Architect/Conservator Ian Bowman

Nelson School of Music

The Nelson School of Music building was designed by one of New Zealand’s foremost architects, Frederick de Jersey Clere, and opened in 1901.  The original building formed an important part of the early development of Nelson City and was a key cultural asset.  It is noted as having world class acoustics and is a recognised international venue for chamber music. It  is listed category 1 by Heritage New Zealand and group A by the Nelson City Council.

Over the years the building has been subject to a series of modifications of varying sensitivity.  In 1970 the building was strengthened in a brutal fashion – all external and some internal ornamentation’s removed and a series of ill proportioned buttresses and bond beams were added to the exterior.  In 1983 a new ill-placed foyer and secondary performance space was added.

Conservation and extensions to the building commenced in 2013, when the complex was closed due to seismic strength issues.  Ian was the project conservation architect, writing the plan,  condition survey and conservation specifications that guided the conservation of the old building.  He collaborated with the design architects, Irving Smith, to repair, restore and reconstruct the old building while sensitively strengthening the building and adding a new, sympathetic foyer performance venue and teaching space.

In 2019 the project won a NZIA Heritage Award and an Award of Distinction in the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.  The UNSCO judges described project as bringing new life to a significant Edwardian landmark, was a model for others and it established a noteworthy model for seismic upgrades.