“Gordon Wilson Memorial Apartments”

What is in a name?

You may be wondering why we are calling are calling them this – rather than the Gordon Wilson Flats.

Group of men in front of block of state flats, The Terrace, Wellington. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1959/0974-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23262885

Well, here you can see Minister of Housing Mr Fox (on the right looking at the camera), standing in front of the still incomplete building in 1959.

This small article, published on April 9 that year, indicates that the Minister announced the name of the building “Gordon Wilson” in memory of the late Government Architect, Francis Gordon Wilson, who had dedicated 23 years of his life to improving the housing conditions of New Zealanders. He died, on the job, on the 23 of February.

Archives New Zealand /Te Whare Tohu Tuhituhinga O Aotearoa
Housing in New Zealand (1946)

In this segment of film Wilson discusses the types of housing being built through the State Housing programme of the 1940s.

In ‘Heritage buildings: Precious history or waste of space?’ Janhavi Gosavi raises many important questions about heritage in the form of buildings – such as whose heritage gets preserved, at what cost and how.

It feels like no coincidence that a building dedicated to the memory of the Architect (literally) who sought to give every single New Zealander a warm, modern and comfortable home, is the very building up for demolition when we have over 100,000 people in need of housing (according to the 2018 housing deprivation statistics), and some 23,000 households waiting for housing support (Dec 2022, Monthly Housing Report). Will saving the Gordon Wilson Flats house these people? Not particularly. But I can insist in calling them the Gordon Wilson Memorial Apartments until the message sinks in. We were once a country that acted on the shared belief that housing is a fundamental right – not an asset, not an investment, and not something just for a few.

Housing is the basis of stability and security for an individual or family. The centre of our social, emotional and sometimes economic lives, a home should be a sanctuary—a place to live in peace, security and dignity.

United Nations Human Rights
The human right to adequate housing
Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing


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