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Rhubarb Lane, where art & architecture work together in a tattoo of light & form.

Walking down Rhubarb Lane, the vibrant urban village planned for the Victoria Quarter of Auckland, visitors will face the unusual façade of ‘Tattoo’, the latest release within the Rhubarb Lane development due for completion in 2012.

Walking down Rhubarb Lane, the vibrant urban village planned for the Victoria Quarter of Auckland, visitors will face the unusual façade of ‘Tattoo’, the latest release within the Rhubarb Lane development due for completion in 2012.

Designed by the Warren and Mahoney architectural team, Tattoo features 21 loft-style spaces in a variety of configurations suitable for commercial or residential use. This seven storey building pulses within the heart of an Italian inspired “village” with a striking tattoo graphic imprinted on the louvres of the façade.

Project architect and Warren & Mahoney principal Shannon Joe wanted to create a living artwork that is constantly animated across the building depending on the owners’ needs for light, privacy and lifestyle. He says the tattoo motif is a tribute to both the site and the building’s New Zealand heritage. They’ve yet to confirm what the actual motif will be but the building’s developer and the architects are consulting with the local iwi.

It’s a case of art and architecture working together on this one, says Joe. “Tattoo is not just about the impression on the louvres, it looks at the idea of puncture and hole technique, says Joe, “it’s the way the ventilation louvres are seen, both open and closed.”  So the façade will always be changing – always different to when you saw it last. The idea is about having a varied façade as the tattoo motif will probably never been seen in its entirety.

Inside the building, the tattoo technique is carried through in a contrasting effect of rough and smooth. “It’s about the fluidity of ink flowing and puncturing inside. The flooring is a timber hardwood and that same grain will be imprinted on pre-cast concrete walls. There will be a tension between these contrasts. The balustrade is an American oak veneer, in total contrast to the rough structural walls. A curve end of the balustrade wraps around to form the ceiling of the lower space. It’s kind of organic, surrounded by the industrial raw carcase of the building.”

Joe explains there’s an analogy of tattoo ink passing through the building and finding its way into the space. “It comes down to materiality and simplicity – we’ve pushed hard for that.”

Tattoo is just one of six groups of buildings each with a different architect within Rhubarb lane. The first apartment design was by Ian Moore. Others are by Pip Cheshire, Peddle Thorp, Fearon Hay and Architectus. Together they form a tantalisingly varied collection of uniquely inspired buildings, like a small village that has grown up around a square. All are double height spaces with steel staircases and timber floors. The idea for diversity came from Rome, but these buildings are responsive to light, to the time of day and privacy needs – something you don’t see on the streets of Paris or Rome.