Significant man, significant legacy

18 Aug 2022

With his self-designed buildings all around, Sir Frederick Miles Warren, architect and Old Boy, rounded the quad one final time on Thursday 18 August as his hearse made its way to the College gates.

It was a poignant moment for the entire school community with the late Sir Miles honoured after his funeral service in the Chapel by the sounds of spirited haka, the boys paying tribute to his life, his contribution, and his mana.

Sir Miles attended school from 1941–1945 and it remained a significant part of his life thereafter until his death aged 93.

He is credited with ensuring the heritage buildings were strengthened, a fact which saved the campus during the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. And he is the person most responsible for the buildings which now fill the site, including the Old Boys’ Theatre, the Administration Block, and The Miles Warren Building.

Dignitaries from throughout the city, plus colleagues, friends and family filled the Chapel for his service where the Rev Bosco Peters, former Chaplain of College conducted the celebration of his life.

“I remember some conversations with him on site, and he always had a sharp wit, twinkle in his eye and wise words.”

Sir Miles’ niece, Sarah Smith spoke of his being brought up in a Victorian household and of his receiving a “good classical education” at Christ’s College.

Although her “Uncle Fred” had already decided on architecture as a profession, it was frowned upon and seen as akin to carpentry or plumbing.

From a junior draughtsman with Cecil Wood, Sir Miles subsequently studied architecture in Auckland, and on graduation worked in London, travelling through France and Italy before returning to set up practice on his own.

She said the rest was history with him eventually being knighted for his efforts for architecture, his being celebrated as an icon and his being granted the prestigious Order of New Zealand.

He gifted his home at Ohinetahi in Governor’s Bay to the nation and established a trust to administer it.

A book lover, a sailor, devoted to architecture and the arts in general, Sir Miles’ was a great raconteur, she said.

“He was a true New Zealand icon who will be greatly missed by us all.”

Barry Dacombe, a colleague of 50 years, spoke of how many of Sir Miles’ early professional colleagues remained great friends. He spoke of Sir Miles introduction to the New Brutalism style in London, and his development of what became “the Christchurch style.”

“As he famously said ‘I never met a straight line I didn’t like’.”

As the commissions flowed, so the office expanded, and now there are more than 300 staff in offices as far afield as Sydney and Melbourne.