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Capital year for architecture despite economic gloom

Despite the capital's recent economic travails two big buildings were rated in this year's Wellington Architecture Awards.

NBR staff
Thu, 01 Nov 2012

Despite the capital’s recent economic travails two big buildings were rated in this year’s Wellington Architecture Awards.

Telecom Central on Willis St, designed by architecture+, is a building that “enlivens its urban context”, the awards jury says, and “has immediately assumed a prominent position in the Wellington skyline”.

The interior of the same building, designed by Warren & Mahoney Architects and Geyer, also received an award for a “complex fit-out comprising a number of different functional spaces over multiple floors”.

In Kilbirnie, the ASB Sports Centre, designed by Tennent + Brown Architects in association with SKM Architects, is “a fine example of how excellent public architecture can make a difference to people’s lives – people simply want to go and play in this stadium”.

Several other buildings in the public realm also received architecture awards. 

Wellington Zoo Hub & Kamalas Pavilion, designed by Assembly Architects, is the “elegant product of an innovative collaboration between architect, engineer and fabricator” that adds “great value to the zoo’s growing collection of architectural gems”, the jury says.

In Wairarapa, Opus Architecture’s work on the Carterton Events Centre won recognition for successfully incorporating three buildings into one complex and meeting the needs of 80 different user groups.

A small project on the Wellington waterfront won an award for Studio of Pacific Architecture. The Kumutoto Toilets meet a design brief for a “visible, sculptural, robust and safe” public amenity.

The buildings were among 27 projects ranging from schools and office fitouts to houses and heritage buildings.

Demonstrate scope, quality of work

The convenor of the awards jury, Wellington architect Paki Maaki, says the awards demonstrate the scope of work undertaken by the region’s architects and the high quality of architecture being produced in a challenging economic environment.

“It’s obvious that clients and their architects are doing more with less,” he says, “and one of the features of this year’s awards is the adaptive re-use of a number of existing buildings.”

The awards also confirm the recent trend towards accomplished and community-focused educational buildings and the continued strength of residential architecture, traditionally a forte of New Zealand architecture.   

Four education projects received Wellington Architecture Awards. At Amesbury School in Churton Park, McKenzie Higham Architecture has designed “a very successful group of structures around a sheltered playground”. Built on the site of a former landfill, Amesbury School received two awards – one in the education category and one for sustainable architecture.

The Jasmax-designed Maidstone Intermediate School Information Centre “provides an invigorating heart for the school and its community”, the jury says.

Campus redeveloped

At Porirua College, Opus Architecture has redeveloped the campus by grouping learning studios around a central area, providing “effective airy and light-filled spaces that have played a significant role in transforming attendance and learning outcomes”.

Tertiary work is also acknowledged. At Victoria University, Tennent + Brown Architects have refurbished the Hugh Mackenzie Building Lecture Theatre, preserving its “sophisticated character” while providing users “with an enjoyable and functional space”.

Buildings at the BRANZ facility in Porirua have been “revitalised successfully to provide a more integrated environment,” and the work of Warren and Mahoney Architects was also rewarded for its promotion of the client’s goal to be a leader in environmentally sustainable design.

Careful revitalisation is also the approach that distinguishes the refurbishment of Xero House, formerly the JCB Building, on the intersection of Cable St and Jervois Quay. “It would be hard to imagine any other building on this landmark Wellington waterfront site and the owner opted early to pursue development with the least impact on heritage,” the jury says.

Studio of Pacific Architecture’s work on Xero House is “an exemplary case, in challenging times, of retaining a heritage building for commercial use”. The interior has been fitted out to “create a workplace that is both innovative and flexible”.

The same firm has received an award for its work on the historic Chevening apartment building on Kelburn’s Salamanca Rd into which contemporary structural and services components have been integrated “without compromising the integrity of the existing fabric”.

Embassy Theatre challenge

At the Embassy Theatre, Designgroup Stapleton Elliott, in association with Indyk Architects, were faced with the challenge of fitting out a basement area and responded with a new bar that has a warmth and material richness.

In Kaiwharawhara, John Mills Architects’ design of “a series of customised sets” for the interior of The Wellington Fireplace retail store generated an award.  

Other interior architecture projects to win awards are Herriot + Melhuish: Architects’ fitout of Soltius Offices on Queens Wharf, described by the jury as “a memorable series of public and meeting spaces”, and Jasmax’s fitout of Z Energy, also on Queens Wharf, which has produced “an informal and relaxed team environment”.      

Proving that design quality may occur at any building scale, the Northland Studio of James Fenton Architect received an award for its realisation, in a beguilingly simple building, of “deep architectural thought”.

Eight houses also were given awards. Studio of Pacific Architecture’s Dickinson House, Eastbourne, is a transformation of “a sound and functional 1920s five-bedroom house into a finely fashioned home for two, with pool house, guest house and garage”.

In nearby York Bay, Architecture FCA’s Rangimarie is, the jury says, “evidently a labour of love” built on family land “from materials accumulated over three decades”.

In this exemplary project, the architects have demonstrated their commitment to their environmentally responsible philosophy by “living sustainably and sharing resources with their community”.

In Island Bay, Tennent + Brown Architects’ Cook Strait House was praised by the jury for the manner in which the architects handled “a tough Wellington site” to take advantage of views while providing shelter and a sense of homeliness.

Jasmax’s Ohariu House, the jury says, “has a timeless quality – it feels as though it has been part of the site for many years, which is a sure sign of tis success”. It also noted the sustainable qualities of a house that is, to a significant extent, designed to be “off the grid”.

Trio on the coast

A trio of houses on the coast north of Wellington received awards. At Plimmerton, “a long-time dream has been realised” in Novak + Middleton Architects’ solidly built Robinson House that “stands proudly against the elements on the bay”.

The Lloyd House at Paekakariki, designed by atelierworkshop, meets “contemporary demands for privacy and individual space within an extended family” while “remaining faithful to the concept of the bach”.

Parsonson Architects’ Waikanae House “captures the spirit of the area” in a “dune-hopper” holiday house in which “an open-plan living area perches over bedrooms to acquire a view out to Kapiti Island”. 

The jury was pleased, Mr Maaki says, to acknowledge a residential project that is a well-considered model for social housing.

Design Group Stapleton Elliott’s Regent Park Apartments for WCC’s City Housing is “successful in the private and public spaces created”. In the Newtown complex, “careful architectural thought was given not just to the buildings, but also to the spaces between the buildings”.

The Wellington Architecture Awards are an official, peer-reviewed programme of the New Zealand Institute of Architects. Joining Mr Maaki were Wellington architects Monique van Alphen Fyfe and Mary Daish, Whanganui architect Craig Dalgleish and Auckland arts curator Tim Walker.  

NBR staff
Thu, 01 Nov 2012
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Capital year for architecture despite economic gloom