Q&A with architect Maurice Mahoney
How badly was the original house damaged in the earthquakes?
The original house and garage were seriously affected by liquefaction. The house sank 350mm and the garage 450mm. The garage was also affected by ground displacement, it moved 400mm. The blockwork walls of the house cracked in many places and so did the brickwork of the two chimneys (but they remained standing until we had them taken down for safety reasons). The windows jammed and would not open. The drains (old clay pipes) were all broken and the underground power cables in the street were broken. We had no power for six weeks and no sewage for five months – a chemical toilet instead. We continued to live in the house until it was about to be demolished.
What was the response from your family when you decided to re-imagine the old place rather than start with a new design?
The family response to the rebuild scheme was, “Great, we love it.”
Demolition day must still have been a sad one?
Yes, demolition day was very sad indeed but so was seeing so many of our firm’s major buildings come down. Some that I’d spent five years each in documenting, dealing with specialist consultants, council and builders and overseeing through to completion, plus handling all the paperwork entailed in multimillion-dollar projects. All for nothing, thanks to the quakes.
Your builders painstakingly saved parts of the house for re-use. Why haven’t more buildings in Christchurch been taken apart like this?
It is no doubt argued that in many cases it was too dangerous to go into damaged buildings to recover materials from them. Either that or it was too costly to spend time recovering materials for reuse. My builders saved stuff because I instructed them to do so – and that work was included in the contract.
Would you change anything in the house now?
There is one thing I wish I had done differently: to make the door between the entrance hall and the dining room a sliding door instead of retaining it as a double-action swinging door as original. But it is too late now.
1. Study 2. Bathroom 3. Bedroom 4. Pantry 5. Laundry 6. Kitchen 7. Dining 8. Sunroom 9. Entry 10. Living
Far right Framed architectural plans for Wellington parliament buildings hang in Mahoney’s office.
Right In between Mahoney’s drawing board with house plans and immaculately arranged desk sits the cardboard file for the rebuild of his home.