Christchurch Architecture Awards a ‘cause for optimism’

To say Christchurch has had a rough time of it lately is certainly putting it mildly. But that didn’t stop some of the best architecture in the region being recognised at last night’s Canterbury Architecture Awards. All up 12 projects walked home with an award, and among the winning firms were Sheppard & Rout Architects, Warren and Mahoney and Opus Architecture.

Convenor of the awards jury and local architect Stephen Crooks said the award-winning buildings are “cause for optimism” in what has been a tough time for architects.

And now, onto the winners:

Commercial Architecture 

Office Building, Addington, by Sheppard & Rout Architects Ltd

Responding to the brief for a speculative commercial building in a restrained market, the Architect has developed both a highly functional and an attractive building. The very efficient floor plates utilise clear open spans and extract the circulation core maximising tenancy options. The core is then turned toward the street and celebrated as a strong sculptural element housing an elegant curving stair with filtered light playing through the louvred façade against a backdrop of warm timbers. This is a bold, stylish and well-articulated office development standing proudly in its surroundings. 

Hornby Clocktower Building Refurbishment, by Wilson & Hill Architects Limited

The efficient and well-resolved refurbishment of a landmark building has provided high quality office and retail space at the western edge of the city. The building utilizes numerous sustainable features and benefits from a generous stud height that affords natural light and extensive views. The ground floor outdoor café area is user-friendly and cleverly detailed. 

Enduring Architecture

Chateau on the Park, by Peter Beaven Architect Ltd

Completed in 1976 the Chateau on the Park is a delightful example of an idiosyncratic work of architecture that has retained its strength of vision through several decades, successfully avoiding the potential degradations of modern architectural renovation. What the building offers through its Romantic style is an opportunity to engage in an architectural story that catches the eye and lifts the heart.

Interior Architecture 

The Grand Café, Christchurch Casino, by Warren and Mahoney Architects Ltd

As part of a staged refurbishment of the Christchurch Casino, the cafe has been transformed into a versatile mix of open and intimate spaces providing flexible dining and entertainment options. Connections to adjacent spaces have been enhanced creating an improved integration with the surrounding activities whilst retaining a strong sense of identity for the café. Bespoke furnishings are elegantly detailed and sumptuously finished to offer patrons a sophisticated dining experience at a central-city destination venue. 

Public Architecture 

St Bede’s College – Wearmouth Boarding Accommodation, by Herriot + Melhuish: Architecture Ltd (HMA)

A highly resolved and engaging architectural solution to a passionate client's brief, this project combines commercial durability and serviceability with residential sensitivity via skilful detailing and informed material choices. The planning is clear and concise defining private, supportive and community spaces which are wrapped within an elegant modern form and expressed in a restrained material palette. As a preliminary stage to further redevelopment on the site, this building provides a strong and encouraging lead. 

Timaru Courthouse Redevelopment, by Opus Architecture

The Architect has successfully enhanced the community presence of the original courthouse building and cleverly integrated the complex functional requirements of a modern operating courthouse. Subtle and generous architectural gestures demonstrate awareness of, and care for, the comfort (and safety) of the users of a building that, by  necessity, deals with difficult and stressful matters. Low-key sustainability features complete the picture of a well-resolved public building. 

Residential Architecture – Houses 

Clearwater House, by Wilson & Hill Architects Limited

This house is very accomplished architecture on a grand residential scale wherein the Architect's touch is evident through to the finest detail of furnishing and fittings. A bold entry court introduces a strong and decisive plan creating functional wings well orientated to the impressive setting. In an interesting twist, the circulation space is given preferential access to the lake views via a grand gallery that is a bold and dramatic gesture. The calm and deliberate palette of materials that combines the natural properties of stone, concrete, timber and copper produces a very sophisticated interior and imparts a sense of solidity to the building. 

Moana Dwelling Complex, by David A Smith Architects

It is not surprising that there exists a long-standing relationship between this client and Architect: the house seems to fit the client's requirements perfectly. Sitting comfortably in the West Coast landscape, the house has a strong relationship with its site and surroundings. Materials have been chosen that signify a connection to place and the interior detailing suggests craft and individuality.   Refreshingly, the house has a ‘soul’, in contrast to some houses that feel as though they have been designed speculatively or ‘for the next owner’. 

Church Bay House, by Herriot + Melhuish: Architecture Ltd (HMA)

This modest rectilinear box is entered at first floor level across a bridge, gangplank-style, evoking a sense of being afloat on the harbour that forms much of the northern view. Living areas avoid the ubiquitous open-plan, instead providing a versatile arrangement of spaces of varying scales and enclosure. Materials have been carefully chosen and thoughtfully detailed, both inside and out. This is a simple and honest work of very good domestic architecture. 

Sumner House, by Manning & Associates Architects Ltd

This is domestic architecture at its best: great spaces; great colours; great use of materials; great detailing; and perfectly tailored to the clients’ lifestyles. The design gives the impression of effortless confidence and it was difficult for the judges to resist the word ‘masterful’. Refreshing in every sense, especially in its lack of ostentation, the project is topped off with a great story about how the Christchurch clients found their Auckland Architect. 

Small Project Architecture

Lifeguard Tower Woodend Beach – ‘The Chair’, by Wilson & Hill Architects Limited

This is a delightful building, a rare combination of humour, fitness for purpose and completely resolved detailing. To take the deck chair image and apply it so well is a triumph of architecture and a great advertisement for Surf Lifesaving Canterbury. 

Rochester and Rutherford Hall – New Study Centre, by Ian Cumberpatch Architects Ltd

In its scale and in the articulation of its constituent spaces, this project displays significant understanding and appreciation of the underlying architectural language of the adjacent building. The delightful study area fulfils a need for the college beyond the functional and is enhanced by the successful engagement with the surrounding park area.

Sustainable Architecture

Timaru Courthouse Redevelopment, by Opus Architecture

Working for an informed client with a clear requirement for environmentally responsible performance, the Architect has designed a building that embraces sustainability, albeit in a discrete manner. From active features, such as water-saving technology and the salvaging of waste heat from the HVAC system, to more passive technologies, such as the re-use of the heritage courthouse and the lanterns allowing natural light to infiltrate the new courtrooms, environmental concerns have informed the architectural decision-making throughout the project. Given the project's budgetary challenges and its complex brief, this building is a shining example of environmentally responsible design.

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