Drop-in drops solution to Old Masonic derriere dilemma
Its arse-end is one of Warkworth’s worst features, despite robust heritage architecture being about striving to keep public buildings relevant to their communities.
Nothing about the blank back wall of the Old Masonic Hall commends it to be considered sacrosanct. In contrast to the building’s richly detailed façade, its windowless back wall is an architectural abomination, standing between a handsome community space and the community’s greatest asset, not to mention its raison d’être, the Mahurangi River.
In 2015, in a bid to begin an exploration of how a tidehead town’s town basin could be made more appealing, a reading room café was visualised, adhered to the back wall of the hall. It was envisaged that the café would open to the hall, but exactly where the café kitchen might be sandwiched in had not been resolved.
The objective of Saturday morning’s drop-in was to seek feedback and further ideas on options for better use of the space between the Old Masonic Hall and the Warkworth Library, and the between it and the Mahurangi River. But without resolving the back-of-the-Old Masonic Hall dilemma, any attempt to optimise the space could prove to be less-than—optimal. During the drop-in, when exploring how the hall might be used in the daytime in conjunction with al fresco events, and how those al fresco events might be marquee-based events such as weddings, it became inescapable that this is the Old Masonic Hall’s unrealised destiny; and that a tailored marquee, that fitted snugly to rear of the building, would allow an event to turn the sort of downpour that can turn a balmy summer soiree into a disaster, into the highpoint of a triumph.
While it would also be entirely legitimate to attach a permanent extension to the riverfront of Old Masonic Hall, the modern obsession of heritage architects charged with such projects with sharply differentiating the old and the new would, for many, blight the appeal of the 1883 structure, with its gorgeously pretentious façade. A tailored marquee, falling away from her haughtily tall walls, and free of the aluminium frames that rob much of grace from the marquee’s pre time-is-money form, would provide an ambiance unobtainable without the ephemerality of woven fabric.
And lest the odd misanthropically inclined local react indignantly to prospect of the Old Masonic Hall becoming monopolised by an endless procession of weddings of Aucklanders, consent for this new use of the hall would be subject to a limited marquee season. This is the case at Mahurangi West, where the lovingly community-restored ex-single-classroom-school community hall, pays for itself thanks to there being no shortage of couples keen to be married under a marquee, with the hall providing its cute-as-a-button ambience, and the harbourscape doing the rest. This means that the Mahurangi West Hall, and its council-funded marquee site, is available for community events free of charge, whereas, without the marquee-wedding component, the building had languished, deteriorating, for half a century, as a millstone around the necks of locals desperate to see it saved.
The drop-in inspired Old Masonic Hall marquee concept, provided Mahurangi Magazine readers respond with gusto, could provide the gentle kick-in-the-derriere the community space project needs: