UC National Conservatorium of Music

uc national conservatorium 2

The University of Canterbury National Conservorium of Music have posted plans and images of Miles Warren’s concept for their new building next door to the historical Old Arts Centre in Christchurch. It’s a bit rubbish, unfortunately. Discussion here.

The architect is clearly trying to follow the grain of the existing urban fabric, mimicking the agglomerative logic of the Old Arts Centre. It adds a third quadrangle to the block and maintains the street-edge line of the existing buildings.

But what is the building trying to say? It doesn’t seem to convey much of anything.

It looks about thirty years out of date. The design certainly doesn’t say ‘international institution of the arts’ like the University seems to think it does.  There is a bunch of arbitrary divisions into blocks and gables, as if ameliorating the substantial mass of the building was the sole design agenda. The building doesn’t contribute to the historical block so much as blush embarrassed in the corner.

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Two of Warren’s buildings are among my favourite buildings in the country: his own house and studio, and the College House dormitories and chapel. Warren and Mahoney have done some great buildings, but also some truly awful ones (I haven’t forgiven them for the Royal Oak Mall). Perhaps the University gave a little too much credence to a big name? I realise you aren’t supposed to say this in NZ for fear of disloyalty, but perhaps an international competition might have yielded some more worthy results?

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