Heritage value of distinctive Gordon Wilson Flats detailed

17/09/2020

The distinctive McLean Flats and Gordon Wilson Flats in central Wellington are being proposed for heritage recognition by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

While currently looking forlorn and unloved after years of neglect, both buildings have the potential to return to their original use when built in the 1940s and 1950s, respectively – as desirable and much-needed accommodation.  The future of the Gordon Wilson Flats is uncertain as Victoria University of Wellington, the owner, explores options for the site.  The latest proposal includes retaining the McLean Flats but demolishing the Gordon Wilson Flats.

Entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero as a historic place would recognise the historic, heritage and architectural values of both buildings, but it does not give them protection.  That comes through scheduling on the Wellington City Council’s district plan and the will of the owner and wider community to see them retained.  The Gordon Wilson Flats are currently scheduled as heritage in the district plan, which was further upheld by the Environment Court in 2017.

"Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga started progressing this potential list entry prior to a proposal in July by the university to demolish the Gordon Wilson Flats,” says Director Central Region, Jamie Jacobs.

"The list entry research came with the university’s support as it wanted clarity on the heritage values.  We believe this report will give them that.

"Exploring opportunities other than demolition are welcomed.  Besides the architectural merits as an example of modernism, a refurbished and strengthened Gordon Wilson Flats could continue to be used for accommodation.

"Hopefully the university’s expressed values and commitments that include finding ‘new solutions to complex issues’ extend beyond demolition.”

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga supports the comments made by retired conservation architect and HNZPT Board and Māori Heritage Council member Chris Cochran that the university should be leading the way in understanding and promoting our history, and heed the Environment Court’s decision that it owns a building of "significant heritage value”.

"Sadly both the McLean Flats and Gordon Wilson Flats have been left unkempt and, consequently, have been deteriorating for a number of years, so for many the first impression is that they are an eye-sore and ugly,” says Dr Jacobs.

"But once you read through the listing report of these buildings they have a real richness and value to our history and architecture, and, if restored and given some love, will be an asset not only to the owner but the city.”

Read the listing report, written by Dr Ann McEwan and Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Senior Heritage Assessment Advisor Blyss Wagstaff.  Public submissions on their thoughts about the proposed List entry are welcome until 13 October.

ENDS.