Nelson School of Music



  • Judges Special Award, Taipei International Design Awards, Taiwan

  • Finalist for Taipei International Design Award 2020

  • Shortlisted The Building Award, 2020 INDE Awards, Asia Pacific Region

  • Nominated for Great Britain’s International Build Architecture Awards 2020


  • UNESCO Award of Distinction, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Awards, Malaysia, 2019

  • Finalist World Small Architecture Prize, World Architecture Festival 2019, Amsterdam

  • Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects Nelson Marlborough Architecture Award - Heritage

  • Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects Nelson Marlborough Architecture Award - Education

  • Resene Colour Award

  • People’s Choice Award

  • Nominated for German Design Awards 2020 by German Design Council

  • Finalist New Zealand Interior Awards 2019 - Civic.

  • Gold Award - New Zealand Commercial Project Awards – Heritage and Restoration

  • Award of Merit, Adaptive Reuse and Heritage, NZ Property Awards

  • Finalist, Arts and Culture, NZ Property Awards



  • Nelson School of Music Aaron Betsky, “Unfinished and Far Far Away : The Architecture of Irving Smith Architects”, Altrim Publishers, Thomson Press (India) Limited, 2023, pgs 118-127

  • 2022

    • Andrew Barrie and Donna Luo, “Itinerary_City Guide: Whakatu Nelson”, Architecture Now,, 29.9.2022

    • Andrew Barrie and Donna Luo, “City Guide: Whakatu Nelson, Architecture New Zealand, September/October 2022, pgs109-111

    • 2021

      • Taipei City Government, "Nelson School of Music", Taipei International Design Award 2020, November 2020, page 108-109

      • 2020

        • ‘INDE.Awards Official Shortlist 2020’, Indesign, #81 - The Education on the Move Issue, 2020, pg36

        • “Classic Symphony”, Design Detail, India, Vol.7, Issue 69, January 2020, pg 72-78

        • “Unesco Heritage Awards”, Architecture New Zealand, January / February 2020, pg 19

        • "Nelson School of Music", SEAB, South East Asia Building, January/February 2020, pg 62-65

        • 2019

          • “Two NZ Buildings honoured at UNESCO Heritage Awards”, Architecture Now,, 16 October

          • "World Architecture Festival Short List", Architecture New Zealand, September/October, pg 18-19

          • “NZ projects named finalists for WAF Prizes”, Architecture Now,, 12 August

          • “NZIA Local Architecture Awards 2019”, Architecture NZ, July/August 2019, pg 70 & 71

          • “2019 Interior Awards”, Interior, Issue 32, Jun-Aug 2019, pg 86

          • “2019 Nelson/Marlborough Architecture Awards”, Architecture Now,, 30 May

          • Justine Harvey, “Nelson Centre of Musical Arts”, Architecture New Zealand, January/February 2019, pages 6, 46-56

          • “Finalists revealed: 2019 Interior Awards”, Architecture Now,, 8 May 2019

          • Justine Harvey, “Nelson Centre of Musical Arts”, Architecture Now,, 26th February

          • Property Industry Awards Magazine 2019, “Civic & Arts Category”, pg 14, “Heritage & Adaptive Reuses Category”, pg 37

          • Lynda Papesch, “Public and private projects take honours in architecture awards”, Wild Tomato, Issue 157, August pages 33-51

          • 2018

            • “Music to the ears”, Architecture New Zealand, November/December 2018, Page 18

            • Britt Coker, “Sweet Sound Reborn”, Wild Tomato, Issue 143, June, page 26-29

            • Matt Philp, “High Fidelity”, Heritage NZ, Winter 2018, Issue 149, page 30-35

            • Across the Board “Between Buildings”, Architecture NZ, November/December, page 16

Nothing is new for long. Things change, so too does the fit between buildings and their communities.

The Nelson School of Music, designed by Frederick de Jersey Clere as a teaching auditorium in 1895, may be one of the most protected buildings in New Zealand, but it has been refinished many times. World-class string acoustics have endured through generations of change; gas lamps, electricity, toilets… even the removal of its baubles. By the time the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch Earthquakes render the building unusable this once grand building has received buttresses, neighbours and a new entry that goes out of its way to cover up the auditorium. No longer is it a grand four sided building in the community. It has lost its fit.

This new refinishing does something different; it looks to what is important. The auditorium is seismically strengthened but also re-acknowledged and fitted back to its community with the practice, recording, stage and audience spaces that a modern music school and performance venue requires. Further generations may now again look to the auditorium for inspiration before learning in the same greenrooms, practice and stage spaces as their heroes.

It does this under a waterfall veranda roof that opens high to the auditorium and low to its residential neighbours. But the new is not important. The corners, interior and grandeur are given back to the auditorium with the highest ICOMOS heritage principals. Other finishes are secondary and placed within an open-space framework to capture light from the original brick façade and look to the auditorium and its community for what is important.

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