Heritage architect Ian Bowman studied original photos of the building to make sure the new development was true to its history. Photo: Charles Anderson.

History recreated at school of music


When Ian Bowman first walked into the then Nelson School of Music in the late 1960s he was just a child learning the violin.

Then, on the outside of the building were ornate decorations that welcomed Nelsonians into the building that was originally constructed 117 years ago. But in 1970 it was earthquake strengthened and large reinforced buttresses were put in. Those ornate decorations were destroyed.

So, for 50 years, Nelsonians have not seen the building as it was originally intended.
“It was butchered really,” says Ian who is now a heritage architect tasked with recreating buildings true to their original form. “I imagine they thought it was easier to knock it down.”

But there was a desire to bring the school, renamed the Nelson Centre for Musical Arts, back to its former glory.

So, Ian started out researching old photographs of what the school looked like.

“As it was originally built it was very ornate neo classical building.”

Both the exterior and interior have been reconstructed and restored as part of the $9.5 million job that began in 2013 due to earthquake risk.

The centre is now finally open and everything that was taken off in the 1970s has been put back on – recreated in glass reinforced concrete which is more durable and lightweight.

He says the project, which was managed by the architects Irving Smith, does justice to the original vision of the school of music.

“I think its absolutely tremendous.”

It is also a personal job for Ian. His own father designed the Kidson Block for the school in 1971 and he also met his wife through the school.

And now, 50 years on, he has also put his own permanent mark on the building – recreating it the way it was meant to be.