+ About Christchurch Modern
We're not architects, we're not historians and we don't know much about anything. However we do like modern houses and Christchurch is a great place for them.
If you know of a house that deserves a mention please let us know. If we've made a mistake, do the same. If you like the site, tell your friends. If you hate the site, tell your friends you like it anyway. It's a minor white lie that anyone would forgive.

127 Major Hornibrook Rd. Cowey House / O’Neill House

Don Cowey designed this  Mt Pleasant house for his mum in 1953, He was straight out of architecture school, aged 25, and built it together with his mates Allan Mitchener and Allan Wild. Sixty years later it was sadly demolished due to earthquake damage and lovingly reimagined by Bridget and Duval O’Neill.

Here’s the story from Duval, it’s a good one:

Despite the obvious deterioration, and a series of alterations that the house had been subjected to, there was something about this house and the site that just felt right. Having moved from living on the hills in Wellington, we also liked the elevation and views. Discovering the house had been designed by Don was a bonus, and led us to becoming friends with him and his wife Jocelyn.

The house faired reasonably well in the February earthquake, a true testament to Don, however it was deemed uneconomic to repair.
Sadly, the earthquake was to claim Don’s life.  When the earthquake struck, Don was in the back garden of his recently completed Redcliffs home, picking raspberries for his beloved wife Jocelyn.
Don had designed the original house around 1953 when he was only 25. He and a friend also built it, as you did back then. Don was proud of his design and explained to us the way he wanted to unveil the views as you walked through the house. He positioned it to preserve those views. He also created a private rear garden that was accessed by a small stone bridge that his father built. As the years passed, both house and garden evolved to suit the changing needs of the various occupants.
I don’t know how many alteration concepts we created, dating back to when we first bought the house in 2005. Some were dream-schemes and there was always the ongoing struggle as an architect to formulate a final solution. The earthquakes added a further dimension to this, and of course another level of constraint was working with the insurer. Once we had the decision to rebuild, the design strategy was largely an initiative in maintaining the essence of the original Don Cowey design, while taking the opportunity to adapt it to more modern living, whatever that has come to mean. We didn’t want a big house, despite having a pretty constant flow of family visiting us. Excluding the enclosure of the carport as a garage, we added just 36 metres over two levels.
In many ways this project was an alteration, the restriction being the original house, the opportunity being the unique solutions that arose from working within those restraints. I think Don would have approved, he was after all a modernist architect, a very generous man, he would have embraced it.
Thanks to HMOA for the tip and Russel Kleyn for the new pics.

Comment on this post