Alumni and former staff came from all over the country on Saturday, 10 September, to celebrate CH’s 50 years on UC’s ‘new’ Ilam site with an afternoon tea, tours of the college and formal dinner.

We were privileged to be joined by CH’s original architects Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney at afternoon tea. Sir Miles and Maurice’s firm, Warren and Mahoney, won the New Zealand Institute of Architects’ (NZIA) Gold Medal in 1969 for its work on College House; in 1999 the firm won the NZIA Enduring Award.

On Saturday Sir Miles reminisced about the commissioning of the project in 1962. ”The very conservative College House board took quite a punt in asking us to design its new hall in Ilam. Maurice and I were in our early 30s and although we had a good portfolio under our belts, the College House project was very exciting for what was then a very small architectural practice.

“We decided that the Oxford-Cambridge model of houses, or ‘sets’, built around a quad would suit College House’s beautiful new site very well. This was quite a different model from the usual type of university hall of residence where there were long corridors with bedrooms on either side. Donald Dobson, the Bursar at the time, gave us our brief: A college for 120 men. You are supposed to know what you are doing Warren. Get on with it.

“We made sure each study bedroom was spacious, and faced north for sun and warmth. This was quite a new concept for university accommodation. We balanced the domestic scale of the quad with the taller library building at the east end. The chapel, built a year or two later, is even taller with its long narrow shape thrusting itself into the quad. And then we finished off the dining hall and chapel with butterfly-shaped roofs. The joke was that we had used the W-M shape for Warren and Mahoney - this wasn’t quite true, but it made a good story and it’s endured to this day!”

Sir Miles said he used his experience as a student at the University of Auckland when designing the bathrooms on each floor of the eight houses. “At Auckland there were all sorts of student pranks with baths flooding and the water went all the way through each floor – and as students we had to pay for the damage. To prevent this happening at CH, we placed the bathrooms in separate blocks, but still attached to each house. The Royal Institute of British Architects’ journal of the time said they were ‘the finest loos in Christendom’.”

Looking back, Sir Miles said the CH quad is one of the most memorable spaces produced by Warren and Mahoney. The chapel is, he says, “Our finest room”.

At the close of the day’s events Board Chairman Anna Wilkes concluded, “We were absolutely delighted to celebrate this 50-year milestone with Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney. Their architecture, in what was called the ‘Christchurch School’ of white-painted concrete block, has stood the test of time very well. It works as well for us all today as it did 50 years ago. Our students are all very proud to live in what has become a truly iconic campus.”

CH Ilam 50 56

Maurice Mahoney; Sir Miles Warren; Lyndsey Hadlee, daughter of Chas Luney, CH's original building contractor; and current CH architect, Alec Bruce

Anna CH Ilam 50 129

Anna Wilkes Board Chairman speaking about the introduction of women to College House

Audience CH Ilam 50 141

Audience enjoying the dinner

Miles Maurice CH Ilam 50 6.1

Maurice Mahoney and Sir Miles Warren

High Table CH Ilam 50 124

High Table guests James Bayly (2014-2015 guest speaker), Tate Steele (2015-2016 CCACC), Anna Wilkes (1994 Board Chairman and guest speaker), Alastair Drayton (BM), Noelene Bean and Rev Peter Bean (1959-1966 guest speaker)

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