We were sad to hear about the loss of Sir Miles Warren (10 May 1929 – 9 August 2022), one of New Zealand's most celebrated architects and a key figure of modernism in New Zealand. On the day of his funeral we wanted to share some of our favourite examples of his work and the current Warren and Mahoney practice.
Words by Emma Eagle
Image above: College House (1964)
Photography credit Warren and Mahoney, Wilkie and Bruce
Miles Warren has occupied somewhat of a patriarch position in New Zealand architecture. By all accounts he was absolutely devoted to his work and his garden. I loved hearing that after the earthquake he walked around the city to check on his (many) buildings and clearly they were as important to him as if they were his children. I loved his permanent bowtie fixture and his enormous eyebrows, that cheeky grin and especially how he kept a twinkle in his eye.
As a university student I was lucky enough to spend a year living in one of his most famous architectural designs – College House (1964) in Christchurch. It's typical of the Warren and Mahoney design language of the time with brutalist forms in white painted block brick, concrete and dark stained timber. I didn't know much about architecture at the time but since then I've come to love the characteristics of the original Warren and Mahoney works as well as the more contemporary designs like the Supreme Court (2010).
Before leaving Christchurch I attended my graduation in the Christchurch Town Hall (1972), another shining example of the original Warren and Mahoney team. There are so many details to love about this building which has to be one of the most special civic buildings in the country. The external structure in concrete is an imposing and dramatic brutalist form which which offers a sense of beauty and softness as a contrast with three magical, round head fountains. I remember my mother was a bridesmaid for her friend and photographed in front of those.
That's the kind of thing the great architect leaves with us. Not only a picturesque backdrop but also the conceptual offerings – about good design and creating human, liveable spaces as well as being careful to use materials wisely, but with a sense of drama and a touch of cheeky delight.