Education projects dominate capital architecture awards

Judges at last night’s 2013 Wellington Architecture Awards expressed concern about a shortage of heritage projects.

Awards jury convenor Morten Gjerde, a senior lecturer at Victoria University’s School of Architecture said there was “a huge demand for space in Wellington city and updated heritage buildings could be useful contributors to the urban buzz.”

“I hope we’ll find ways to repurpose these buildings to celebrate their qualities so that the recent incidents of demolition by neglect won’t be repeated,” he said.

Educational buildings made a significant showing at the awards, with Athfield Architects receiving foru awards in the category

Mr Gjerde hopes the strength of the architecture commissioned by educational institutions will have wider influence. Citing the efforts of Architectus and Athfield Architects in creating a new campus hub to replace “the old windswept quadrangle” at Victoria University, Gjerde said that “with exposure to such good work, society as a whole might start to demand better quality from buildings.”

Another theme noted by the jury is the richness of the palette of materials now being used. Mr Gjerde said architects are combining natural materials such as stone and timber with engineered ones like concrete and steel with impressive aesthetic results.  

The jury visited sites ranging from universities and shopping centres, to a car showroom and a Buddhist monastery and included architects Felicity Wallace and Arindam Sen, along with Wellington restaurateur Steve Logan.

Athfield Architects’ design of the Massey University Te Ara Hihiko College of Creative Arts in Mt Cook, which also received an award for sustainable achitecture, was hailed by the jury as “original and exciting”. At Scots College in Strathmore, Athfield Architects designed two new award-winning buildings. The Hodge Sports Centre, the jury said, has a singular design, and its light-filled interior will “lift the spirits” of all who entered. The three-level Scots College Creative and Performing Arts Centre, with its “rich and robust” interiors and brick, zinc and metal cladding, is a “stimulating environment for learning”. Athfield Architects teamed up with Architectus to design the Victoria University of Wellington campus hub and library upgrade. The architects excavated the Kelburn site and inserted a new hub building and courtyard as the ‘heart’ of student life.

Don Jamieson Architecture’s New Learning Hub at Island Bay School reflected similar values to its university cousin, albeit on a much smaller scale. Bold, warm colours feature in this community space and library which the jury described as “bright, engaging and accessible.”

The jury noted that the rebuilding of Heretaunga College over several years seems to have had a positive effect on student behaviour. Opus Architecture had brought “transparency and connectivity” to the high school, and once dark and inflexible spaces are now imbued with “warmth and spirit”.

This quality is also integral to the vision of Nga Purapura, a tertiary institution in Otaki dedicated to improving the physical wellbeing of Maori. Tennent + Brown Architects designed a building with sports courts, a gym, nutrition kitchen and offices in a project that the jury viewed as an important asset to the wider community.

Car showrooms are traditionally all much the same but Chow:Hill Architects discovered in Johnston Ebbett Holden a client willing to buck the trend. The architects have transformed a 1980s panelbeating workshop on Wellington’s Taranaki Street into a two-storey venue that “showcases the client’s products around the clock” and which received an award in the Commercial Architecture category.

Four other projects were recognised in this category. Designgroup Stapleton Elliott’s refit of the Kapiti Coast District Council offices in Paraparaumu provided a sense of welcome to visitors and a more uplifting environment for employees. Completed on a limited budget the building is now, the jury said, “a joy to work in and visit.”

Anyone who has been to the movies at The Lighthouse Cinema Cuba will be unsurprised that the building is an award winner. John Mills Architects and Spencer Holmes Engineers took their cue from the light and sound effects of the movies but the “quirky details never overwhelm the integrity of the whole,” the jury said.

On the site of Masterton’s former opera house, Waiata House, designed by Proarch Architects, is a building designed to meet the specific requirements of a client offering mental health support services. The “strict lines separating the public and private realms” of the environment are blurred in a central atrium, in which details and arched windows from the original building’s façade have been re-used.

The jury commented that in Studio of Pacific Architecture’s refurbishment of the Royal Society’s Thorndon headquarters “technology and art are equally celebrated”. In a yin-and-yang approach, the architects transformed an original concrete block building into a “white box,” added a new “black box” annex and linked the two with a glazed atrium.    

Herriot + Melhuish: Architecture triumphed with its fit-out of the Maori Women’s Developments Office in Victoria Street, which received an award in the Interior Architecture category. A simple dividing spine is used to cleverly structure the space and, the jury said, “a recurring motif is carefully used to embed meaning and identity”.  

The three projects in the Planning and Urban Design category differ markedly in approach and scale. Athfield Architects rose to the challenge of creating a centre for civic activity in Lower Hutt with the development of Dowse Square, a place that combines art, outdoor seating and a wetland and which, the jury said, “already feels well-established”.   

Athfield Architects received another award for the Taranaki Street Kiosk, a smaller-scale venture in which the architects have successfully converted a block of heritage-listed toilets into a building which “brings a bit of Time Square to Courtenay Place”.

Building on the Wellington tradition of through-site links, Jasmax has employed some “real genius” in the Lambton Square Shopping Centre Refurbishment which provides a pivotal link between two major thoroughfares and, in a new first-floor food hall, offers “an attractive dining experience at tree level”.

Of the 12 projects recognised in the Housing category, a quarter are multi-unit developments, which, the jury said, bodes well for the future of higher-density living.

 “We want to see more housing like this,” the jury said of Newtown’s Altair Townhouse Development by architecture+. The colour palette successfully distinguishes the residences and, the jury said, “despite the presence of cars on site, there is a strong sense that it is people who matter most.”

When Novak + Middleton upgraded the Central Park Apartments in Mt Cook to 21st century standards, it not only celebrated the potential that lay dormant in the original 1960s design, but set a new benchmark for high-density social housing in New Zealand. The re-planned and re-vamped apartments are now sunny and warm, with colourful communal spaces.    

In a similar vein, Studio of Pacific Architecture was commissioned by Wellington City Council to renew the 1967 Newtown Park Apartments. The apartments have been upgraded and some have been amalgamated to provide for larger families in a “thoughtful and brave” refurbishment, which also received an award in the Sustainable Architecture category.

The other nine award-winners in the housing category are private residences sited throughout the region. Ballara Bullman Chin bbc architects received an award for Mangaroa House, a working farmhouse with the beauty and comfort of an urban dwelling, which benefits from a “the close relationship between house and landscape.”

In Melrose, John Mills Architects took inspiration from the flight of a birs in Tui House, a “visually rich” and “perfect respite” from the city. A floating ‘Pacific fly’ roof is coloured to suggest the subtle green tones of the bird for which the house is named.

Strathmore Ridge House, designed by Kerr Ritchie, is a new home for a family of five that took a decade to realise. Described by the jury as a “testament to the commitment of the owner and the architects”, the house is a strong, single-volume form with many floor levels allowing easy family living and spectacular views of the city and Lyall Bay.

Capturing harbour views is a common theme in many of the private residences. Parsonson Architects are masters of this art, and three of the practice’s houses received awards. The Seatoun Heights House is a “lovely composition, bridging between earth and sky,” the jury said.

In Lowry Bay House, Parsonson Architects stuck to a firm budget to deliver an “aerie in the treetops,” a simple, linear house to which sophisticated and tactile details contribute a “surprising twist”. The same firm’s Seaview House in Northland is an intricately planned three-level home that is “visually stimulating from the moment of arrival”.

Another firm to feature three times in the awards’ housing category is Tennent + Brown Architects. The practice’s Telford Terrace Studio at Oriental Bay is a contemporary addition to a railway-style villa that is a “delightful sequence of spaces” that link to the original home with “understated ease”.

Tennent + Brown Architects was mindful of the highly exposed nature of the site in designing Haunui House, a Tawa home in which views are captured from virtually every corner, and which the jury likened to a “simple, but elegant shed”.

The jury praised the “unpretentious form” clad in cedar and concrete of Tennent + Brown’s Eastbourne House, in which carefully planned and crafted spaces “maximise the relationship to the garden.”

Tennent + Brown Architects was also awarded in the public architecture category for the Reception Sala at the Bodhinyanarama Buddhist Monastery in Stokes Valley. This new building provides a casual dining space and modernised kitchen housed beneath a weathered timber-clad gable in keeping with the modest values of the community.

The redevelopment of the National Library of New Zealand was another winner in the public architecture category. The architects had to complete this future-proof within the existing envelope of the building and their design, the jury said, “capitalises on the strong bones of the original”. 

A variety of building types were recognised in the small project architecture category. Corrondella House in Belmont, by design-and-build practice Box Living, is a clever response to a steep, difficult site, that demonstrates that “cost-effectiveness need not be predicated on the mundane,” the jury said.    

Geoff Fletcher Architects is a double awards-winner with additions to two existing homes. At 54 Tennis Court Rd, Raumati South, a new wing has been added to an old bach “in an environment of budgetary constraint”.

In Kapiti Beach House – Stage 2 the same practice designed two low-key plywood boxes which shelter the existing mature garden and knit together seamlessly with the original dwelling to provide an “irresistible and compelling oasis of shelter”.

The Eastbourne Public Toilets aren’t the first conveniences to be recognised for their architectural merit, and won’t be the last. The jury praised Bevin + Slessor Architects’ design, which allows privacy without compromising safety. The architects had wrapped standard toilet modules in “clothes appropriate to the seaside community,” the jury said.

In Lower Hutt, Mary Daish Architect has brought clarity and coherence to the new foyer at the Dowse Art Museum. Materials from the existing fit-out were recycled and repositioned in the foyer, which is now a “delightful and comfortable” retail zone flexible enough to accommodate after-hours functions.

The Novak + Middleton Architects became their own clients when their Kelburn office became too small for their growing business. A minimalist glass-and-steel box was inserted below the two-storey form of a typical 1960s building. The addition “showcases lateral thinking and embodies the Vitruvian quality of firmness, commodity and light,” the jury said.

The final proof that architects can make their own best clients is A House at the Beach, Te Horo. Gordon Moller of Moller Architects won an award in the Enduring Architecture category for this bach he designed for his family in the mid-1980s. The house is a “gathering of spaces strongly connected to sea, sky and land,” the jury said. Robust construction, including block-work and cedar joinery, has “weathered many storms”, and the house has be