My favourite modernist building … Old Wool House


In the late 1950s I had cause to visit Bernard Johns & Whitwell’s office one night,

maybe to see his son Chris Johns who was a year ahead of me at Polytech. Perched on a stool was the famous Bernard, and on another Bill Toomath. Memorable for the intense discussion that was going on over their pencils. It was clearly a v important subject, but why? I suspected it was only aesthetics about the frontage but maybe no. However when I saw the finished wall almost in pure elevation I stopped breathing. I was an impressionable, nice, pretty teen those days. But I’ve never forgotten.

Well … the office had ordered me to go up onto an old roof across the street and I was lifted off my feet toward heaven when I saw the beautiful proportions of the fenestration which are invisible in this photo.

Wonderful being young with hopes to lead the world to a belle place.

Another impressive experience was the curved stair in the Foyer behind the bronze-framed glass (is it bronze?).

But it was quickly forgotten in its concealed cheek-by-jowel location, whereas 8? years later in 1966 the Overseas Terminal in its exposed central location quickly became our most memorable (favourite?) modern, then modernist, building, albeit one that didn’t ‘work’

Daryl Cockburn

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


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