Church College in Hamilton N.Z. is to be demolished at the end of the year, causing a debate about architecture in a town not renowned for it. The Latter Day Saints College was built by volunteer labour in 1958, following American styling of the day. It is one of few modern buildings in Hamilton of merit, and there is support for its heritage protection. The newspaper column inches devoted to the topic multiply, and the question is currently the subject of the Waikato Times' online poll.
Hamilton art historian Dr Ann McEwan commented: "Hamilton doesn't have a lot of architecture on a national scale that you would put up with Te Papa or Cathedral Square. It's a big deal."
Andrew Bydder, chairman of the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Branch of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, told the Waikato Times, "Church College is part of Hamilton's coming of age as a city," Mr Bydder said. "We shouldn't throw it away."
He said Church College was "an internationally important example of American post-war modernism, in terms of both buildings and urban design".
Andrew's father, physicist and engineer Dr Evan Bydder, told the Times, "I've had a look through some of them (Temple View buildings), and I was very impressed with the quality of engineering. They're well built."
When the Times asked what work needed to be done on them, he said, "Well, none." It would be, "good engineering practice to spend a modest amount of money" strengthening ties - about $500,000.
The church is determined however: "The Church is not prepared to leave a legacy of decaying buildings, the maintenance of which would represent a very significant cost."
The Church rejected Dr Bydder's comments as, "inaccurate, inconsistent and not worthy of further comment". There was "absolutely no doubt seismic upgrading would be required should the buildings remain".
A church planning consultant dismissed modernism by saying, "That it was even considered that institutional buildings dating back to the 1950s were heritage items was met with what I would call some puzzlement."
It's quite a thing to imagine dutiful mormons from all over New Zealand trooping up to Hamilton to put these buildings together. A working bee on a phenomenal scale - the school is large. It would be impossible these days of public liability, registrations, and work safety.
The "seismic upgrading" excuse for demolition is a familiar one in New Zealand, as very few older buildings meet the current stringent codes.
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PHOTO SOURCE (photographer Elder Garwood Walton)