Historical Significance or Value
The Hocken Building has historical significance as a major building constructed within a period of economic and social change in New Zealand. The 1975-84 National Government under R D Muldoon (1921-1992) exerted strong centralised control over the economy with import restrictions and tariff protection for New Zealand manufacturers.
The significance of the building also rests on its setting within the development of the University of Otago campus which, in turn, was part of a major expansion of New Zealand universities beginning in the 1960s. The future shape of the New Zealand University system was outlined in the Hughes Parry Report. The Hughes Parry Committee saw the university in a broader social context than previously and it ‘caught educational institutions and industry unprepared, both in their philosophy and in their facilities’. The Report prefigured the relocation and rebuilding of Canterbury University and the expansion of the campuses at Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston North. This period of expanded access to university education marks a significant historical shift in New Zealand’s cultural history. Tertiary education was subsidised by the taxpayer and students with bursaries were able to pay fees and receive a small living allowance from the state. The Hocken Building reflected the importance of the Arts in the New Zealand University system.
Aesthetic Significance or Values:
The Hocken Building is a bold and striking modernist building which has particular aesthetic presence in Dunedin. Its scale makes it a landmark structure in the city and its profile and textures construct a highly memorable image. Like the Otago Dental School before it, McCoy’s building continues to generate polarised opinions on the place of modernist architectural design in Dunedin. The Hocken Building was a critical success with the architectural profession but public resistance to its particular aesthetic has not greatly diminished over time.
The exterior of the building has special aesthetic significance. Architect Ted McCoy states that he was determined to avoid a diagrammatic and subsequently bland outcome on such a large building. The combination of the concrete frame punctuated with varying arrangements of glass and precast concrete panels, projecting bays and balconies creates a changing array of light and shadow. The porous cement surfaces produce climate effects depending on whether the building is wet or dry.
Architectural Significance or Values:
The Hocken Building has architectural significance as an example of late modernist design conceived during a period when the values of modernism were being reassessed. The building exerts a strong expression of regionalism which is offered as an alternative to the more universal symbolism of the other campus buildings built during the period. McCoy’s extensive use of Béton Brut concrete places the Hocken Building within the masonry context of earlier Dunedin architecture and separate from the later shift towards glass and steel framed construction. The building may be bracketed with McCoy’s earlier work for the University including University College and the Archway Lecture Theatre. This group is distinguished by McCoy’s individualistic design approach from the more institutional and mundane Science buildings of the 1970s.
The interiors of the Hocken Building remain largely intact although some surfaces and fixtures have been updated over time. Of particular importance are the ground floor entrance lobby which retain the timber ceiling, Béton Brut concrete finishes, Delft tiles walls and quarry tile floors, and the Moot Court. The double height Hocken Gallery has been lost to later alterations for the Maori Studies Department.
The Hocken Building is regarded as nationally and internationally significant as recognised in contemporary architectural awards and with its inclusion in the DOCOMOMO Register.
The Hocken Building has cultural significance as a major building for the University of Otago which exerts considerable influence across the social, cultural, scientific and economic spheres of New Zealand. It was the home of the Hocken Library between 1980 and 1998 when it was relocated to a refurbished building on Anzac Avenue. The building now houses the Maori Studies Department and was recently added to with Te Tumu, a multipurpose teaching and ceremonial space.
The Hocken Building has social significance as a site for the education of many thousands of Otago University students and as a workspace for academics and technicians in many disciplines. Its early association with the Hocken Library saw it as the major historical research centre for the region. Its current housing of the Maori Studies Department continues this social role.
This Hocken Building has been assessed for, and found to possess aesthetic, architectural, cultural, historical and social significance or value.
Summary of Significance or Values:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria.
(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:
The Hocken Building has significance as a major educational building of the later modern period of architecture and is representative of the expansion of the New Zealand University system in the period 1965-1980. It represents a high point in the output of the architectural firm of McCoy & Wixon. Its construction method and aesthetics identify it as a building from the 1970s when ferro-concrete was widely used in New Zealand for architectural, structural and economic reasons. Its reuse over time and the University’s commitment to maintaining its strong architectural aesthetics show that the building is valued.
The Hocken Building is an important example of regionalist design in New Zealand, drawing on both international architectural trends towards historical representation and a growing interest amongst New Zealanders for the nineteenth century built environment. This was counter to the orthodox modernist approach to architecture as ahistorical and culturally de-centred.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
The Hocken Building is associated by its naming with Dr Thomas Morland Hocken and John Larkins Cheese Richardson (1810-1878), also known as Major Richardson. Both were Vice Chancellors of the University and the naming of the building recalls their important contributions to the institution.
The project is associated with Fletcher Construction. Fletcher Construction which was established by Sir James Fletcher (1886-1974) in Dunedin. Other major Dunedin projects include the Chief Post Office (1936), Cadbury Fry Hudson’s building and the University Central Library (1965).
The Hocken Building was designed by Edward John (Ted) McCoy of the partnership McCoy & Wixon. McCoy rose to national prominence with his first projects. McCoy was NZIA President in 1979-80 at the time of the completion of the Hocken Building and he received the NZIA Gold Medal for lifetime achievement in 2002.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:
The Hocken Building is acclaimed in architectural circles, as recognised by the awards it has received, and its inclusion in the Top 19 modernist buildings in the international DOCOMOMO publication. The general public have a more ambivalent attitude towards the Hocken Building and that is reflected in some trenchant attitudes expressed towards modernist architecture in the city. Dunedin is widely perceived as a ‘heritage city’. Although attitudes are shifting to embrace building styles and types outside the Victorian and Edwardian eras, the Hocken Building polarises public opinion including amongst the student body.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place:
The Hocken Building was a challenging construction built from ferro-cement on a difficult site. The building was split into three sections based on concrete portal frames with floor slabs poured in-situ and pre-cast concrete wall panels. At ten stories and with plant rooms at roof level, the Hocken Building was the tallest on campus until the construction of the Commerce Building in 1992. It is significant as a reinforced concrete high rise building of a type relatively distinctive to New Zealand and, more broadly, the Pacific Rim countries. The exterior and interior are largely intact and reflect a definitive period of New Zealand Modernist public architecture as well as strong regionalist design tendencies that situate the building in Dunedin. The Hocken Building was conceived and designed in the 1970s along with many other buildings and structures that are now ageing and being appraised for upgrading. Béton Brut surface finishes pose difficult conservation issues and the deterioration of exposed concrete in New Zealand’s climate is a well recognised issue in building performance. It is important to recognise the integrity of the Hocken Building and to retain the design values that locate it in its historic period.
Summary of Significance or Values:
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, g.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.
The Hocken Building (Former) designed by the Dunedin firm of McCoy & Wixon for the University of Otago is a monumental example of late Modernism on the Dunedin campus. Its height, textures and strong forms make the building visible from many parts of inner Dunedin and it has a major effect on the campus environment. It is recognised nationally and internationally as an outstanding example of modernist architecture.
The area around Te Riu o Te Whaka o Otago (Otago Harbour) is one highly valued by Kai Tahu. The bays and inlets provided access to the shellfish beds and fishing grounds, and therefore sites close to these resources were popular for settlement. The area was occupied by Waitaha, Ngati Mamoe and Kai Tahu in succession and notable pa are located along the coast, and sites in Dunedin record many occupations within the modern day city.
The land on which the Hocken Building sits was part of the Otakou purchase. In early 1844 the New Zealand Company was looking for more land to settle Scottish immigrants as part of the New Edinburgh scheme.The Otakou purchase followed lengthy discussions with the deed signed at the end of July 1844. At the time the area of the block was estimated at 400,000 acres, but which in reality amounted as much as 534,000 acres. In 1847 the Otago Association sent colonists to what had become known as the settlement of Otago.
There are no recorded Maori archaeological sites on the site of the Hocken Building.
The Establishment and Building of the University of Otago:
The land on which the Hocken Building sits was surveyed by a team led by Charles Kettle in 1846-47 and was part of section 14 of Block XXVII in the Town of Dunedin. These sections were laid out adjacent to the banks of the Waters of Leith with a deviation around a boulder fan where the stream turned sharply north-east towards the harbour. The block bounded by Leith, St David, Castle and Albany Streets was set aside in the Cemetery Reserve and granted to the Superintendent of Otago in 1862. This block was then developed for the Dunedin Botanic Garden.
A destructive flood in 1867 washed much of the newly established garden away, along with the stone breast-work built to retain the lower bank. The garden was relocated to a site in the Town Belt upwards of the course of the Leith. The vacant land then passed to the newly founded University of Otago. Photographs taken at this time show that the area was covered with small cottages and a few substantial houses, some of which remain in use by the University.
The University of Otago was founded in 1869 by the Otago Provincial Council with an endowment from the Presbyterian Church and is New Zealand's oldest university. The University initially conferred degrees in Arts, Medicine, Law and Music, and was initially housed in the Stock Exchange Building in the heart of Dunedin’s business district. The Otago Witness reported in 1874 that it was ‘desirable to have the University Buildings, Professors’ residence, and accommodation for students from the country districts and other Provinces, as complete and compact as circumstances may admit, with sufficient space for recreation.’ To meet these criteria the University relocated to the present site in 1879 following the construction of new buildings to the competition designs of Maxwell Bury (1825-1912). Bury extended the block in 1885-87 to house the Geology faculty and further work was carried out by James Louis Salmond (1868-1950) and Edmund Anscombe (1874-1948) in stages up until 1920. Anscombe was appointed University Architect in 1911 and some of these contracts were passed on to the firm of Miller & White when Anscombe left Dunedin.
20th century campus expansion:
The Dental School (1907) was designed by James Louis Salmond and situated on the opposite bank of the Water of Leith at the point where it was crossed by the Union Street Bridge. The Home Science School designed by Edmund Anscombe was completed in 1920 on the opposite side of Union Street and the quadrangle was enclosed by his Otago Student Union Building (1922) which was an extension to the earlier School of Mines (1908). This created a formal entrance from Union Street and marked the extent of this section of the campus in the 1920s. Future expansion was limited by the development of the blocks on the opposite bank of the Water of Leith between St David and Albany Streets for residential and commercial use. There was a long hiatus for academic buildings on the original campus between 1920 and 1960.
The campus was split into two distinct zones following the relocation of the Medical School in 1916. The first of the new Medical School structures was the red brick neo-Georgian Scott Building (1916) by Patrick Young Wales (1865-1939) of Mason & Wales. It was joined by Anscombe’s new Dental School (1926) which was situated one block north on Great King Street. This was followed by the Lindo Ferguson building (1927), also by Anscombe, which completed an imposing if not fully continuous range of neo-Georgian facades facing the old hospital.
The corner of Great King and Frederick Streets was filled in following the Second World War with the South Block (later the Hercus Building) by Miller, White & Dunn. This group of buildings was complemented by the modernist and curtain-walled Otago Dental School designed by Ian Reynolds in the Government Architect’s Office and completed in 1960. These buildings were followed by the Welcome Institute (1963) on Frederick Street by Mason & Wales and buildings for Biochemistry and Microbiology. The Sayers Building (1973) designed by Architects Engineers Partnership housed the Medical School Library and completed the row of Medical School buildings along Great King Street.
The siting of these building followed the post-war planning strategy of the University in conjunction with architects Miller, White & Dunn to expand the campus in a diagonal south-west direction to eventually link the Medical/Dental complex to the Leith Street axis of Bury’s original structures. This scheme was known as the Diagonal Plan and emerged from an effort to devise a practical solution for an expanded campus around the existing and densely developed urban street grid. The Diagonal Plan was constrained by high inner city commercial land values and attention shifted to the less developed land between the old campus and Logan Park.
A competition for a new University Library (1965) followed and was won by two Auckland School of Architecture students, Roland Adams and Brian J. Dodd. The building filled the corner of Albany and Cumberland Streets adjacent to the Student Union with a two storey structure covering a large space and enclosing a central courtyard. The difficulty of expanding the building was soon evident. A tower was proposed to fill the central courtyard but this alteration was not proceeded with and the library remained undersized for the future needs of the University. The judgement was made to decentralise library services and the siting of future library buildings was decided on this new basis.
The Arts II Campus expansion project:
The Arts II project was part of a major expansion of the campus undertaken between 1965 and 1980. The development of large slab block and high rise buildings on the campus was an outcome of the Ministry of Works plan for the extension of the University of Otago campus which was conceived in 1964. The plan was presented to the University as a model, plan, report and series of visualisations from street level. The brief was to enlarge the campus to accommodate 7500 students by 1980.
The chief designer of this scheme was John Robert Patrick Blake-Kelly (1913 - 1988). Blake-Kelly was District Architect in Wellington in 1952 having joined the Public Works Department in 1937 as a temporary draughtsman. He was appointed Assistant Government Architect in 1959. The Blake-Kelly Plan included a combination of low rise buildings housing lecture theatres and laboratories mingled with slab blocks connected with aerial access routes over the existing street grid. The overall scheme was informed by English university planning and Mies van der Rohe’s work at Illinois Institute of Technology. The Plan was accepted by the University in 1967 and altered and represented in 1969.
Buildings developed during this phase were constructed without basement storeys and were open at ground level with large circulation spaces at first floor level, awaiting the construction of the planned aerial walkways. Work proceeded as far as engineering drawings and consents but concern arose over the implications of such a complex and expensive circulation system and the University Council approached the Dunedin City Council with an alternative that involved closure of the street grid through the campus. The Government Transport Department and the Dunedin City Council collaborated on a one way traffic system that split the main route through the campus area into two roadways and shifted the flow of traffic on State Highway 1 to the west. The Blake-Kelly Plan was extensively revised around the projected closure of the streets running through the campus. This scheme was referred to as ‘Plan B’ and received approval in 1969.
The first street to be closed to traffic was Union Street between Leith and Castle Streets. This was followed by Leith Street and Castle Street between St David and Albany Streets. This produced a valuable extra 3 hectares of space on the campus. These developments overtook the Blake-Kelly Plan by the 1970s and the Ministry of Works was unable to contribute further to the planning needs of the University. This situation placed responsibility back on the University where the project was led initially by Works and Development Officer E. A. Dews. The Blake-Kelly Plan influenced the layout of Arts I (now known as the Burns Building), a long horizontal six-storey block following the line of Leith Street and extending to Albany Street. This was completed by Mason & Wales in 1969 at a similar time to McCoy and Wixon’s University College, a pair of ten-storey tower blocks behind a communal dining hall set high on the ridge between Clyde and Leith Streets. Eight storeys was regarded as the maximum building height under the Blake-Kelly proposal but this was exceeded by University College, leaving the way open for taller buildings on campus. Sufficient land was acquired in the Cumberland Street block to allow a comprehensive expansion of the Science faculty. Science I was designed by the Ministry of Works on Union Street and was started in 1968. It was followed with Science II by John Aimers of Mason & Wales and the Biochemistry building by Allingham Harrison & Partners which was built to the north. The Microbiology Building by Miller White & Dunn followed in 1974 and Science III was designed by Mason & Wales with Allingham Harrison & Partners and completed in 1977. This building housed the Science Library.
The provision of library space was a priority for the University at the end of the 1960s. Under a decentralisation process, the University had committed to separate Central, Medical and Science libraries leaving the Hocken to be provided for in a proposed Arts Library. The Hocken Library was developed from the private collection of Dr Thomas Morland Hocken (1836-1910). Hocken gathered books, records and ephemera from the early years of European settlement in the lower South Island. His focus expanded to New Zealand history in general and he was instrumental in the 1898 Jubilee Exhibition after which the Hocken Library and Otago Early Settlers Association were formed. Maori artifacts donated by Hocken also form a significant part of the Otago Museum’s ethnographic collection. At this time, the Hocken Collections were housed in a purpose built wing of the Otago Museum which itself functioned as the University Museum until the mid-1960s. In 1969 the University approached the Tertiary Grants Committee to fund an Arts Library building to be constructed across Castle Street on the Union Street intersection, allowing the roadway to pass beneath a wide span in the podium. This plan was developed as a sketch proposal by University staff. It was decided to house the Hocken Collection in the Arts II Building, and indeed the importance of that Collection in the building led to the building being known as the Hocken Building until it was renamed in 2002.
The Arts II Building and Ted McCoy (architect):
McCoy & Wixon joined with a group of Dunedin architectural and engineering practices including Oakley Pinfold Turvey & Neale, Murray Cockburn and the engineering practice J Hanlon & Partners to form Architects and Engineers Partnership in 1971. A catalogue was published in 1971 showcasing the work of the practices involved and to better position the firm for work stemming from the University expansion. The group gained the Medical School Library project (Sayers Building) and Archway Lecture Theatres but was disbanded in 1973. The commission for Arts II was offered to McCoy & Wixon alone in 1974. Ted McCoy recalls that the offer was made in a phone call from Works Registrar Roger Dodd.
The Arts II Building was designed by Edward John (Ted) McCoy of the partnership McCoy & Wixon. McCoy was born in Dunedin on February 25, 1925, and was schooled at Otago Boys’ High. After studying and graduating from the Auckland University School of Architecture in 1949 he established a Dunedin practice in 1950 and rose to national prominence with his first projects, a hall of residence for the Catholic Church and a private house for the Nees family. These gained NZIA national medals in 1956 - the first occasion when two medals were awarded to an architect in the same year. McCoy practiced with assistants helping with documentation until 1967 when he was joined by Peter Wixon (1927-2004). Wixon’s strength was as a practice manager and his systems allowed the firm to take on large projects starting with University College (1969). McCoy was NZIA President in 1979-80 at the time of the completion of the Hocken Building and he received the NZIA Gold Medal for lifetime achievement in 2002. He retired from his daily role in the firm in 1998 but continued as the co-designer of the redeveloped Otago Museum with son John McCoy. Peter Wixon retired in 2000 and the firm is now run by their sons John McCoy and Hamish Wixon.
Ted McCoy was not overly influenced by the Blake-Kelly Plan when Arts II was conceived and does not recall referring to the model and plans. McCoy recalls early discussions about the orientation of the building which was to follow the axis of Union Street. It was decided to rotate the main axis of the building to align with Castle Street and the site was changed to a narrow piece of land on Castle Street adjacent to the Waters of Leith. This decision was influenced by a study of wind patterns and concern that such a large building would present an intimidating wall through the middle of the campus, dividing its north and south ends. Obstructing Castle Street also emphasised the unsatisfactory positioning of the Central Library at the southern end of the campus.
Unlike the Science buildings which were built with first floor circulation spaces, the entry to Arts II was set at ground level and its massing was on a different basis to Arts I and the Science blocks. It was conceived as three slender eight-storey towers with a small foot print in order to fit the constrained site. This was prefigured in the Blake-Kelly Plan where the site was occupied by three lower blocks designated for the Faculty of Arts. The space in front of the building now occupied by the Union Lawn was to be used for a theatre for the Student Union designed by Warren & Mahoney and a small commercial development of banks and retail shops. This was relocated to Albany Street along with the Student Union Clubs and Societies Building (1977) and the open space left behind now frames the Arts II Building in relative isolation from other University buildings. Although contained in the old street grid, Arts II was designed as a building ‘in the round‘ with there being little prospect of buildings of a similar scale rising alongside.
Arts II was always to be a tall building. A tower in this position was foreseen in 1969 and earlier proposals for Arts buildings on this site were referred to in the Blake-Kelly Plan. Space requirements resulted in an initial proposal for a block of eight storeys. This rose a further two storeys in the final version. McCoy was aware that Arts II would be seen in the round from most parts of the campus and across the city from some distance. Unlike the Science buildings or Arts I, it was not required to interlock with other structures with walkways and plazas and was consequently developed as a monumental and isolated form. It was constructed in fair-faced concrete in contrast to the Science buildings, some of which were covered with dark stone aggregate to visually align with the basalt stone buildings of Bury and Anscombe. McCoy was part of a University committee that met to formulate aesthetic standards. The potentially gloomy effect of the use of dark stone for external cladding was discussed in this forum and McCoy & Wixon’s Arts II project was to adhere forcefully to a pale concrete throughout. The textures of fair faced concrete and cast ribbed panels were used to catch the light and the varied surfaces used to alleviate the large mass of the building. For these reasons, Arts II was a distinctive addition to the campus and the project carries strong aesthetic values that are generally more muted in the Science buildings.
Arts II place in Modern Movement architecture:
Arts II marks the middle phase of McCoy’s design language and marks a shift between Modernism and Post-Modernism. McCoy deployed modular design grids, strong geometry and a restricted materials palette to produce an assertive Modernist outcome that also incorporated contextual shapes and textures. The French term Béton Brut was applied to the aesthetic of poured concrete that revealed its method of construction through the marks left by wooden shuttering.
A local response to Brutalism was evident in New Zealand in the 1960s where reinforced concrete construction was favoured over steel frames and the structural and aesthetic potential of concrete were actively explored. Brutalism was a significant movement in Great Britain where it appeared in university buildings such as St Andrews Dormitory by James Stirling (1964). Similar work appeared in America, Europe and Japan under a variety of typologies ranging from the work of individual architects such as Louis Kahn or to regionalist movements such as Japanese Metabolism and Italian Neo-Realism. Controversy was widespread in the architectural community over American architect Paul Rudolph’s Yale Architecture School (1963), a concrete building of similar scale and forcefulness to the Arts II Building. Arts II was also reflective of Regionalist concerns in architecture that looked for responses to local culture and environment. These are expressed at roof level where the roof shapes and service shafts atop the building reflect the form of Bury’s 1879 building across the Waters of Leith. McCoy has said that he wished to depart from the restrictive diagrammatic facade organisation of earlier campus buildings and Arts II related to the variety and incident of Bury’s Gothic forms and details.
The Arts II Building represents a major moment in twentieth century New Zealand architectural design. Its powerful use of Euclidian geometrical forms of cube and cylinder and its materiality place it within the late period of Modernism. The Arts II Building came immediately before the shift in architectural taste in New Zealand towards Post Modernism which it prefigures in the use of historical elements. This transitional character is not well represented in New Zealand architecture and the Arts II Building occupies an important space in local architectural development.
Arts II was to initially have housed the departments of Anthropology, Education, Economic, Education and Geography and to allow space for the English Department to be relocated from the Central Library to a single site in the Arts I Building. Anthropology was housed in four separate buildings including three houses and a converted army shed. Economics and Education were located in Arts I, Geography and English in the Central Library. The Law Library was also fitted into the brief, dealing with a problem that accompanied the Law Faculty’s shift from the Supreme Court into the first Dental School.
The 1975-84 National Government under R. D. Muldoon (1921-1992) exerted strong centralised control over the economy with import restrictions and tariff protection for New Zealand manufacturers. Many large building projects were beset with labour difficulties and materials shortages. The Bank of New Zealand Centre in Wellington was delayed for six years by a dispute with Boilermakers Trade Union during which time no large steel framed building could proceed in New Zealand. The Arts II Building, along with other major University buildings of the period, was built in reinforced concrete. Even so, shortages of reinforcing steel from the New Zealand Steel Mills in the North Island slowed the Arts II Building’s progress.
Fletcher Construction undertook the building contract. Fletcher Construction which was established by Sir James Fletcher (1886-1974) in Dunedin. Fletcher was a Scottish builder who emigrated to New Zealand in 1908. His first house was constructed with his brother William in Broad Bay in 1909. Fletcher Brothers was renamed the Fletcher Construction Company in 1919. The business relocated to Auckland and as Fletcher Holdings and became the largest construction firm in New Zealand. Other major Dunedin projects include the Chief Post Office (1936), Cadbury Fry Hudson’s building and the University Central Library (1965).
The significance of the building also rests on its setting within the development of the University of Otago campus which, in turn, was part of a major expansion of New Zealand universities beginning in the 1960s. The future shape of the New Zealand University system was outlined in the Hughes Parry Report (1959). The Hughes Parry Committee saw the university in a broader social context than previously and it ‘caught educational institutions and industry unprepared, both in their philosophy and in their facilities’.
The Report prefigured the relocation and rebuilding of Canterbury University and the expansion of the campuses at Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston North. The expanded Otago campus was designed to serve 7,500 students by 1975, a tripling of the numbers from 1964. This period of expanded access to university education marks a significant historical shift in New Zealand’s cultural history. Tertiary education was subsidised by the taxpayer and students with bursaries were able to pay fees and receive a small living allowance from the state. Entry to many courses was open to any New Zealand citizen over the age of 21. The Arts II Building reflected the importance of the Arts in the New Zealand University system.
DOCOMOMO Register Selection:
In recent times there has been a resurgence of interest in the ‘aesthetic international modernism’ and growing support for the recognition of the heritage values of modern buildings. Part of this resurgence was the formation in 1988 of DOCOMOMO International, a working party for the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of Modern Movement. The New Zealand DOCOMOMO group put together a ‘top 19’ modern movement places in the country for inclusion in the DOCOMOMO International publication, The Modern Movement in Architecture: Selections from the DOCOMOMO Registers. The Hocken Building was included in this publication for its special architectural significance.
Fair to say that while acclaimed in architectural circles, the public has an ambivalent attitude towards the Hocken Building and that is reflected in some trenchant attitudes expressed towards modernist architecture in the city. Dunedin is widely perceived as a ‘heritage city’. Although attitudes are shifting to embrace building styles and types outside the Victorian and Edwardian eras, the Hocken Building polarises public opinion including amongst the student body.
The Richardson Building has historical significance as a major building constructed within a period of economic and social change in New Zealand. The 1975-84 National Government under R D Muldoon (1921-1992) exerted strong centralised control over the economy with import restrictions and tariff protection for New Zealand manufacturers. Many large building projects were beset with labour difficulties and materials shortages. The Bank of New Zealand Centre in Wellington was delayed for six years by a dispute with Boilermakers Trade Union during which time no large steel framed building could proceed in New Zealand. The Richardson Building, along with other major University buildings of the period, were built in reinforced concrete. Even so, shortages of reinforcing steel from the New Zealand Steel mills in the North Island slowed the Richardson Building’s progress.
The integrity of Béton Brut buildings in New Zealand is being challenged as aesthetic standards change over time. Raw concrete weathers poorly in certain circumstances. Conservation issues range from the unsightly cracking and spalling of surfaces; mould and algae formations on damp shady surfaces; and water staining. Uncoated concrete surfaces are porous and pose cleaning and maintenance difficulties. Like masonry and brick, reinforced concrete structures deteriorate under attack from external elements such frost and erosion from wind and rain. Concrete is subject to an alkali-silica reaction and the corrosion of the reinforcing steel, both of which are affected by the alkalinity of Portland cement concrete. In severe circumstances the structure of reinforced concrete buildings can be adversely affected by clumps of rust forming on the reinforcing rods, a condition known as 'concrete cancer'. These issues have led to the reworking of a number of building facades in New Zealand by painting the concrete surfaces or by extensive re-cladding. While justifiable if such processes extend the useful life of a building, less radical solutions may be found in selective repair and appropriate conservation methods. Untreated concrete buildings retaining their original finishes will become rare in New Zealand in the close future. The rarity of the Richardson Building should be considered as part of these trends in the maintenance of such buildings that are generally proceeding without correct conservation input.
In recent years the Law Library has been refurbished and the building further adapted for the needs of the Faculty. Other changes have been made for the Maori Studies Department (Te Tumu) which now occupies parts of the previous Hocken Library space.
Architect: McCoy & Wixon
Builder: Fletcher Construction Ltd.
Engineer: Hadley & Robinson Ltd.
Mechanical Engineers: Thorpe & Guiney Ltd.
Electrical Engineers: M. Pederson
The Hocken Building is located on the University of Otago campus in North Dunedin. It is built on a narrow site between the retained bank of the Waters of Leith and Castle Street which extended through the campus area at the time of construction. Its immediate context includes the two- storey Student Union Building and Hall to the east and the Castle Street Lecture Theatres to the south. The open space in front of the Hocken Building flows unobstructed to the north but is now enclosed by the Information Services Building (2003) to the south which has been built across the line of Castle Street. The Castle Street Lecture Theatres occupy the space between the Hocken Building the Waters of Leith.
The building was constructed in three blocks: Central, North Blocks and Library Blocks. This schema is reflected in the various arrangements of solid and void in the three towers and the linkages between them. The Library Block at the south end of the building housed the Hocken Gallery and storage stacks for books, archives and photographs which were protected from light damage by solid exterior walls. Similarly, workshops, store rooms and laboratories for the Anthropology Department took up much of the ground floor of Central and North Blocks, leaving the lower level of the building filled in. Floors housing seminar rooms and academic offices were glazed to half the height of the infill concrete panels, setting up a strong repeating pattern throughout.
The blocks are broken by a service core indicated by a semi-circular duct. This terminates in plant room topped with a pair of peaked skylights in reference to the complex roof structures of Bury’s building. The roof of the Hocken Building was originally tiled in reference to the patterned slate roof surfaces of the older university buildings. A secondary stairway is set behind a projecting square bay to the right of the main entrance, indicated at ground level by a free standing concrete stair supported on a tubular steel frame. This complex interplay of forms is sustained around the four main facades. The east elevation facing the Waters of Leith is less complex than its opposite side. The semi-circular duct is repeated as a pair of similar forms that house the lift shafts. Balconies project at irregular intervals with those at the upper levels of the building adding dynamic visual interest to the organisation of the facades.
The principal elevation faces east and its main entrance is positioned asymmetrically in the central block. This is divided into seven sections of differing width, alternating between solid and void both vertically and horizontally. The frame was able to be read as a sequence of continuous vertical and horizontal elements with its intervals filled with glass and ribbed concrete panels in different arrangements dependent on the needs of the internal spaces. The ribbed concrete panels cover the floor plates, further emphasising the height of the building with a strong vertical element. The recessed central section of the middle block is closed in with solid concrete panels relieved by a strong cylindrical form rising past the roof edge. This is balanced by a vertical column of projecting bay windows. The two end bays are divided in half vertically and utilise a similar interplay of solid panel and glass with projecting balconies at the upper level floors. The spaces between the three major blocks are linked by glazed walkways that allow the building to be divided into distinct elements when facing it across the open space and behind from the opposing bank of the Waters of Leith. This assists in breaking down the visual mass of what is a tall building in the context of the campus and gives glimpses of the rock walls of the Water of Leith stream bed behind.
The main entrance doors are situated under a glass canopy supported by a pair of polished concrete slabs. A double-height foyer containing lifts and stairs continues the fair faced concrete textures of the exterior relieved by dark red quarry tile floors and Delft-patterned ceramic tiles around the central services core and elevators. These tiles were used in the upper levels of the building but flexing in high winds caused small movements that loosened and cracked the thin commercial tiles that were produced for domestic bathroom use. These were removed and replaced with fabric panels. Large precast concrete trusses with triangular openings support the stairs while slab form balustrades with tubular steel railings close the outer stair sides. Ceilings are finished in varnished timber tongue and groove lining with recessed troughs carrying fluorescent lighting. Black painted metal spot lights provide supplementary lighting. Steel framing and handrails were painted in primary colours adding a Constructivist touch of detail and lightening the effect of large areas of pale grey cement.
The spot lighting in public parts of the Hocken Building constitutes an important element in the design. These fittings are frequently removed when electrical fixtures are upgraded. The furnishings of the Moot Court are an adaptation of standard auditorium seating but deployed in a specific way. The shaped ceiling in this space is also significant. The decor and lighting of the Hocken Gallery has been partly lost under the redesign of the space for the Maori Studies Department but some elements remain intact.
Decisions made to repair and paint the concrete surfaces of the Hocken Building in 2002 were pragmatic and supported by the architect. They have not extensively altered the architect’s conception but may be read as a dilution of the original character of the building.
Space allocation documents
Contract issued and draft plan
1977 - 1979
Construction by Fletcher Construction Ltd.
Substantial repairs to external fabric. Roof replaced with long run corrugated steel
2008 Addition of Te Tumu Building
Reinforced concrete frame and floors with composite tile roofing (now replaced with long run corrugated steel). Aluminium joinery
10th October 2011
Report Written By
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Selwyn James Parker, Fletcher, James 1886 - 1974'. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007.
Dennis Sharp and Catherine Cooke, The Modern Movement in Architecture: Selections from the DOCOMOMO Registers, Rotterdam, 2000, p.188
University of Otago
University of Otago
Otago University Works and Development Section. Campus Development Plan Preliminary Statement. Dunedin; University of Otago, 1969, reference number F505, Property Services University of Otago.
Otago University Campus Development Committee. University of Otago Campus Planning Review. Dunedin, University of Otago, 1980, reference number F505, Property Services, University of Otago
Otago University Campus Development Committee. Background reports 1-24. Undated. c2000, reference number F505 Property Services, University of Otago.
Otago University Works and Services. Consultants Appointed for University Projects. Undated c1995, reference number F505 Property Services, University of Otago.
Julia Gatley (ed.), Long Live the Modern: New Zealand's New Architecture 1904-1984, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2008
W P Morrell, The University of Otago: a Centennial History , Dunedin, 1969
Sir Hughes Parry, Report of the Committee on New Zealand Universities, December 1959, Government Printer, Wellington, 1960.
Ted McCoy, A Southern Architecture. Dunedin, University of Otago Press, Dunedin, 2008
G E. Thompson, History of the Otago University; J Wilkie & Co, Dunedin, 1919.
G E. Thompson, History of the Otago University; J Wilkie & Co, Dunedin, 1919.
J Gilchrist Wilson, Exposed Concrete Finishes, C R Books Ltd, London 1962.
A fully referenced registration report is available from the Southern Region office of the NZHPT.
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.