understand what has happened to the building, you need to understand what it has undergone, and also what could have happened. Looking at earthquake damage on a room by room basis will not give you an understanding of the damage to the building, but only to the damage on visible items. Once you understand the big picture, you can look at parts of the picture.
How does the work plan look right now?
Firstly, we’re currently working through capturing exactly how they were built, and documenting that. This also highlights to us areas that will require special attention in the detailed documentation and specification phase - for example, there are curved concrete blocks that have been used in the landscaping that we can't replace.
Secondly, while we're documenting the "as built", we're also meeting with construction experts, and repair experts, evaluating different proposals for the repairs on how they will affect the existing structure, how they will affect the aesthetics, what risk is involved, and what changes maybe needed. This includes checking examples of techniques on previously completed projects.
And thirdly, once we're comfortable with the construction techniques and materials proposed, we'll discuss with heritage consultants, the Christchurch City Council heritage team, Heritage New Zealand, Sir Miles Warren, and all of the owners, before completing the construction documentation, ready for building consent and tender.
We'll post the second half next week, or you can read the whole interview on the website link below.