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International groups to preserve colonial-era building

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, April 4, 2012) – The old Courthouse in Apia is the object of a research project being undertaken at Unitec, New Zealand. More than this, it is the object of discussion and negotiation between three countries and their representatives in Samoa, Germany and New Zealand.

The building represents the changing history of the past century, 110 years old, better than most other buildings in Samoa. It was designed and built in 1902, opened in 1903 as a Courthouse for the German colonial administration in Samoa, and extended in 1907/10.

It was taken over by the New Zealand occupying forces in 1914 and used as their Courthouse through until the 1920s. It became the Samoan government’s own Courthouse and seat of the Prime Minister of Samoa after the (re-) gaining of independence of Western Samoa in 1962. This year, 50 years of independence will be celebrated in Samoa.

The building has been in use without interruption until 2010 when, a new Ministry of Justice building was erected for the Samoan government on the peninsula Mulinu’u, the traditional seat of Samoan governments throughout centuries, just outside Apia. However, the Courthouse became vacant and is falling into disrepair. It needs to be protected, repaired, restored and taken to new use if it is meant to survive.

The aim of the research project is to devise a conservation and implementation plan to be used by the Samoan Government to apply for funding to restore the Courthouse and to take on a new journey and life. So far, the building has been measured through ahigh-tech 3d-laser scan by Adam Wild and colleagues of Archifact Ltd., based in Auckland.

The research team, led by Associate Professor Christoph Schnoor of Unitec, Auckland, is currently devising the conservation plan, which has been generously supported by the Foreign Ministry of Germany, the NZ High Commission in Samoa and Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand, and supported by the Old Courthouse Trust based in Apia, Samoa, represented by Joe Keil.

In particular, the Honorary Consul of Germany, Arne Schreiber, and the New Zealand High Commissioner, Nick Hurley, were instrumental in establishing connections between the research team and the local community.

This week, many meetings have been held with Government officials and with interested members of the public in order to prepare a timeline for the next steps in this important and fascinating project.

The positive responses, stories and memories shared by members of the local community show a great interest in the built heritage of Samoa, and in the conservation of this particular iconic building.

An exhibition is to be set up by Unitec staff and students as members of the research team for Independence Day, in which preliminary results of the research will be shown alongside suggestions for future use of the building.

These suggestions will be open for discussion by the public.

Dr. Christoph Schnoor is the project leader of the research team.

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