Twenty-eight projects figured in the 2012 Auckland Architecture Awards last night, with two heritage buildings reworked for hospitality purposes picking up honours, two Federal St restaurants receiving interior awards, and an enduring architecture prize given to a 25-year-old university building.
“This has been a very good year for Auckland architecture, if not the most prolific one,” says Auckland architect Blair Farquhar, jury convenor.
“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,” Farquhar says. “However, just as fine wine comes from scrappy soil, so good architecture emerges from challenging circumstances.”
Farquhar says several award-winning commercial buildings have transcended current economic circumstances. One of them is Geyser, the Parnell office building designed by Patterson Associates, which the jury said was an “innovative and bravura” building that 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 Awards jury said, 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, Farquhar says. The long anticipated Q Theatre, designed by Cheshire Architects and Williams Ross Architects is, the awards jury said, “an adroit and harmonious insertion into a constrained and historic site”.
Another category where the awards jury was spoilt for choice was residential architecture.
“As always, the quality of domestic design was very high,” Farquhar says. “Contemporary architects are adding, brilliantly, to an inherited tradition of artful responses to what are, by any standards, extraordinary sites.”
Britomart Showcases - Cheshire Architects Limited and Assembly Architects in association
Judges say: Temporary in nature but substantial in scale these sophisticated structures perform their retail function while also making a valuable contribution to the Britomart streetscape. Cleverly designed for economical assembly and disassembly, the buildings, with their Meccano-like perforated steel skins express a joy in construction. Lit up at night, they cast some welcome illumination onto the Britomart footpaths.
Blum, Avondale - Williams Architects Ltd
Judges say: In this well-resolved project a new showroom and office space has been inserted into an existing warehouse to create a suitably well-designed base for an up-market fittings manufacturer. Positioned at the rear of its site, the building connects to the adjacent wetlands and to a prospect of the city skyline. The only downside of its recessive placement is that a light industrial area is denied full view of an inspiring building.Geyser, Parnell - Patterson Associates Limited
Judges say: An enigmatic aggregation of volumes that dissolve against the sky, this office building is a contemporary evocation of the intimacy of medieval urbanism. With its courtyard, lanes and alleys, its natural ventilation and illumination, Geyser suggests a crystalline hill town. The volcanic analogy will be apparent to visitors who progress from the lava-red carpark up into the shards of glass. The latest in a series of innovative and bravura commercial buildings from this architect and this client, Geyser has also set a new benchmark for sustainability in this country’s commercial architecture.
BLENZZ Campus Redevelopment, Manurewa - ASC Architects
Judges say: A clear architectural vision has produced a building accessible to those whose vision is impaired. The research that has gone into this project is evident, as is the empathy of the architects’ approach: the result is an inspiring building understood and experienced through touch and sound. A curved form, convex against a busy street, concave to embrace the landscape, relates well to the scale of the site. Material selection is sensitive, detailing is carefully considered, and sustainable principles have been pursued throughout the project.
Leigh Marine Centre - Cheshire Architects Limited
Judges say: The architects have designed a research facility ideally suited to its place and purpose. Three buildings of robust, simple materials provide study spaces and accommodation screened against the maritime climate. The architecture encourages collegiality and provides marine biologists with an inspiring working and learning environment. Surely it will also provide happy memories of days spent studying in this campus by the sea.
Massey High School – Performing Arts Centre - Jasmax Limited
Judges say: This is an important building for its school and the local community, realised within demanding constraints that included a tight budget. Necessarily pragmatic, but far more than prosaic, the building is a significant architectural presence in an area that deserves better buildings. More than that, it is an inspiring venue and source of pride for students and their teachers.
St Cuthbert’s College – Performing Arts Centre, Epsom - Architectus
Judges say: High quality materials have been expertly deployed and detailed in a building with a strong but never strident presence. This is direct, purposeful and legible architecture; it expresses clarity and declares permanence. Easily navigated and functionally excellent, the building provides an inspiring performing environment.
St Peter’s College Sports Complex, Grafton - Architectus
Judges say: This elegant bunker cleverly wedged into a tight space serves as a threshold building between a city school and a busy thoroughfare. Robust materials suggestive of the local volcanic rock are appropriate to the urban setting and a user-group of teenage boys. The architects have bestowed a staunch building with grace notes, such as the porthole windows that afford glimpses of and from the street, and a low-level slot window that visually links the gym and the outdoor playing surface.
University of Auckland, Grafton Campus – New Boyle Building and Atrium and Refurbishment of Buildings 501, 502, 503, Level G & 1 - Jasmax Limited
Judges say: In the architectural equivalent of open-heart surgery, vertical and silo-stacked teaching spaces have been unclogged to provide horizontal and transparent modern educational learning environments. A new atrium, in which a green snake of a staircase serves as a unifying physical and visual thread, creates an organisational axis for the medical campus. The new architecture has been successfully integrated with 1970s Brutalist buildings to revivify an important academic institution. The architects’ thoroughgoing commitment to sustainable design is evident in the building’s planning, operation and material selection.
The Imperial Buildings, Auckland CBD - Fearon Hay Architects Ltd
Judges say: The architects have unlocked the potential of long-forgotten buildings in a newly rediscovered part of the city to produce a surprising little world of interconnected and characterful spaces. Glazed vertical shafts bring light into the buildings’ interior, in which the existing fabric has been retained to provide welcome evidence of a century of built history. It is heartening to see, in Auckland, a project that eschews the obvious, civilizes an unsavoury back street, and suggests the city is waking up to the value of its surviving architectural legacy.Jack Tar, Wynyard Quarter - Architecture HDT Ltd
Judges say: This is heritage architecture at its clearest and most effective. The architects have converted a wharf shed into a waterfront bar without compromising the fabric of the existing building or betraying its robust simplicity. The respect accorded the old building is evident in the careful insertion of new elements, and the legibility of the structural strengthening.
HousingCleverley-Wilson House, Westmere - CCM Architects Limited
Judges say: The minor adjustments to the street elevation of this older house only hint at the extensive reworking of the lower level that has produced a comfortable and enjoyable family home. Well detailed and constructed additions in brick, steel and concrete sit well with the existing weatherboard cladding, and house a series of inviting domestic spaces that open out to a transformed garden.
Cox’s Bay House - McKinney + Windeatt Architects Ltd
Judges say: With its stacked rectangular shapes suggestive of the bay windows and verandahs of neighbouring older houses, this building is a simple and elegant response to the challenge of a narrow site on an intimate street. Subtle and clever, well planned and scaled, the house is an adroit composition of internal and external spaces ideally suited to contemporary inner-city life.
Glade House, Remuera - SGA – Strachan Group Architects
Judges say: A Sixties bungalow has been subtly and sensitively altered to create an elegant and warmly-toned treasure in a suburban glade. The flow of air and play of light has been masterfully handled in realising a restful house that is a joy to inhabit. In the careful grafting of new elements to existing structure the architects have provided a demonstration of sustainability in action. The architect’s empathy with the site and the client’s needs is evident in the restrained artistry of a house that’s truly at home in its natural environment.
Headland House, Waiheke Island - Stevens Lawson Architects Ltd
Judges say: This is a strongly sculptural house in which a series of distinct, timber-clad pods linked by an organic social space are oriented to take advantage of the views and provide protection from the ever-changing winds that blow across a clifftop site. On the exterior, stained timber and planting camouflage the building, while on the inside precise and particular detailing disguises doors and drawers. The result is a house that challenges the principles of the vernacular bach.
Horizontal House, Remuera - Sumich Chaplin Architects
Judges say: With a subtly curved wall that echoes the line of the street and a massive concrete volume that appears to float above a light boundary fence, this low profile house is a strong but respectful presence in its suburban neighbourhood. A toplit staircase cutting through the building’s three levels acts as a constant reference point in a house distinguished by a beautifully detailed series of well-proportioned spaces.
Pahi House, Kaipara - Scarlet Architects
Judges say: The architects have produced a knockout design for a featherweight house. Discrete and modest, simple and sufficient, the house can legitimately be placed in the lineage of the Kiwi bach. Respectful of its context, and at one with its environment, the house relaxes into its site on a bush trail running down to the Kaipara Harbour.
S House, Mt Eden - Glamuzina Paterson Architects Ltd
Judges say: Clever planning on a long narrow site has allowed for the creation of front and rear courtyard gardens and the maximising of long views from the modest, well-proportioned and unconventional internal spaces. The journey through the house twists and weaves, and rises and falls with the topography of the site. Exotic in form, in its immediate built context, the house will soon seem more indigenous than its neighbours as its front elevation recedes into the native planting.
Storm Cottage, Great Barrier Island - Fearon Hay Architects Ltd
Judges say: In form, a simple and elegant building that presents a low profile on an exposed site, this is a contemporary bach with a sophistication veiled by a layering of glass sliding doors, bifolding metal screens and curtain tracks. This strategy allows for protection against the elements, access and connection to the views, and the maximizing of available space. The success of the architects’ approach is evident in the execution of the interior, in which a restrained palette of materials and well-designed elements provides for compelling habitation.
Waiake Beach House, Torbay - Stevens Lawson Architects Ltd
Judges say: This bold and confident seaside house, a sculptural work for a sculptor client, contrasts dramatically with its neighbours, and yet is a disciplined response to a modest and restricted site. The house is a cave: the exterior is a concrete extrusion informed by compliance constraints; the interior is an intimate and atmospheric home. The excellent detailing of materials selected from a limited palette reveals the architects’ mastery of current timber and concrete technologies.
Depot Eatery, Auckland CBD - C Nott Architects Ltd
Judges say: The architecture of this restaurant strikes the right note in distinguishing a bustling, hip and affordable restaurant from the adjacent and formidably scaled casino and hotel complex. The design, which incorporates a change of level at the rear to establish a visual connection with the street, is an exemplary lesson in fitting out a long, thin space, viable for the restaurant operator and enticing to would-be diners.
The Grill Restaurant, Auckland CBD - Andrew Lister Architect Ltd
Judges say: A confident use of materials and excellent craftsmanship characterise this new restaurant occupying hollowed out space in an existing building. In designing a restaurant for a business clientele, the architect has revealed himself to be an impresario of the theatre of dining. Calm, rich and inviting dining areas contrast with a vibrant arrival area, and the overt display of food and wine is intended to appeal strongly to the target audience.
Mexico: Restaurant and Tequila Bar, Auckland CBD - Cheshire Architects Limited, Brendan Ryan and Nick McCaw in association
Judges say: As an exercise in contrived atmospherics, this restaurant succeeds admirably. The skin-deep application of “Mexican-ness”, via the confident and inexpensive use of collage, lacquer and glue, to an existing structure is the backdrop to a lively and crowded scene. Found objects and artful scavenging contribute to a relaxed and convivial atmosphere.
Planning and Urban Design
Karanga Plaza and Kiosk, Wynyard Quarter - Architectus
Judges say: Friendly but sufficiently formal, generous but well-defined, this plaza on the harbour’s edge has been intelligently designed with its users’ needs and enjoyment in mind. The plaza connects to the sea via the steps leading easily down to the water, and to both local maritime history and the port context by means of the kiosk of stacked containers. An exemplar of democratic urban design, the plaza is a considered but not a precious space; the architects have provided sufficient but not excessive amenity, and the popularity of the plaza has proved the wisdom of this approach.
The Cloud, Queens Wharf - Jasmax Limited
Judges say: Proving that a difficult gestation is not necessarily a handicap to a healthy offspring, The Cloud has transcended the controversy around its inception to become a popular addition to Auckland’s waterfront. Its low-profile, fluid form suits its watery environs and sits well against the solid shapes of neighbouring maritime buildings. The able realisation of a robust concept provides welcome amenity by day and night.
Q Theatre, Auckland CBD - Cheshire Architects Limited and Williams Ross Architects
Judges say: A tribute to the persistence of the architects and everyone else associated with the building project, Q Theatre is an adroit and harmonious insertion into a constrained and historic site. Full value has been extracted from every fund-raised dollar, but an economy of means only emphasises the quality of the architectural achievement. A flexible and forthright main auditorium is complemented by a surprising array of functional spaces, and the precast exterior nicely balances the assertion of identity with a respect for context.
Small Project Architecture
Broadcast Tower, North Harbour Stadium - Copeland Associates
Judges say: This hovering glass and steel box performs and exhibits its function with élan. The Broadcast Tower is confidently and appropriately straightforward; it commands the playing field, but its authority is leavened with design flair.
School of Music, University of Auckland - Hill Manning Mitchell Architects
Judges say: This courtyard building which, in lieu of a local tradition of cloistered typologies, looks to and reinterprets the Oxbridge quadrangle, remains a secure and light-filled haven for students and their teachers. In it, the caged birds still sing: the building has been largely untouched since the day it was completed, and continues to provide a simulating learning environment. A fascinating sequence of spaces leads users and visitors to the building’s tailored study and performance rooms, and to carefully designed communal spaces that offer opportunities for informal encounters. The building has been much loved by generations of music students.
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