Adapted reuse scheme for Gordon Wilson Memorial Apartments

Refer below to open letter authored by The Architectural Centre addressed to Minister for Housing. We provide a robust, contemporary rationale for the retention and refurbishment of 320 The Terrace, also known as the Gordon Wilson Memorial Apartments (GWMA):

Tēnā koe Hon. Chris Bishop,

An open letter – 320 The Terrace (Gordon Wilson Memorial Apartments)

The Architectural Centre (AC) is a volunteer organisation made up of professionals and non-professionals who seek to promote good design of the built environment. Incorporated in 1946, the Centre has a long and proud tradition of doing just this. We write to you today to provide, what we believe, to be a robust, contemporary rationale for the retention and refurbishment of 320 The Terrace, also known as the Gordon Wilson Memorial Apartments (GWMA). We acknowledge this is a critical time in the building’s future with your pending decision on whether to retain its existing heritage listing. Your decision will impact its retention.

Rationale for retention of GWMA
● An immediate solution to assist the current unaffordable housing/ accommodation crises.
● An acknowledgement that recycling and reuse is the “NEW” new.
● The provision of a good standard of living after the building is refurbished and brought up to contemporary living standards.
● An informed acknowledgement that the building’s structure has good bones and can be readily improved.
● That the building is adaptable and more than fit for modern day residential living.

Statements on rationale

Unaffordable housing
Today, housing – to purchase or rent – is expensive, sometimes prohibitively so:


In Wellington City the average house value was 6.5 times its average household income in 2023
In 2012, the house value to income multiple in Wellington City was 4.5 – Infometrics

The current median rent in Te Aro, Wellington for a 3-bedroom house is $870
($290 per room) – Tenancy Services

Available land suitable for residential development in central Wellington is rare. The Architectural Centre strongly believes the GWMA should be retained and refurbished for the considerable provision of 150+ bedrooms relative to its small footprint (WCC).

Recycling/ reuse is the “NEW” new
Modernising existing buildings has many advantages:
● We believe, by virtue of its modular design and construction, a refurbished GWMA is adaptable enough to accommodate Victoria University of Wellington’s (VUW) redevelopment scheme.
● Concrete requires an enormous amount of carbon for its production. Demolishing an existing concrete building is environmentally negligent when the building is still sound. Retaining the building is consistent with sustainability principles.
● The AC’s proposed refurbishment of GWMA and the suggested new Terrace building incorporates mass-timber elements – which is carbon-negative and consistent with VUW’s sustainability goals.
● The GWMA layouts are adaptable enough to be retained as Maisonettes (2-bed units) or easily joined to become 4-5 bed units.

Standard of living
A refurbished GWMA provides:
● Views over Wellington City and the Harbour.
● All day sun.
● A close proximity to the City.
● As concrete (a thermal mass) is a primary construction material in GWMA, the buildings are passively cooled during the day and heated during the night.
● Excellent sound-proofing between units.

The thin slab form of the Gordon Wilson Flats means that the width of the building accommodates a single flat, allowing daylight to enter all of the primary spaces within each unit. – WCC

*Please note that we are reviewing these numbers (existing NBS rating of GWMA building) and are presently pulling together a group of industry professionals, with the objective to gain a fuller picture of the many factors impacting GWMA continued existence – post edited 22.04.2024

Fit for the modern day
Please refer to attached 3D image render for a possible adapted reuse of the GWMA + McLean Flats that the AC believes can deliver on the expectations and requirements of Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) and its students.

Description/ Virtues of AC adapted reuse scheme:
● New mass timber gateway building on the Terrace (possibly offices/research).
● Landscaped courtyard and covered Plaza that retains existing trees.
● New campus portal on the Terrace facing the City.
● Renovated GWMA (possibly faculty and post-graduate housing).
● New cable car from the Mclean flats to the Kelburn Campus that would provide direct access for all. Pedestrian access to the Campus is shown via a zig zag path through a native bush walk.
● Minimal earthworks that reduce cost and disturbance to neighbours.
● A new energy efficient facade on the GWMA that would exceed current standards and provide warm, safe and dry housing for years to come.
● A showcase for Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) commitment to


In summary, this building can be modified for contemporary needs, facilitates a good standard of living, is efficient in form and compatible with passive design that is worth celebrating and recovering for the future residents of Wellington City.

Consequently, the Architectural Centre strongly asks that measures are taken to retain the Gordon Wilson Memorial Apartments


2 responses to “Adapted reuse scheme for Gordon Wilson Memorial Apartments”

  1. Paul Harvey Avatar
    Paul Harvey

    Refer link below for article from Heritage architect and educator Joanna Theodore emphasizing the “need to celebrate (GWMA) and in a Climate Emergency, we cannot afford to demolish this building.”

  2. Paul Harvey Avatar
    Paul Harvey

    We wish to share our current view on the existing NBS rating of GWMA building noted in Open Letter addressed to Minister for Housing – sent Tuesday 16th April 2024 by The Architectural Centre.

    Please note that we are reviewing these numbers and are presently pulling together a group of industry professionals, with the objective to gain a fuller picture of the many factors impacting GWMA continued existence.

    Thank you,
    Paul Harvey President of The Architectural Centre  

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