Gordon Wilson Flats

Posts and updates:

  • “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. 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…

  • Recent Media Attention

    The open letter to Hon Chris Bishop has stimulated a bit of a response from the media. You can see the activity here: Scoop posted the letter: https://wellington.scoop.co.nz/?p=159785 The Post: https://www.thepost.co.nz/nz-news/350249603/last-ditch-bid-save-derelict-eyesore NZ Herald: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/wellingtons-gordon-wilson-flats-could-be-demolished-for-victoria-university-accommodation/PMPWHZJ26NDPBGPVQQPL6LPGEY/ Eye of the Fish: https://eyeofthefish.org/last-ditch-bid-to-save-fantastic-modernist-building/ TVNZ+: 1News at Six – Saturday 20 Apr (available till 27 Apr) ThreeNow: NewsHub 6pm – Saturday 20 Apr (available till 22 Apr)

  • 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 Terrace Flats under construction, Wellington, 16 Jan 1959, ATL ref: EP/1959/0164-F]

The recent history:

On March 14, 2024, the Wellington Council released its District Plan decisions. These “rejected a number of the IHP [Independent Hearings Panel] recommendations around intensification, character, and heritage provision,” including an over-ruling of the Environment Court decision of 2017 that had found regarding the Gordon Wilson Flats:

in a time of apparent scarcity of social housing in Wellington and the increase in the level of homelessness reported in the media that great care should be taken before demolition.  The fact that the proposed use of the site (post demolition) is the creation of a park/green space and a strategic land banked asset by Victoria University for some yet unidentified Victoria University purpose further strengthens our view.” [at 55 in [2017] NZEnvC 116 The Architectural Centre v Wellington City Council]

Other buildings removed from the heritage register include:

For a fuller discussion see this statement from Felicity Wong.

WCC has written to Minister Hon Chris Bishop stating “WCC recently resolved to delist the flats in our District Plan decisions, pending a final decision from yourself, this was facilitated by the one-off Intensification Streamlined Planning Process (ISPP) allowed for in the current District Plan and cannot be used again under current legislation.”

In an open letter the Centre has sent to Hon Chris Bishop, we have requested that he not change the current status of the Gordon Wilson Flats in the interests of sustainability.

Render of proposed adaptive re-use of the existing building by Paul Harvey and Rob Tse, with support from Ken Davis.

Joanna Theodore’s excellent discussion “The (carbon) elephant in the room” raises important issues about how heritage rules are perceived and how they could be more usefully applied.

Paradoxically, heritage scheduling within a district plan, is the only legislation that protects a building from being demolished just because someone feels like it. There is no legislation that requires us to consider the impact that demolition will have on the environment, yet we all know that “(t)he greenest building is the one that already exists.” This is further ratified in MBIE’s Procurement Guide to Reducing Carbon Emissions in Building and Construction*, published in 2021. 

https://architecturenow.co.nz/articles/the-carbon-elephant-in-the-room/

The history 2014-2017 …

Victoria University of Wellington bought the Gordon Wilson Flats site on The Terrace, from Housing New Zealand in September 2014 and applied to have this high rise modernist social housing block demolished via a Plan Change.  The hearing for the consequent Plan Change 81 was held on 15-17 December 2015.  The hearing commissioners (Andy Foster, David McMahon and Mark Peck) recommended that the WCC accept the Plan Change.

The documents from the WCC Plan Change hearing can be found here.

The Architectural Centre submissions to the hearing can be found here.

In June 2016 the Architectural Centre appealed the decision.  Mediation occurred on Monday 19 September 2016.  Unfortunately mediation didn’t resolve the issue so we went on to the Environment Court.  The hearing was set for the week commencing 12 June, 2017. Philip Milne represented the Centre with Hazelton Law as solicitors.

The Environment Court hearing of Architectural Centre v WCC occurred Monday June 12th-Wednesday June 14th.  On Wednesday 9th August 2017 the decision from the Court was released.  It can be found here: [2017] NZEnvC 116 The Architectural Centre v Wellington City Council.

The decision noted that the appeal process had:

provided information that raises the heritage significance architecturally, socially and technically … of the GWF.  Rather than diminishing the building’s heritage value … it has in fact strengthened the reasons for it to be listed” (at [51]).

The decision also noted that:

It seems to us that in a time of apparent scarcity of social housing in Wellington and the increase in the level of homelessness reported in the media that great care should be taken before demolition.  The fact that the proposed use of the site (post demolition) is the creation of a park/green space and a strategic land banked asset by Victoria University for some yet unidentified Victoria University purpose further strengthens our view” (at [55]).

MEDIA COVERAGE has included:

Daalder, Marc “Ghost flats: The battle for the Gordon Wilson Building” The Spinoff (21 August 2017)

Cann, Ged “Victoria University determind to demolish Gordon Wilson flats” Dominion Post (17 August 2017)

“Editorial: The Gordon Wilson flats do not deserve heritage protection – tear them down” Dominion Post (17 August 2017)

Schrader, Ben “In defence of the Gordon Wilson Flats and postwar Modernism” (15 August 2017)

Cann, Ged “Gordon Wilson flats – architecturally significant or significant eyesore?” Dominion Post (14 August 2017)

Schrader, Ben “Saving the Gordon Wilson Flats” Scoop (14 August 2017)

“The Panel” Radio New Zealand (11 August 2017)

McSweeny, Jacob “Empty “brutalist” flats saved from demolition” Radio New Zealand (10 August 2017)

Flahive, Brad “Gordon Wilson flats to remain standing as court upholds heritage appeal” Dominion Post (10 August 2017)

“Environment Court confirms heritage value of Gordon Wilson Flats” Scoop (9 August 2017)

Further posts you might be interested in…

Roger Walker My favourite modernist building … Gordon Wilson Flats

Gordon Wilson Flats background and history

My favourite modernist building … a series in support of Gordon Wilson Flats

Why is modernism so important?

History Repeats: The Tale of the Hunter Building

Can ugly buildings be heritage?

Demolition by ignorance?

The RIBA on “Brutalism”

[Exterior view, State Flats, The Terrace, Wellington, 16 Jan 1959, ATL ref: EP/1959/0969-2-F]