It's the current national hub of construction, so it's no surprise the adaptation and re-use of existing structures featured strongly in the latest Canterbury Architecture Awards.
Coincidentally (and appropriately) the awards venue – the Christchurch Civic Building – also snagged four of the 11 awards, winning recognition in the public architecture, planning and urban design, interior architecture and public architecture categories. Not to mention it also received the 2012 Supreme Concrete3 Sustainability Award just days earlier.
The convenor of the jury, Christchurch architect Duval O’Neill, said the rehabilitation and re-purposing of some structures for prominent civic and cultural institutions was a heartening development in a city that has become all too familiar with demolition.
“It’s good to see architects extending the life of an existing building, in the case of the Christchurch Civic Building, and also adapting sites and structures, in the case of the Court Theatre and the Re:START retail precinct, for short or medium term use.”
O’Neill says the jury was impressed by the various aspects of Athfield Architects’ work on the Christchurch Civic Building, which had converted the former Chief Post Office into “a clear, well-connected and powerful building that is utterly fitting as the administrative centre of a new Christchurch”.
“Athfield Architects’ careful and well-thought through interventions have dramatically changed the tempo of the old building,” the jury said. “The best qualities of the original building have been foregrounded by neatly exposing structure and at times playfully celebrating it.”
The jury acknowledged the sustainable qualities of the Civic Building, the second building in the country to receive a 6 Green Star rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council, and said it also sets a benchmark for Christchurch urban design.
Another exemplary project was Re:START, the grouping of stacked shipping containers designed as a temporary central city retail venue by The Buchan Group. The jury praised the “collaborative spirit” of a project made possible by a “willingness to see beyond individual property values”.
Black Estate Winery, Waipara - RTA Studio
Judges say: In an elegantly simple building, the rural sheds of the surrounding Waipara landscape provide a fitting reference and singularity of form that sits comfortably over the arrangement of cellar door, café, and family residence. Structure is celebrated throughout the cellar and café interior. Rough, dark-stained sawn timbers provide texture and contrast with the vibrant vineyard setting, while the white interior of the residence lends a sculptural quality to the extended shed form. An internal screened deck and rear courtyard mediate public and private areas in a relaxed manner, offering shelter from the nor-west winds, and a powerful framed outlook to the vineyard beyond.
House Glandovey Road, Fendalton - Wilson & Hill Architects Limited
Judges say: This well-sited house offering minimum elevation to the street whilst opening out to a large lawn is an exercise in restraint and consideration. Together, a disciplined palette of materials and simple but effective planning combine to form an elegant and restrained home.
Poynder Ave House, Fendalton - Sheppard & Rout Architects Ltd
Judges say: A well-controlled and considered response to a big brief, this house is an exemplar of the artful management of a large-scaled home. The building’s form, with its floating roofs and walls that act as spines, disguises its size, and the use of spine walls has also assisted in bringing order to a well thought-out and considered plan. The combination of concrete and timber detailing offers a level of richness without ostentation.
Redcliffs House - MAP (2010) Ltd
Judges say: This house is an exciting insertion into a drab suburban landscape. A well-considered use of materials, in particular, Cor-Ten steel, artful detailing and a well laid out plan combine to form an exciting home. The cladding in its raw form wraps and protects the house, while the planning configuration opens the rooms to an expansive vista. Clever details such as the glazed wall stair and glazed garage assist to float the form above the landscape and place the occupant in the view.
Smart House - Wilson & Hill Architects Limited
Judges say: Simple, well considered planning, high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling glazing define a commendable initiative injecting contemporary design sensibilities into the prefabricated housing market. The treatment of the external façade transcends the economies of construction that typify the genre, while providing shelter and material variation. An affordable, fully transportable holiday home, the Smart House base module also embraces adaptability with additional pods facilitating diversity of programme and an arrangement of forms to suit the locale and owners.
Christchurch Civic Council Offices and Chambers - Athfield Architects Limited
Judges say: The proportions of the existing building, most importantly its generous floor-to-floor dimensions, have afforded the architects opportunities to create an inviting and non-threatening spatial monumentality. The best qualities of the original Brutalist building have been foregrounded by neatly exposing structure and at times playfully celebrating it. Materials and finishes have been appropriately selected and carefully detailed in such a way that a raw and robust architectural language is ultimately charming.
Planning and Urban Design
Civic Boulevard, Christchurch - Athfield Architects Limited
Judges say: The architects have made bold gestures to connect this building to the adjacent streets and, in effect, demand that surrounding buildings follow suit in due course. The canopy over the south entry is generously proportioned and appropriately claims a part of the street. The new ramp to the north connects the building to the other side of the block with a bold thoroughfare that quite literally forms an intersection between the building and urban circulation, and the civic scale and robust finish of the lobby does a great deal to complete a successful continuum between architecture and the city.
Re:START - The Buchan Group
Judges say: This project is a testament to the spirit of Cantabrians in rising above post-earthquake adversity to sustain a vital retail heart within the central city. In what is very much a collaborative project, the willingness to see beyond individual property boundaries and establish a community shopping area has resulted in a successful experiment in urban design. The stacking of brightly coloured shipping containers, extending from the site of the major department store to frame courtyards and create pedestrian-friendly lanes, promotes density and vibrancy within the precinct. The arrangement of forms is well considered, providing a pattern that unifies the development while allowing for the individuality of each retailer to be expressed.
Christchurch Civic Building - Athfield Architects Limited
Judges say: A series of carefully thought through interventions have dramatically changed the tempo of the old building. Concrete panels on the south façade have been sensitively manipulated to successfully enliven an inert elevation; the existing concrete structure has been intelligently extended to the north in steel, so providing new opportunities for a light façade; and a series of sculptural elements added to the lower level offer relief from the rigidity of an orthogonal concrete frame. The result is a powerful building that is utterly fitting as the administrative centre of a new Christchurch.
The Court Theatre - Fulton Ross Team Architects Ltd
Judges say: Clear and concise planning has provided a new and more streamlined home for the Court Theatre. The use of containers and prefabricated buildings within the existing concrete and steel warehouse reinforces the temporary nature of the occupation, yet creates a sense of space and community. A simple palette of materials, with careful attention to detailing, maintains a clear expression of tension between host and occupier. With design and construction completed in just six months this is a rare and welcome example of post-earthquake adaptive reuse providing much needed public amenity.
Christchurch Civic Building - Athfield Architects Limited
Judges say: The adaptive reuse of building stock at this scale is already a significant environmental saving on embodied energy, but the architects have seized every opportunity to ensure that operational energy is also reduced to a minimum. Their efforts have resulted in the building’s Six Green Star certification. The various mechanisms employed to reduce energy consumption are not merely technical solutions; they are also important to the culture of the building. The most obvious of these strategies is the double-skinned north façade that works hard environmentally but also provides an important orientation to the large, open-planned floor plates.