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Good design crop despite tough year


It has been a tough year for architecture in Auckland – but a surprisingly good one.

NBR staff
Thu, 11 Oct 2012

A tough year for architecture in Auckland – but a surprisingly good one.

That’s according to the conveyor of the Auckland Architecture Awards jury Blair Farquhar.

“You’d expect tougher times to affect the number of entries into these awards, and that’s certainly the case with some types of architecture, such as commercial buildings,” Mr Farquhar says.

“However, just as fine wine comes from scrappy soil, so good architecture emerges from challenging circumstances.”

Mr Farquhar says several award-winning commercial buildings had transcended the economic circumstances. One of them is Geyser, the Parnell office building designed by Patterson Associates which the awards jury said is an “innovative and bravura” building which evokes “the intimacy of medieval urbanism”.

Two other commercial buildings received awards. With their "Meccano-like perforated steel skins”, the Britomart Showcases, designed by Cheshire Architects and Assembly Architects, “express a joy in construction”, the jury says, and Blum, designed by Williams Architects, is an “inspiring” office building and showroom sited in an Avondale light industrial area.

Several buildings in the civic realm met Aucklanders’ raised expectations for public architecture, Mr Farquhar says. The long-anticipated Q Theatre, designed by Cheshire Architects and Williams Ross Architects is, the jury says, “an adroit and harmonious insertion into a constrained and historic site”.

On Queens Wharf, The Cloud, the lightweight pavilion designed by Jasmax, has “a fluid form that suits its watery environs and sits well against the solid shapes of neighbouring maritime buildings”.

Another waterfront winner is Karanga Plaza and Kiosk, the Wynyard Quarter public place designed by Architectus, and described by the jury as “an exemplar of democratic urban design, conceived with public use and enjoyment in mind”.

Education buildings feature strongly. Architectus won awards for two school buildings – the Performing Arts Centre at St Cuthbert’s College, a building which “expresses clarity and declares permanence, and is easily navigated and functionally excellent”, and St Peter’s College Sports Complex, a “robust and elegant bunker” cleverly designed for a tight site on busy Khyber Pass.

Jasmax’s Performing Arts Centre at Massey High School is “an important and inspiring building for its school and wider community”, the jury says, and at the University of Auckland’s Medical School in Grafton the same practice has performed successful “open-heart surgery” to “unclog teaching spaces to provide modern learning environments”.

The jury was impressed with the redevelopment of the Manurewa campus of the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ). It praised ASC Architects for the empathy and care with which the practice designed an “accessible, protective and inspiring building” for those whose vision is impaired.

Another stimulating and superbly functional building acknowledged by the jury is the University of Auckland’s Leigh Marine Centre, designed by Cheshire Architects. The building, the jury says, is “ideally suited to its place and purpose – surely it will provide happy memories of days spent studying in this campus by the sea”.

One category where the awards jury was spoilt for choice, the convenor says, was residential architecture.

“As always, the quality of domestic design was very high,” Mr Farquhar says. “Contemporary architects are adding, brilliantly, to an inherited tradition of artful responses to what are, by any standards, extraordinary sites.”

In the Britomart precinct, Cheshire Architects, working with Brendan Ryan and Nick McCaw, have produced through clever design and inexpensive materials “a relaxed and convivial atmosphere” at Mexico: Restaurant and Tequila Bar.

Two heritage buildings reworked for hospitality purposes also won awards. The Imperial Buildings in Fort Lane have been revived by Fearon Hay Architects to produce “a surprising little world of interconnected and characterful spaces”, and a cargo shed in Wynyard Quarter has been converted by Architecture HDT into the restaurant and bar, Jack Tar, “without compromising the existing building or betraying its robust simplicity”.

Sport also gets its due, thanks to the Broadcast Tower at North Harbour Stadium, designed by Copeland Architects. The jury says the “hovering glass and steel box performs and exhibits its function with élan”.

NBR staff
Thu, 11 Oct 2012
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Good design crop despite tough year
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