What an incredible legacy Sir Miles Warren has left Christ’s College

18 Aug 2022

The entire College community is in mourning as we remember this significant Old Boy, who not only carved an architectural career of excellence throughout New Zealand, but whose tangible contributions to College are evident everywhere on site.

Sir Miles, whose funeral service will take place in the Chapel on Thursday, was one of New Zealand’s most well-known architects and a very proud Old Boy who never lost touch with his educational foundations.

Frederick Miles Warren (5162) joined Christ’s College as a Somes Scholar in 1942, and was in Julius House from 1942-1945. He followed his older brother Derek Hay Warren, 1941-1944. Our records show Miles weighing 5 stone 9 lbs and winning the boxing flyweight final in 1942. He once described himself as “a singularly unathletic boy” whose greatest sporting achievement was to be the captain of an under-14 cricket team.

“It was the lowest possible cricket class in the school. Our great aim was to be bowled out as quickly as possible so that we could go to sleep under the trees,” he once said.

His academic abilities more than compensated, and he continued to be a Somes Scholar throughout his school days.

According to his biography he was nicknamed “Drainlayer Warren” because in a Chemistry class everyone was asked to name their chosen profession. The courses to be taken for a Bachelor of Architecture were cited as history of architecture, construction, sanitation and hygiene.

At a meeting with Headmaster R J Richards, he was asked what he was planning for a career and when he said an architect, Richards reportedly said “Oh, Warren Minor, we had high hopes for you.”

His biography also states:

“I was the usual mis-fit in a sport dominated school. I was small – only two of us were under 6 stone (40kg) – hopeless at games, and quickly dubbed a nasty little swot which was the lowest of the low. I did not work at school and certainly not by today’s standard. The aim was to come somewhere in the upper half of the class, certainly not top…I had the misfortune in my second year to be upgraded to the Removes, where the boys were two years older. Then to matriculate and be in the 6th Form at 14.”

Clearly the buildings at Christ’s College had an influence on the young student.

“One saw them, but I had no idea who the architects were or what the styles were. Obviously the forms did impact on me,” he said.

On leaving school he worked for one of New Zealand’s foremost architects, Cecil Wood, as his sole draftsman earning 30 shillings a week. The rest is history.

Sir Miles qualified as an architect, worked in London and returned to Christchurch where he set up the Warren and Mahoney practice.

He designed the Chapman Block, the extension to Big School, which now functions as the College library, the gymnasium, the Tothill Science Block, the conversion of the Selwyn building, staff housing, the administration building, the swimming pool, Corfe, Condell’s and the car park complex, as well as the Fine Arts building and the Old Boys’ Theatre.

To see Sir Miles talking about the architecture at College, please enjoy this short NZ On Air documentary from 2011 – Brutal Beauty – The Architecture of Sir Miles Warren.

In 2012, for his pivotal influence in College, Sir Miles was presented with the Christ’s College Leadership Medal acknowledging his boundless enthusiasm, passion and talent. You can read the full article in College Magazine.

His long-term association with College was honoured by our naming our newest building The Miles Warren Building.

His drive, his determination, his fearless outspoken opinions, and his lifelong love for the heritage of College and Christchurch itself were an inspiration throughout his long life.

Wouldn’t it be marvellous if every boy who comes to College could emulate a little of Sir Miles’ leadership!