Heritage award going to Gisborne architect
Gisborne architect James Blackburne will become the first New Zealand recipient of a unique heritage award on Saturday afternoon.
The Leisa Collins Historic Preservation Award acknowledges deserving individuals who have enriched their community through historic preservation efforts.
The award will be an original pen and watercolour painting, done by Ms Collins, of a home or building the individual has saved, preserved, restored or otherwise brought back to life.
It has been presented to 10 people in the United States since 2013.
Ms Collins, a former Auckland artist now based in Florida, put her art career on hold for 25 years while she was involved in worldwide social causes and events.
In 2010, she took up the brushes again and began making a living from house portraits. She has painted homes and buildings in 50 states and in 35 different architectural styles.
“I make a good living from my art and get multiple commissions weekly but I wanted to give back, especially to homeowners who have brought something that was a wreck back to life again. They’re heroes, preserving our homes and history,” she said.
Research into potential award recipients in New Zealand, in particular Gisborne — where her sister Michelle Conole, mother Melva Collins and nephew/artist Troy Conole live — brought Mr Blackburne of Architects 44 to the fore.
“James is not only a strong proponent of historic preservation, but is a do-er as well. I learned he was active nationally with Historic Places Aotearoa and locally with Historic Places Tairawhiti, both of which he chairs.”
Mr Blackburne was a strong advocate for retention of the nationally-significant DoC Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre at Lake Waikaremoana and was subsequently a recipient of the New Zealand Institute of Architecture President’s Award for his work.
He has been part of various projects including Acton Estate, St Mary’s Church , Tikitiki, and Toko Toru Tapu Church at Manutuke.
He and wife Lynda have taken on their own heritage project at their home, the historic Pohatu.
Mr Blackburne quickly nominated Toko Toru Tapu as the building he wanted Leisa to paint as his award prize.
“Toko Toru Tapu Church is a project very dear to my heart,” he said.
“In 1992-93 I did the initial research for its registration as a historic place, then worked on the restoration project for 15 years.
“Seeing Toko Toru Tapu restored to its former glory has been amazing and emotional.
“While I was the project architect, I spent a large amount of time labouring alongside a group of volunteers over a number of weekends to strip and polish the floor at the end of the project.”
The church received a New Zealand Institute of Architecture Award in 2016.