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Welcome to the website of Historic Places Wellington Incorporated (HPW). We are a membership not-for-profit organisation based in Wellington, New Zealand. We advocate for heritage in the wider Wellington region, and offer events such as talks, walks and visits to historic places and buildings.  For more information, see our About Us page.  Our newsletters are under the Resources page, as are useful links and other heritage information. We are also on Facebook.

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News and Events

Wellington Heritage Week will be on from 26 October to 1 November. There are too many events for us to list so we encourage you to check out their website for details (some are already booked out). We are hosting a public event at City Gallery on Wednesday 28 October at 5:30pm: Is Wellington Modernism too ugly to love? See our upcoming events page for more information.

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Heritage at risk

Thorndon houses

Submissions closed on 5 October on the Wellington City Council’s Draft Spatial Plan. “The Spatial Plan is essentially a ‘blueprint’ for our city that sets out a plan of action for where and how we should grow and develop.”  You can read more on the council’s website. We asked that the consultation should be delayed and issued a media release. We also suggested some guidelines for making a submission, and made a submission. You can read them all on our Advocacy page.

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The month of October is Whanganui’s Heritage Month. Programme details are at www.whanganuiheritagetrust.org.nz.

1 November, starting at 11am: Open day at Futuna Chapel, off Friend St, Karori. Includes a talk at 3pm by Ron Brownson on the chapel art work of Jim Allen.

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Historic Places Aotearoa’s latest newsletter, Oculus, is available by clicking the link: Oculus August 2020.

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St John’s Presbyterian Church on the corner of Willis and Dixon Streets reopened after nearly two years for earthquake strengthening. This is a Category 1 Heritage NZ listed building dating from 1885-6, designed by architect Thomas Turnbull. You can read more about the strengthening project here.

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Old St Paul’s re-opened after being closed for 14 months for renovations. Open hours are 10am – 3pm. Since May 2019, work to strengthen the building’s timber frame, shore up foundations and repair historic cracking has been painstakingly completed.

Old St Paul’s closure also provided an opportunity to attend to tired infrastructure, some of which dated to the major restoration completed by the erstwhile Ministry of Works during the late 1960s. The church now has new lighting, heating and sound systems to better support concerts and special events, and improved security and fire supression systems to keep both church and visitors safe. (From Heritage This Month, 1 July 2020, Heritage NZ emailed newsletter.)

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We hear a lot about demolishing old buildings and rebuilding new ones (e.g. the Gordon Wilson Flats, Erskine in Island Bay, former Karori campus, consultation on the Wellington Public Library building, and implications from the WCC’s Draft Spatial Plan) – but as well as concerns from a heritage standpoint, we should also be concerned from a climate change point of view. Here is some recent comment from England:

“Historic England said the built environment – including the construction industry – accounts for around 42 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint. The non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said in its ‘Heritage Counts’ report that knocking down buildings causes the loss of the embodied carbon dioxide (CO2) resulting from their construction, use and demolition. The report, an annual audit of England’s heritage, suggests that buildings should instead be upgraded and reused to save energy. It claims that by “thoughtfully adapting” an old building in the right way, CO2 emissions could be reduced by more than 60 per cent.

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s chief executive, said: “Recycling plastic bottles is a normal part of our daily lives, but reusing our existing historic buildings would be a much more powerful way to improve our environmental impact.  “Despite this, reusable buildings are demolished every year and new buildings, which require a huge amount of carbon to build, replace them.”  Compared to refurbishing a traditional Victorian terrace property, a new building of the same size produces up to 13 times more embodied carbon, which equates to about 16.4 tonnes of CO2, Historic England said.” Link here.

And: Don’t demolish old buildings, urge architects … By Roger Harrabin BBC environment analyst 5 August 2020

…They say property owners should be incentivised to upgrade draughty buildings, not just knock them down. That is because so much carbon is emitted by creating the steel, cement and bricks for new buildings. … In the past there was debate about whether it was better for the climate to demolish an old energy-hungry building and build a well-insulated replacement. But this is now widely considered a serious mistake because of the amount of carbon emitted during the construction of the new building. Philip Dunne MP, told BBC News: “Prioritising retrofitting can offer huge benefits, “It enhances energy efficiency and boosts skills and green jobs quickly in the UK. It will be a crucial component for us to move to a low carbon economy.”

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The May-June Heritage Today newsletter can be accessed here (PDF): Heritage Today May June 2020. Earlier editions are available from their online library.

The latest (August 2020) issue of Oculus – the newsletter of Historic Places Aotearoa is available here.  You can read back issues on our useful links page.

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Futuna Chapel will be open on the first Sunday of the month, from 11am to 3pm. A trustee will be present to answer your questions. Free entry: a koha is appreciated.

Located off Friend Street, Karori, Futuna Chapel was designed by John Scott and built in 1961 and is a Category 1 historic place.

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Blue Plaques. This is an initiative of our national body, Historic Places Aotearoa to identify and promote our built heritage. The large cast aluminium plaques are designed to be placed prominently on the facades of important heritage buildings. We have some interest from heritage building owners in Wellington.

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Victoria University of Wellington, which owns the Gordon Wilson Flats at 320 The Terrace, wishes to demolish the building. It is not currently habitable. A city council panel approved the proposal to take the Gordon Wilson flats off the council’s heritage list. The Architectural Centre appealed the decision. The decision from the Environment Court on Gordon Wilson Flats came out on 9 August 2017. The appeal by the Architectural Centre was allowed and Gordon Wilson Flats should not be taken off the Council’s heritage list.

Gordon Wilson Flats
Gordon Wilson Flats, late 1950s. The Terrace.

The decision noted that the appeal process had: “provided information that raises the heritage significance architecturally, socially and technically … of the GWF. Rather than diminishing the building’s heritage value … it has in fact strengthened the reasons for it to be listed” (at [51]). For more information about the Gordon Wilson Flats as architectural heritage, see the website of the Architectural Centre. And, also, on the DOCOMOMO NZ website.

July 2020: the university presented its plans for the site, which includes renovating the Maclean Flats but demolishing Gordon Wilson Flats. Here are a few articles about it. Stuff July 29 and Stuff 30 July; Scoop July 29.

This photo shows the colour scheme in the 1970s (from NZ Architect, No. 5 1978):

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