Sir – I would like to express through your columns what appeal to me as the most necessary specification for a national memorial. Three principles attend out to my mind, so clear cut as to be essential to the undertaking of such a work. They are 1. Competitive Design; 2. New Zealand Materials and Workmanship; and 3. The Best of Both. I would like to be assured that any one minister of the Crown, or any one architect is competent to perform such service to the whole Dominion. Instead of committing to one architect the preparation of the Massey Memorial, it would have been a much more fitting arrangement if every architect had been given the opportunity to compete for the honors of selection, and a committee set up to pass judgement on the designs submitted.
The questing of materials and workmanship is perhaps the greatest. It savors almost of impudence to suggest the importation of foreign stone for the Memorial. What if it had been suggested that the Wallace memorial at Stirling should be built of Italian Marble! The swords of the Covenanters would have rattled once more in their sheaths, and the attempt to carry out the suggestion would have made a veritable shambles of Stirling.
What more effective Memorial than the stone cairn erected over the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton in the Antarctic! His shipmates realised the fitness of the circumstance, and in the simplicity of their affection evolved the most dignified tomb to their chief.
Another point appears. There is talk of opening a new quarry to supply the stone for this Memorial. Is such a proposition economically sound? At the most I should say that only five thousand feet of marble would be required. Does so small an amount of stone justify the expense of a new quarry? No private firm would consider the proposition for a moment, but if the State is behind the cost of the building of the Memorial, what matters cost.
You and I, Sir, I doubt not, would not, would be prepared to associate ourselves with the great majority of thoughtful citizens and recommend that a Committee of Stonemasons should be appointed to investigate the properties of every New Zealand stone suitable for such an edifice, with instructions that they decide upon the best of them all for selection as the material for its construction. I am no so much concerned so long as our own stones is used, but I would prefer to have the perpetuation of the memory of our great statesman not only a thing of beauty but, ‘a joy for ever’.
I am, etc.
Christchurch, 27th October, 1927.