Book Review: Futuna – Life of a building, edited by Nick Bevin & Gregory O’Brien

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_futuna_life_of_a_buildingFutuna Chapel sits amongst modern housing developments in Karori in Wellington, its roof towering above the houses, its future preserved thanks to protection under the Wellington District Plan as well as a Category 1 registration with the Historic Places Trust.

Throughout the pages of Futuna – Life of a building, the reader is taken on a journey from the inception and building of the chapel, its dereliction and finally its rescue and refurbishment as a non-denominational centre for spiritual, cultural and artistic expression. The stunning photographs bring the chapel to life and compliment the series of essays which tell the story of this unique building devised by architect John Scott and artist Jim Allen.

Built by brothers of the Society of Mary as part of their men’s retreat centre, the chapel is named after the Pacific Island of Futuna where a missionary Peter Chanel was killed in 1841, and opened in 1961. When the Society of Mary decided they had no further use for the building it was sold to a Wellington builder, who used it as a storage place while he developed housing on the surrounding land. Then, in 2007, the chapel was bought by the Futuna Trust, and refurbishment commenced, culminating in Futuna hosting a Medieval Music group at the inaugural open day March 2008.

Gregory O’Brien’s poem Ode to Futuna Chapel adds a lightness to the story with his beautiful description of the chapel:

Equal parts concrete ,wood ,
and light –that was the equation
the Chapel of Futuna offered, where
the two rows of pews formed
the shape of a capital L…

And I particularly enjoyed his poem The return of Christ to Futuna Chapel, which celebrated the return of Jim Allen’s carving to the chapel.

This book is a real treasure, it is a factual historical recording of an iconic building in New Zealand, which as with many church buildings throughout the country, faced an uncertain future until passionate people rallied together to save it. From the eye-catching front cover to the Poem for John Scott at the end I have loved unraveling the story of the Futuna Chapel, finding new details each time I have picked up the book.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Futuna- Life of a building
Edited by Nick Bevin and Gregory O’Brien
Photography by Paul McCredie and Gavin Woodward
Published by VUP
ISBN 9781776560523

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