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Dunedin Law Courts






Dunedin, New Zealand






Ministry of Justice



Nikki Thebault

Dennis Chippindale

NZIA for Heritage Architecture

Property Council Award for Heritage

Property Council for Highly Effective Team



Dunedin Law Courts 9

Our brief was to make the landmark building a safer and more structurally sound icon of the community while also upgrading the interiors so the building could operate as a modern court.

The Dunedin Law Courts building is over 100 years old and holds a Category 1 Heritage listing for the entire building while sitting on an archaeologically significant landscape. Following the Canterbury earthquakes, the Ministry of Justice carried out seismic assessments of its court buildings and discovered a significant structural issue with one of their oldest buildings.​

Our role was to provide Lead Design, Architecture and Heritage Services for this Ministry of Justice project that would guide the Seismic Upgrade of Dunedin’s Historic Law Courts building. This multi-award-winning project covered complex and extensive façade repair and interior refurbishment.

Initially, we undertook a detailed survey, inside and outside the complex. For the interior, we were asked to understand how the building worked and were given a brief with expectations for internal functional changes. For the exterior and heritage elements, we completed a detailed, stone by stone façade assessment recording typical and atypical issues. To understand the dimensional issues, a point cloud survey was also undertaken.

A previous renovation project in 2000 had caused significant damage to many of the heritage features, requiring a significant amount of specialist craftsman input to remediate specialist elements. The building also had weather tightness, heritage masonry and thermal issues which required various façade treatments from complete lead flashing replacement to redirection of poorly designed surface water issues, allowing a longer lifespan of the delicate heritage stonework.

Major internal intervention and modernisation included replanning of all support spaces so they functioned to modern requirements. The heritage court spaces themselves were also upgraded with features such as specialist acoustic ceilings and upgraded lighting, AV & data systems. Original courtroom joinery was completely removed and stored safely for reinstation whilst internal strengthening works took place.

Being a heritage building, any thermal upgrades needed to appear as invisible as possible. A study of the building’s envelope indicated there were no significant condensation issues so minimal internal insulation would be sufficient. Heritage windows were reglazed so they had effective double glazing even though the heritage glazing was kept in place. Externally, there was evidence of frost heave in areas with high moisture levels. To remediate this, we removed the moisture issue by ensuring the contributing factors were mitigated. 

Dunedin Law Courts 2
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