Hamiltonians, contact your city councillors! TVNZ is reporting that a 1955 Hamilton home designed by Peter Middleton (that we featured in our October/November 2010 issue) is under threat of demolition.
Paul McCredie did a beautiful job of photographing the building for us (Linda Tyler wrote about the house). It's in a lush garden that the late Heather Lomas, the home's owner, spent decades creating.
The home won an Enduring Architecture Award from the New Zealand Institute of Architects earlier this year. Middleton was commissioned to design the house by Heather Lomas and her husband Alan. Heather (below) lived in the house until her death in March. The house was later sold to a neighbour by members of Heather's family.
According to the TVNZ report, Waikato heritage consultant Ann McEwan "has called for the Lomas house on Lake Cres to be saved, and wants the Hamilton City Council to bend its district plan to save the 1950s building from demolition." You can read the TVNZ story here.
It's a vexed issue, this. The new owner of the house is, legally, perfectly entitled to demolish it. The Lomas house, like many great modernist buildings, falls into an unprotected grey zone, where these structures are often not considered worthy of heritage protection until it's too late.
Apart from the fact that we really like it, the Lomas house has genuine historical merit. It is believed to be Hamilton's first architecturally designed house, and represented a brave early experiment in open-plan living.
In its citation for the home's Enduring Architecture award, the NZ Institute of Architects said:
The Lomas House is a fine building and also an inspiring architectural story. Designed for a young family in the 1950s, at a time when materials were rationed but optimism was far more plentiful, the house has gracefully kept pace with that family’s life for more than half a century. Frugal, but never mean with its spatial allocation, the house on its well-positioned site is cleverly and subtly arranged around the framework of a simple grid. Over the years, it has settled into a companionate relationship with the relaxed and unfussy garden. Inhabited beautifully, altered little, and maintained with care, the house is a case study in the lasting benefits of a sympathetic relationship between clients and Architect.
Much of this inventiveness is evident in the home's careful planning, with level changes and sliding walls creating a greater sense of space in the living area.
In the TVNZ story, Ann McEwan suggests the Hamilton City Council should break its district plan rules to ensure the preservation of the house. The council says it hasn't received any demolition order for the building as yet.