Celebrating an Architectural Icon

Lasercut scale models of the Futuna chapel commemorate its 50th anniversary

New Zealand has no lack of natural beauty, but when it comes to built environments, there is a distinct deficit of heritage value.  Wellington’s Futuna chapel, hidden away in suburbia, has been described by architects as “New Zealand’s most significant building of the 20th century.”  The dignified sculptural splendour of this structure betrays its underprivileged history.  Futuna was born from unskilled labour, and in its fifty years of existence has been subjected to neglect, theft and disregard by those responsible for its surroundings.

In 2010, Friends of Futuna Charitable Trust approached Ponoko about creating commemorative models of the chapel to celebrate its 50th anniversary, which took place last weekend.  Over several months, the plywood model and its plinth/box were prototyped and continuously refined in Inkscape.  Tony Richardson – the model’s designer, specified 4mm Eurolite Poplar which is a low density, fast cutting ply.  The final order was for fifty individually numbered kits to be assembled by the visitors to the chapel during the anniversary celebrations.

Ponoko got invited to attend the event and talk about our Personal Factory4.  We went, we talked, we brought along material samples and a range of projects as examples of 3D objects made from lasercut parts.  The Futuna model was on display, surrounded by the visitors who were trying to figure out how it was constructed.   This wasn’t simply a case of curiosity for the sake of curiosity: many were trying to work out their own assembly methods to turn a whole bunch of parts from a flat sheet into a 3D representation.  Most were working in groups of two or three people.  Armed with the instruction manuals, little clamps and tiny bottles of glue, the model makers took over the whole chapel, including outside.  Not even the altars or the pews were spared.

By the time we left, which would have been about an hour into the build, it was obvious that this exercise was going to require a whole lot of patience.  The most progressed mini-replica only had two standing walls, but there was no evidence of anyone giving up.  Ultimately, as the model makers would have been aware, a few hours of playtime is nothing compared to the two toiling years it took to build the original Futuna chapel.

< Previous Post
Next Post >

Can we buy the models?


As someone who is very interested in moving to NZ at some point in the future, I have been taken in by all the natural beauty and had not considered that NZ might be lacking in “heritage value”, as you put it. I doubt it would dissuade us from moving there but its always interesting seeing a place through a local’s perspective.

The model building looks like it was a blast! 🙂

Hi Henry, we should know whether the models are available for purchase early next week, so will keep you posted!

Hi ARTbyGUNTHER, yes yes you should definitely move to NZ because that’s where Ponoko comes from=]

What a great event to be involved with. Thanks to Nick Bevin for the chance to be part of the celebrations of the Chapel.Well organised and inspiring. The model is really quite special and I would encourage people to purchase one and help support the Futuna Trust. As well as the bonus of actually being able to own one. They are even better in the flesh than the photo’s show. All the people invloved in the assmbly on Saturday seemed to have a great time and got a kick out of being part of the celebrations. Well done to Tony Richardson and Ponoko, the model is fantastic.

I wasn’t there, but I heard about it. It felt as if Futuna was being built again, part of the reawakening that contributed to the whole event. The photos here tell a similar story. Thanks for posting.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the weekend modelling event such as success. Tony Richardson the model designer, Ray Hutton and Plytech for their generous donation of material and funds, Craig from Plytech for his presentation, Catherine and everyone at Ponoko for their enthusiasm and generous fabrication rates, the Victoria School of Architecture staff and to the architecture students and architects who assembled the models on the day. History was made that day. If anyone wants to buy a boxed model, and there are only 50 in the edition, please contact me at bevanvic@clear.net.nz. Th Trust is very appreciative of all your efforts

Lindley Naismith

It was great to learn about Ponoko and engage with it’s capabilities. I did feal a little uncomfortable using the altar as a modelmaking bench(at which mass had been celbrated only hours before), especially as there was the odd wayward blob of PVA! However we’re very pleased to proud owners of no.2/50 and are confident the Catholic God will forgive. Our model is a meaningful memento of a terrific event by the Trust – the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the building of the Futuna Chapel – thanks in large part to the personal committment and work of Chair Nick Bevin.

Comments are closed.