Restoration close to their hearts

19:52, Nov 16 2012
Havelock North home
The new-look James Chapman-Taylor house behind the hedge in Havelock North.

Christchurch may be far from Havelock North and the King family's restored James Chapman-Taylor house, but Christ Church Cathedral is foremost in Johanna King's mind.

She and a cluster of like minds are determined to save that historic building and they mean business, supporting the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust in its fight.

The Restore Christ Church Cathedral group, of which she is a member, already has more than $4 million pledged for the restoration and, after investigations, research and engineering inspection, the group is adamant that the cathedral can be returned to its former grandeur.

The engineering career of her husband, Andrew, is directly involved with earthquakes and disaster management, with particular focus on the structural performance of buildings and risk mitigation measures.

"I was born in Christchurch," she says. "The cathedral is the city's icon and symbol, the central point of the city. Everyone knows the Christ Church Cathedral.

"Unfortunately, the visible and much-photographed damage was done after the earthquake by machinery sent to rescue the people thought to be trapped in it, and by the subsequent decision of the bishop [Victoria Matthews] to demolish the spire tower.


"Actually 70 per cent of the cathedral is still intact. Just 30 per cent has been damaged by the earthquake and intervention. The building can and should be restored, not demolished."

Johanna and the Christchurch group are resolved to save their beloved cathedral, which dates back to 1881. They have achieved a court injunction to stay the demolition, while issues surrounding legal rights, obligations and related matters are considered by the courts.

While judges weigh up those matters, Johanna is embarking on a contingency fundraising campaign and using her Havelock North home as the centrepiece.

"We bought the place in 2008. It has had a number of owners who have all made various changes over the years, but the original part of the cottage was still in original 1918 condition when we planned our alterations. We approached it using careful restoration practice. Reuse, recycle, restore, so nothing left the site until it had been assessed."

Johanna trained as an artist and teacher and, after having three children, returned to university to study architecture and landscape post grad. Her skill set and being married to an engineer have resulted in years of diverse and fascinating projects, in new builds and renovations, garden structure and design. She has now retired, to return to painting and gardening, and daughter Georgina Thow runs King Consultants (Hawke's Bay) landscape architectural practice, using the same philosophy.

Johanna and Andrew's approach to the renovation of their Havelock North cottage was handled with their hallmark professionalism. With commitments to Wellington, they installed a camera on site in Havelock North so they could project manage the renovation from their Heretaunga home office.

The device now acts as a security camera.

"We began with the garage, adding a second storey as an art studio, ensuring the lines of the roof, the windows and the french doors were all in keeping with the arts-and-crafts style. We lived in the five-metre-by-five-metre space, which was both our site office as well as our kitchen, bedroom and ensuite while the house was being altered."

The project was driven by a desire to create an appealing addition in the Chapman-Taylor style to a budget. Recycle and restore ruled and Trade Me was the source of many "perfect finds". So, when the old kitchen and adjoining bathroom were deconstructed, all efforts were made to retain elements.

Original brick walls were re- engineered and built into the surrounding structure. The entire alteration was to reflect the arts- and-crafts movement style that characterised Chapman-Taylor's houses.

"The requirement for handmade, adzed-beamed, spokeshaved architraves was a bit of a learning curve for our builder. But Mark Andrews and his team were up to the challenge and their workmanship was worthy of that handmade era.

"The steeply pitched roofs are covered with maintenance-free, lightweight CertainTeed asphalt tiles. The studio addition above the garage and the second storey of the house are clad with ply and batten and painted black a la Chapman-Taylor.

"All the double-hung windows, french doors and interior fittings were second-hand."

It took Johanna months to source the items from the internet, strip back, repair, repaint and trailer them up to the site. And, using her artistic flair she has created unique and stylish aspects to the renovation.

"With every build or alteration, there are challenges. I'd originally wanted small black and cream Winkleman tiles on the kitchen family room floor to match the original linoleum, but the $10,000 cost was prohibitive, so we elected, instead, to have the floor slab cast in tinted concrete cut to look like stone slabs.

"The grid cutting was great, but unfortunately the coloured concrete went blotchy. When our concrete contractor next saw it he declared it was 'not a good look', suggested the floor be tiled and stumped up for large black and cream tiles."

What has been achieved is a delightful and seamless extension to the original cottage, and Johanna enjoys challenging guests to tell where the new starts and the original finishes.

"The renovation has caused so much interest in the community, so I am hoping by opening the house to the public, it will give interested people a chance to have a look at the work and see what can be achieved."

Like many builds, it taxed both Johanna and Andrew and builders MCA, who were challenged to learn old skills and build in the old way, but the results are impressive.

What was a small cottage hidden behind a hedge has been turned into a comfortable and interesting period home bearing the hallmarks of Chapman-Taylor in the timberwork, pitched roof lines, chapel ceilings, adzed beams and panelling. It is a build packed with interest, the unexpected, befitting the English cottage style of the arts and crafts movement.

How appropriate it is that this renovation project, which transported a cottage with much needed upgrading into a retro architectural structure, will open for public viewing as a fundraiser for the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral.

The property's old garden has been reshaped, planted and "tweeked", Johanna says, to suit the alterations to the cottage. It now includes a productive vegetable garden, berry and fruit trees and a henhouse.

The Art Haus studio with artworks for sale is a bonus, an opportunity to be maximised in the knowledge gate fees are going to save a very special cathedral.

The cottage, at 9 Greenwood Rd, Havelock North, will be open on Sunday from 1pm to 3.30pm. Entry $10.

The Dominion Post