Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Erskine College

Cycling over a hill I hadn't explored before, I found a beautiful Edwardian / Gothic building and chapel; Erskine College. Now in disrepair and haunted by pigeons, it faces the prospect of demolition if it cannot be seismically strengthened.

Hidden inside the chapel addition, constructed 25 years after the construction of the main buildings, is ‘one of the finest Gothic spaces in New Zealand' (NZ Historic Places Trust), designed by John Swan in 1929.

image: Swan, John Sidney, 1874[?]-1936 :Convent of the Sacred Heart, Island Bay, Wellington, N.Z., new chapel. Sheet no. 4. March 1929.. Swan, John Sidney, 1874[?]-1936 :Convent of the Sacred Heart, Island Bay, Wellington, N.Z., new chapel. March 1929. Sheets no. 1-5.. Ref: Plans-89-0185. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23127039

Most recently it was used as a wedding venue, until April 2012 when the Wellington City Council ruled it was an earthquake risk and not safe for human occupation.

Originally built as a Convent of the Sacred Heart in 1905, with alumni including photographer Anne Nobel, it taught pupils until its closure in 1985, after which the buildings continued to be used for creative arts and festival events, and eventually a school of art until 2009 (Macdonald).

Image: Sacred Heart Convent, Island Bay, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-070494-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23075064

Listed as a heritage building by the Wellington City Council, and classified as Category 1 by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, the question becomes how to make this building profitable enough for developers to strengthen it, while maintaing the site's historic integrity. Because the best way to protect heritage is to occupy it, and continue writing its story. I just hope it doesn't turn into this:
Image: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/capital-life/7196018/New-stoush-brewing-over-Erskine-College

But until the protecting trust, which maintains veto power of any plans, and the owners can come to any agreement (or the time on the red sticker runs out), Erskine College remains the home of an eerie cooing.

Updates can be found here http://www.facebook.com/SaveErskineCollege

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