The second place that I visited at the weekend was one I’ve always wanted to have a poke around, College House. Designed by Sir Miles Warren, who thought it was his best building, it was constructed in the late 1960s and is an exemplar of liveable brutalism.
As is the home from more than 100 students, we had to wait for a guided tour to start on the hour. This gave us a bit of time to look through the foyer and the dining room, which holds part of their exceptional contemporary art collection.
There wasn’t anything in the guide book about the art collection, but it really was something. Started by Alex Baird in 1981, they have acquired more than 90 works from artists including Pat Hanly, Gretchen Albrecht, Bill Hammond, Bill Sutton, Tony De Lautour, Joanna Braithwaite, Ralph Hotere, and so many more. Honestly, there was probably too much art. It is a college, not an art gallery, so at times it feels like they’ve tried to jam everything they have in, and it can be a bit cluttered. It’s hard to appreciate a 4-metre wide Bill Sutton while standing in a corridor that is only 2 metres wide. But back to the buildings.
The centre of the complex is the chapel building, which is unfortunately closed for earthquake repairs at the moment. Hopefully it will have reopened by the time the next festival roles around. There are 8 houses, each with 3 stories, on either side of a quad.
The Dining Hall is at one end of the quad, and at the other is the library. Even though College House was built in the 60s, walking through the door you could easily be in a library that has been gathering dust at Oxford or Cambridge for hundreds of years. It has two floors, an intricate ceiling, and feels wonderfully out of time.
It was disappointing that we weren’t able to see the chapel, but the complex is still amazing, and well worth a visit.