Displeasure at plan to paint panels

Precast aggregate concrete panels that grace the front of the 1970s-era John Wickliffe House in Dunedin's Exchange have become the latest battleground in the city's heritage conservation debate.

The company that owns John Wickliffe House has applied for resource consent to repair and paint the building, which is in a protected townscape precinct zone.

At the heart of the issue is a plan to paint the panels - which are covered with exposed and polished West Coast serpentine stone - black and grey.

The plan brought a strong response from an architect involved in the design of the building.

Rodney Dalziel responded to the idea of black for some panels: ''Oh good Lord - oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.''

On one side of the debate stand the likes of Otago academic Michael Findlay and archivist and architecture writer David Murray, while on the other are property owners Alistair Broad and Cr Hilary Calvert.

Mr Findlay, a professional practice fellow, said the panels ''contributed largely to the visual integrity'' of a building that was a product of its time, and needed conservation.

But John Wickliffe House owners' representative Tony Offen said: ''We've made a genuine effort, actually, to complement the changing faces of the Exchange.

''Painting is our preferred option.''

Submissions closed last week on the consent and a hearing is set for August 14.

Five submissions oppose the plan, while three are in support.

Council resource consents manager Alan Worthington said the district plan stipulated buildings in the north Princes St-Moray Pl-Exchange Townscape Precinct required consent before being painted.

The work was a restricted discretionary activity.

The design, appearance and cladding of the building had to be considered when changes were made.

South Pacific Resorts Ltd, which has Mr Broad and Cr Calvert as directors, has supported the work.

In its submission, the company said the work should not need a notified consent.

''The city has recently expressed concern about buildings not being maintained.

''The idea is to encourage, not discourage repairs.

''Does someone in planning think Rattray St looks good?''

Mr Offen said plenty of Exchange buildings were painted- Phillip Laing House had dark painted panels, and the historic former BNZ building had been painted.

''I don't think painting is something that needs to be steered away from.

''It's just a question of coming up with a colour or combination that works.''

''In terms of us being able to maintain that exterior facade in a practical way, this is is our preferred option."

But Mr Findlay said in his submission painting of the panels was similar to painting a previously unpainted stone building in a heritage precinct.

''While many buildings were treated in this way in the past, the practice has virtually ceased and emphasis has turned in the opposite direction.''

He likened modifying the building to modifications made to 19th-century buildings in the 1930s, which meant much of their character was destroyed.

Mr Murray said the 40-year-old building was ''not widely appreciated'', but was one of the major construction projects of 1970s Dunedin.

Mr Dalziel, now 81 and living in Whangarei, said the panels were designed to require little maintenance.

''As soon as you do something like painting or make other changes you then create a whole new maintenance issue''.

His mentor Ian Dunn, who designed the building until he fell ill and Mr Dalziel took over, ''went to a lot of trouble'' to source serpentine stone from the West Coast.

Previous Dunedin buildings designed by the firm using similar panels gathered dust, meaning they had to be washed.

The serpentine stone was highly polished, so that would not happen, and should be ''reasonably permanent''.

''I suppose about all you can do is paint it, but I cannot see any real reason to do that.''


John Wickliffe House

The responses given by the original architect and company are no longer valid. The architect was paid for his expertise back then, and the rest are typical of why this town is dying - no forward thinking or movement, and a desire to dwell in past triumphs that now reqiure refurbishment an updating to reflect a new era.

I think the new look gives a new vibrance to John Wickliffe House while reflecting much of the original intent. Move on!

Coast Rock

So, that's what happened to our Serpentine stone. The Serpentine is a creek estuary at Kumara Beach, where the Coast to Coast starts. It has been looking ragged. Why not take dolomite? Not gneiss, I hope you paid our lads.

Submitter notes

The application for resource consent lacks supporting information. There is no condition report for the modern concrete and steel building; and no professional opinion from a structural engineer on the building's proneness to concrete cracking, spalling and ultimately, concrete failure – if this is a critical structural issue for John Wickliffe House, we're not told.

The applicant, an architect, acting on behalf of the building owner, provides only a specification - and no satisfactory assessment of environmental effects (AEE), that might include discussion of the environmental impact for the listed townscape precinct (TH03) and the Central Activity Zone.

In particular, the effects of using flat dark colour on such a large fenestrated banded building in a prominent position at The Exchange are not discussed in the application. The hope might be that the proposed applied paint finish is not merely cosmetic.

Leave wrangling on building style and history to the academics, perhaps (the building isn't listed for protection). But let's hear more from retired architect Mr Rodney Dalziel, experts in building construction, and those qualified to discuss the maintenance of townscape precinct values in planning terms.

Hang on a minute

I don't believe it, Speedfreak and I see eye to eye on something , I too wouldn't paint it due to future costs, and if council owned I would oppose it. But it's not, and the colour looks nice while not imposing itself and becoming an eyesore, so I say let them go ahead if the wish. In the end it's not to hard to restore the stone work in the future if someone wants to, unless I'm missing something like having to destroy the polished surface maybe. Some stonemason or painter can probably fill us in on the finer points.

Red tape will win again.

Held back by red tape and bureacracy. The Colour Scheme proposed is not what you would see at Mitre 10 Mega. The building itself is 1970s modernism and not heritage. And even the colour itself would help refresh the area as it's dead over there from various crumbling buildings, a burned out fish and chip shop and other eyesores in the area.

To paint or not to paint?

That is the question. I'm a firm believer in not painting anything that does not require it as, in future, preperation and painting will be required again.

But having said that, the artist's impression of the painted building certainly does look better.

Put simply, if I was the owner, I wouldn't paint due to cost and future cost. If said building was council-owned and the cost was to be borne by the ratepayer, I ould be against any painting. As it is privately owned and there is no chance of the burden being foisted upon myself, feel free to go ahead and paint if you wish.

1970s is not heritage

Please, a building barely 40 years old is not a heritage buidling. The owners should be allowed to paint the panels. Similar to the Forsyth Bar building which was painted a few years ago with little fuss.

John Wickliffe

How about a demolition colour? John Wickliffe House is an ugly building, typical of its time, and will never become iconic. No loss if it is allowed to decay and for the wrecking ball to come in.

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