The institution of Kingseat was specifically conceived to address contemporary thinking in providing a humane approach to dealing with mental illness. However, when it was first planned in the late 1920s, a decision was taken to find a remote site for its establishment, to counter public opinion which was not conducive to psychiatric hospitals operating in centres of population. The resulting development bore little resemblance to other past mental facilities which featured prison-like institutional buildings holding many hundreds of patients and was unique in New Zealand. At the time Kingseat was at the forefront of institutional design thinking.
The establishment of the Kingseat Hospital campus brought with it important changes in the care and welfare of the mentally ill that had an influence on the growing acceptance and understanding of such disabilities within society. Kingseat reflects the medical and social changes regarding mental health and treatment and has been the basis on which deinstitutionalisation has been founded in New Zealand.
Archifact-architecture and conservation ltd was commissioned to undertake a heritage assessment of the former Kingseat Hospital site. This assessment considered all those elements that individually and collectively establish the heritage of the place and identified Kingseat as the only intact remaining ‘Colony’ or ‘Villa Style’ complex in New Zealand. As such, the rarity of the place lends it considerable cultural heritage significance.
With clarity of these values through the heritage assessment, the repurposing of the existing heritage buildings and landscape has been carefully planned to retain and enhance these values while enabling a bold new development future.