He might not be well-known, but if he was it would be for the design of the Freyberg Pool (1963). But Jason Lewis Francis Smith (1917-1964), who was born in Wellington, India, only to end up working in Wellington, New Zealand, was “closely associated with,” as his NZIAJ obitutary so delicately puts it, with several other large and significant Wellington buildings.

Alliance Assurance Building (1964)

He worked for the Ministry of Works before moving to King & Dawson, and was involved in designing: the Police Barracks, Buckle St; the Alliance Assurance Building, Featherston St; the Apple and Pear Marketing Board Building, Cambridge Tce, as well as St Francis de Sale in Island Bay.

The “axial” approach to St Francis, Adelaide Road; the steeple of St Francis in the distance

The building was one of three Catholic churches he was working on when he died suddenly, in 1964, in his forties.

Our Lady of Fatima, Tawa

St Theresa, Karori

At the time St Francis was going out to tender, a Tawa church was also nearly ready for tender, and the Karori church was in the preliminary design stage.  But it’s St Francis, with its judicious white curves, which re-asserts the understated flamboyance of the Freyberg Pools.  Like quite a few of Wellington’s finer buildings it’s well hidden and under appreciated in the suburbs.

St Francis de Sales, Island Bay


5 responses to “… quiet Modernism”

  1. Interesting ‘finds’…

    Don’t you think that, when seen together as a body of work in this way (except for the Karori building, which is just ‘other’ – to put it mildly), that his stuff is more cheesy ‘festival-of-britain’ than the usual ‘Brazil Builds’ assessment of Freyberg…?

    (there is some relationship between the two of course …)

  2. Thanks for that – I’d be keen to find out more. The churches info is interesting – didn’t know all that – and the Pool I know about, but the Alliance building I hadn’t heard of before – must go have a search for it and see what it is like. Featherstone St you say?

    Is the Apple and Pear building still around? Presumably the Police Barracks is gone from Buckle St – I know the old Barracks building, but nothing there from his more modern era?

  3. George JasonSmith Avatar
    George JasonSmith

    It is great to see my father’s work recognised like this.

    Dad also did St MAtthews (Anglican) chiurch in Masterton in the 1950’s, the MacCarthy Trust? in lower Lambton Quay was his second “high-rise”, after the Alliance, which in on the corner of Brandon and Featherson from memory. He was also supervising architect on Stage 1 of the Wellington Anglican Cathederal (I believe he designed the gargoyles which are caricatures of his partners and others involved in the building.) I also believe that he designed Stage 2.

    The Karori Chuch was only at Developed sketch plan stage, if that, when Dad died. The Archbishop decided to continue with that design, which was developed by others at King and Dawson. It is important to remember that all this work is over 50 years old, and what seems normal today was far from that then. The KArori church was also being designed at the time the Catholic Church was undergoing significant change, moving to English services and the priest facing the congregation, the emphasis was therefore on the inside rather than the outside of the building. It is worth a visit.

    Note the link between the Tawa and Karori churches in the unique shape of the crosses on their outside walls.

    My apologies if I have got any of this wrong, I was only in my early teens when he died.

  4. Joy Andersen Avatar
    Joy Andersen

    St Francis de Sales Church in Island Bay is one of the Wellington buildings that have been designated an earthquake risk and now sports a yellow sticker. This means that children from the parish school are not permitted by the Ministry of Education to use the church or hall below.

    “The latest cost estimate from the Quantity Surveyor (based on the engineers’ detailed assessment of the strengthening work required) is $500,000 excluding GST.” The parishioners want to save the church and have made a start in fundraising to finance the necessary work. A whole lot more raffles and Church Fairs are forecast for the near future.

    More photos of the church can be seen on the webpage

  5. Rhona JasonSmith Avatar
    Rhona JasonSmith

    In 2015 the Freyberg Building was given a Category 1 listing by Heritage New Zealand.

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