My favourite modernist building … College House

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016
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College House (Warren and Mahoney, 1964-70)

A mature work by what was at the time a young practice.

Architecture is foremost about creating space and College House, Christchurch (Warren and Mahoney, 1964-70) does this. Much better than most.

The quad is the star. In the finest tradition it organises the site. It is well proportioned and is surrounded by the buildings. The tallest of which is the chapel and it projects into the quad, suspended above its edge. A single large deciduous tree creates an asymmetry that ensures the space is enlivened and avoids it being predictable.

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College House, Christchurch (Warren and Mahoney, 1964-70)

The chapel is a fabulous elegant space with careful detailing and controlled natural light. Sadly, post earthquakes, it is boarded up awaiting funds for base isolation.

The library seems from another time. A simple modern exterior gives no hint of its dark gothic interior dominated by paired diagonal trusses.

The student’s bedrooms are in three storey buildings that run down the sides of the quad. Five rooms per floor, 15 per building. The right number to create a community and avoid being institutional. One of the best things about College House is that hundreds of students each year get to live in and experience architecture of the highest quality.

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College House (Warren and Mahoney, 1964-70)

Well done Sir Miles and Warren and Mahoney.

Stuart Gardyne

The “My favourite modernist building …” series is in support of Gordon Wilson Flats which is facing threat of demolition.


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