An award-winning Hamilton home is under threat of being bulldozed by its new owner.
A leading Waikato heritage consultant Dr 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.
The 1954 family home by architect Peter Middleton was the city's first architecturally designed modernist house and for its time was a brave experiment in open-plan living.
The house earlier this year won a national architecture award for enduring architecture from the Institute of Architects.
The owner, Heather Lomas, died prior to the award being announced, having lived 57 years in the house.
"It is definitely one of Hamilton's hidden gems," said the institute's Waikato and Bay of Plenty branch chairman Andrew Bydder.
"Whereas most overseas examples of modernism use lots of white and are very pristine, this is the Kiwi version and for the first time modernism was showing off native timbers."
To lose the house would be devastating, he said.
"This is not just an important house, a particularly good example of a whole way of life, it could be a museum piece."
To ensure at least photographic records of the house remain, Mr Bydder led a group of New Zealand architects through the house at the weekend to document it.
The house plans are to be given to the University of Auckland Architecture Archive if the house can not be saved.
The property sale went unconditional about two weeks ago with a handover date of August 24.
It was sold to long-time neighbour Sally Wise, who has previously indicated she would be happy for someone to come and take the house away for free.
When contacted by the Waikato Times Mrs Wise said she had not made a decision on the building's fate, but was adamant what she did was none of the council's business.
Mrs Wise denied ever telling the Lomas children definitely that she wanted to buy the property and live in the house.
"Originally I said I'd love to keep the house but I'd have to look into all the possibilities, and this is a private matter," she said.
"I know it has value to some, but not to everyone."
Dr McEwan said one option for the house was for it to be turned into an artist's or writer's retreat.
It was now up to the council to step in, she said.
"It should say, ‘let's break district plan rules' and tell the new owner they can build higher at the back if they like, but must keep the lakefront as is.
"The simple fact is we are not all free to do whatever we want on our properties.
"It is a matter of national importance that we keep our heritage and we have national legislation to back up that."
Hamilton City Council's general manager of city environments, Brian Croad, said no resource consent application for any changes to the property had been received, nor had the council received any application for demolition consent for the property.
“The house is not subject to the heritage provisions of our current district plan," he said.
"Anyone with an interest in a property with potential heritage value could work alongside Historic Places Trust or council to look at options for possible protection."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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