From the stately to the wacky at Wellington Architecture Awards 2012

This year's Wellington Architecture Awards boasted a strong showing in community-focused educational building, as well as traditional residential architecture.

Twenty-seven projects ranging from schools and office fitouts to houses and heritage buildings were acknowledged last night. Telecom Central is redolent of Ironbank on Auckland's K Rd, while plenty of interior fitouts ventured into bold territory with daring use of colour. But the wackiest project by far is the slightly creepy and monstrous Kumutoto Toilets on North Queens Wharf – see the public architecture category below.

Jury convenor, Wellington architect Paki Maaki, said the awards demonstrate both the scope of work undertaken by the region’s architects, and the high quality of architecture being produced in a challenging economic environment.

“It’s obvious that clients and their architects are doing more with less and one of the features of this year’s awards is the adaptive re-use of a number of existing buildings.”

Commercial Architecture 

branz campus redevelopment wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

BRANZ Redevelopment (Porirua) - Warren and Mahoney Architects

Judges say: Existing buildings on the BRANZ campus have been revitalised successfully to provide a more integrated environment. An enhanced arrival experience is carried through the complex via an internal street, improved circulation and consistently well-considered detailing. Natural light has been brought into the buildings and views established into the garden-like surrounds; the result is a pleasant and enjoyable working environment.

telecom central wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Telecom Central (Wellington) - architecture+

Judges say: With its singular, angled glass façades rising above a busy inner-city street, this building has immediately assumed a prominent position in the Wellington skyline. An atrium incorporating a transparent lift shaft and open stairwell connects the building’s various levels both functionally and visually, and makes for a dramatic spatial experience. The 5 Green Star-rated building also provides pedestrian connectivity through a significant city block. In sum, this is a stimulating design that enlivens its urban context.


amesbury school wellington architecture awards 2012PHOTO: Kate Whitley

Amesbury School (Churton Park) -  McKenzie Higham Architecture

Judges say: Presented with a difficult site – a suburban landfill exposed to the weather – and without a formal client representative, the architects have designed a very successful group of structures around a sheltered playground. A sensitive approach has yielded flexible spaces, and an appropriate recourse to extensive glazing has brought welcome natural light into the learning areas. Interior spaces are welcoming, generous and sophisticated, and the design accommodates community use of the gymnasium/hall.

maidstone school wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Maidstone Intermediate School Information Centre - Jasmax Limited

Judges say: This project provides an invigorating heart for Maidstone Intermediate and its community. A simple wedge forms a lofty volume – which nevertheless has a personal scale – deftly integrated into a contrasting context of single-storey buildings and well-established trees. Re-interpretations of existing exterior details coexist successfully with a Pacific-influenced screen that scatters sunlight through a geometry of slats and branches. This careful treatment of light is also evident in the careful placement of autumnal carpet tiles and the warmth of colour in the recessed seating nooks - their popularity testament to the success of the project.

porirua college wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Porirua College Redevelopment - Opus Architecture

Judges say: The architects have successfully created simple ‘house’ forms, with decked learning studios grouped around a central social space. There is clear evidence of cultural considerations being given primary importance and, together with client – including student – contribution to the design process, this has generated a sense of ownership and pride. The effective airy and light-filled spaces have played a significant role in transforming attendance and learning outcomes.

hugh mackenzie lecture theatre wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

VUW – Hugh Mackenzie Building Lecture Theatre Refurbishment - Tennent + Brown Architects Ltd

Judges say: Increasing demand for larger lecture theatres and changing delivery methods have been eloquently catered for in this refurbishment. The lighting and colour palette lends a calming yet refreshing influence to spaces commonly thought of heavy, dark and internalised. The dart-like ceiling provides an effective solution to the conflicting demands of budget constraints, acoustic control, and services accommodation. Clever geometry allows the ceiling to control ambient light, ensuring the space is light and lofty without compromising the technology-rich tools employed during lectures. Architectural intervention has left these spaces with a sophisticated character and the users with an enjoyable and functional space.


chevening building apartments wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Patrick Reynolds

Chevening Apartment Building (Kelburn) - Studio of Pacific Architecture Limited

Judges say: Contemporary structural and services components have been integrated into a substantially strengthened and upgraded 1929 building without compromising the integrity of the existing fabric. A highly commendable interest in ensuring the longevity of the building has been complemented by a considerable sensitivity to original planning, detailing and materiality. The interior has been carefully and painstakingly restored in a project which is an exemplary solution to a pressing problem, and a truly delightful collaboration between architect and client.

embassy theatre wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Embassy Theatre Bar & Cinema (Wellington) - Designgroup Stapleton Elliott and Indyk Architects in association

Judges say: Faced with the challenge of a fitting out a basement area, the architects of a new bar in the depths of the Embassy Theatre have created an internally-focused space with a warmth and richness of materiality. The space is symmetrically planned around the axis of the long entry corridor, with its gentle slope and repeating arches of light and dark. The main lounge continues this theatrical theme, with the glamour of the 1920s film era apparent in the colour, texture and pattern of the fabrics, light fittings and wall treatments. All in all, a good night out.

xero house wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Patrick Reynolds

Xero House (formerly JCB Building) (Wellington) - Studio of Pacific Architecture Limited

Judges say: It would be hard to imagine any other building on this landmark Wellington waterfront site and the owner opted early to pursue a development option with least impact upon heritage. Clever design has balanced the practical needs of tenants against seismic strengthening while still maintaining key heritage values. Openness has been retained to the curved end bay windows and problems with high sill heights have been resolved to provide views and amenity to occupants without altering the existing fenestration. This is an exemplary case, in challenging times, of retaining a heritage building for commercial use.

Interior Architecture

soltius offices wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Soltius Offices (Wellington) - Herriot + Melhuish: Architecture Ltd

Judges say: The architects have created a memorable series of public and meeting spaces through the development of an elegant and simple decorative motif deployed as grilles and decals. This provides an environment that adds impact and value to the client company’s visual identity, significantly increasing the overall brand presence. The careful choice of materials, with a particularly interesting contrast between the reception area’s high sheen white screens and the adjacent boardroom‘s matt plywood lining, achieves a highly distinctive result further enhanced by a limited palette of bold colours.

telecom central wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Telecom Central (Wellington) - Warren and Mahoney Architects Ltd and Geyer

Judges say: This complex fit-out comprises a number of different functional spaces over multiple floors. In the reception area a series of glazed multi-coloured fins effectively connect a long wall running above the escalator leading from the ground floor entrance to the first floor reception. A highly mobile work culture, built around hot desks and individual lockers, is framed between a series of generous social and meeting spaces. Placed to face each other across opposite sides of the central, light-filled atrium – with the utilitarian hot desks precincts behind them – these spaces are designed and fitted out in a way that creates a distinctive and sophisticated contemporary workplace through the heart of the building.

wellington fireplace wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

The Wellington Fireplace (Kaiwharawhara) - John Mills Architects

Judges say: Working closely with a client focused on building a facility that promotes the sale of fireplaces by creating a series of customised ‘sets’, the architect has created a series of niches, alcoves and themed rooms. A considered use of materials, colours and contemporary museum display strategies has resulted in a relaxed but highly effective retail space with a strong sense of narrative. The arrangement of spaces, with an ‘outdoor’ area with hard surfaces and extensive glazing followed by a carpeted ‘living room’ which opens to a series of display alcoves, creates a modulated sense of space that encourages the customer to linger and browse.

xero fitout wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Patrick Reynolds

Xero Fitout (Wellington) - Studio of Pacific Architecture

Judges say: Two key architectural ideas have created a workplace that is both innovative and flexible. The first, a continuous perforated aluminium screen defining meeting rooms and utility areas, creates, defines and wraps the core at each of the three levels. The simple, elegant use of anodised aluminium and laminated timber provides surfaces that are ever-changing according to the light conditions experienced throughout the day. The second idea, that of a tiered timber floor, provides a changing floor level that relates to the existing window heights, ensuring everyone has a view out. The raised floor also houses services so adding to the architectural clarity and definition of the interior. A staff café sited in the prow of the existing building is a light-filled and convivial space, and a unique workstation designed for the client allows for numerous workplace configurations.

z energy wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Tod Wilson

Z Energy (Wellington) - Jasmax Limited

Judges say: The fit-out of this large, square, high space responds to a complex brief, underpinned by the client’s desire to create an effective working environment which actively inculcates the company’s ‘brand values’ among the staff. The architect's response relies on a diverse menu of components – working spaces, meeting spaces, furniture and partitions – carefully articulated around wall-height graphic text/image panels and decals. The result is a highly complex series of spaces, components and elements which combine to read as an informal and relaxed ‘community’ team environment.

Public Architecture

asb stadium wellington architecture awards 2012PHOTO: Paul McCredie

ASB Sports Centre (Kilbirnie) - Tennent + Brown Architects Ltd and SKM Architects in association

Judges say: This project is carefully considered at many levels, from the simple, elegant shell-like roof form to the poetic quality of interior light, sound, air quality and materials experienced by the building’s users. The rhythm created by the staggered pre-cast concrete panel reveals a sophisticated appreciation that public architecture is not only about the form of the building, but also the spatial experiences created beyond the building. Light, airy and well-ventilated, the building has good visual connections to its context. It also, and importantly, lends some distinction and focus to its wider environs – it is a fine example of how excellent public architecture can make a difference to people's daily lives. People simply want to go and play in this stadium.

carterton events centre wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Mike Heydon

Carterton Events Centre - Opus Architecture

Judges say: The architectural planning is refined, clear and simple in its resolution of a complex brief: to incorporate three buildings into one Events Centre and meet the requirements of 80 different user groups. The central open courtyard is key; not only does it provide natural light and ventilation, it serves as the buildings’ orientating principle. The original heritage library, with its handsome façade respectfully acknowledged as the principal frontage to the street, retains its important position in the town. An ever-growing patronage is testament to the popularity and importance of this facility to Carterton and the wider Wairarapa region.

kumutoto toilets wellington architecture awards

Kumutoto Toilets (North Queens Wharf) - Studio of Pacific Architecture Limited

Judges say: Utterly bespoke in nature, this project was always going to be a fiscal challenge, however a shared determination by the client, architect, suppliers, and builder has led to its successful realization. Originally commissioned as part of a master plan, the brief for the facility was that it should be visible, sculptural, robust, safe, and able to be interpreted in a number of ways. Naturally ventilated and practically fitted out, the toilets are a welcome amenity for users ranging from shoppers and city workers, to recreational runners, parents with strollers and people enjoying a night out on the town.

zoo wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Mike Heydon

Wellington Zoo Hub & Kamalas Pavilion (Newtown) - Assembly Architects Ltd

Judges say: Three diverse built forms, along with the surrounding landscape, a playground, and a strategic location define a scheme which is a very practical ensemble of public architecture focusing on learning, food, rest, families, and corporate hospitality at Wellington Zoo. In this elegant product of a highly innovative collaboration between architect, engineer, and fabricator the clear highlight is the translucent, barrel-vaulted ‘Kamalas’ events pavilion. Structure and component design demonstrate a genuine understanding of and honesty in the use of materials; this is a great 'value' project to add to the client’s growing collection of architectural gems.


dickinson house wellington architecture awards PHOTO: Patrick Reynolds

Dickinson House (Eastbourne) - Studio of Pacific Architecture Limited

Judges say: Client and architect have transformed a sound and functional 1920s five bedroom house into a finely fashioned home for two, with pool house, guest house, and garage. Set back and private from the road to the east this house completely opens up to the drama of the sea to the west. An interest in art nouveau and craft has led to a decorative design strategy, and the success of this project lies in the architect’s attention to detail and materials, and the craftsmanship and skill of the fabricators. The design rigour and expressive use of timber, zinc, and brick is what gives this project particular moments of joy.

cook strait house wellington architecture awards PHOTO: Paul McCredie

Cook Strait House (Island Bay) - Tennent + Brown Architects Ltd

Judges say: A deep understanding of this tough Wellington site by both client and architect has resulted in an architectural strategy that skilfully addresses the South Coast views through carefully positioned and proportioned windows, but never loses the sense of home. The family’s particular living patterns are accommodated in the house’s thoughtful interiors: studies visibly linked by carefully placed slots in walls, reading nooks above stairs, built-in joinery, sheltered courtyards, a sunny morning table, and a welcoming winter garden. The light falling on surfaces, and the play of light and shadow through double height spaces offer poetic architectural moments in everyday domestic life.

llyod house wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: John Girdlestone

Lloyd House (Paekakariki) - atelierworkshop Ltd

Judges say: Despite contemporary demands for privacy and individual space within an extended family, this project maintains a faithfulness to the ethereal concept of the bach. A collection of simple details, and hardy and inexpensive materials, fortify the simple building form created through clever and efficient stacking and sliding of spaces. An immediate and intimate relationship from building to bush is generated by cutting the form to accommodate established trees as well as openings to unexpected exterior decks. Evoking the enclosed verandahs of old, the northern sun-space buffers the building from the prevailing winds whilst allowing considerable versatility of use.

ohariu house wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Ohariu House - Jasmax Limited

Judges say: The relationship to the garden was the key briefing idea for this house, and it has led to an architectural strategy that is rigorously considered in terms of garden views through beautifully proportioned windows and doors, as well as exquisitely detailed interiors to sit in and look out from. Interior spaces offer rich architectural experiences, ranging from open living spaces that never feel cavernous to tight boat-like spaces that lend strong sectional qualities to the house. The highly successful resolution of architectural planning, detailing and selection of materials testifies to the commitment of and collaboration between client, architect and an excellent builder. This house has a timeless quality; it feels as though it has been part of the site for many years, which is a sign of its success.

rangimarie wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Sarah Gaitanos

Rangimarie (York Bay) - Architecture FCA

Judges say: Built on family land from materials accumulated over three decades, this house is evidently an on-going labour of love. Taking cues from existing site geometries, the house has an intriguing spatial quality with hidden bedrooms and stairs in forced perspective. Living spaces sitting at the uppermost level, aligned with tree tops and bird life, are perfectly positioned to collect light and air movement from all directions. The building is carefully composed in a way that appears effortless – the architects have encouraged generous connections to the landscape and context – and it houses occupants and visitors alike in surroundings of light and peacefulness.

regent park apartments architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Regent Park Apartments for City Housing WCC (Newtown) - Designgroup Stapleton Elliott

Judges say: Working with Wellington City Council the architect has referenced local typologies to create a new housing complex that is successful in the private and public spaces created. The site design allows for the passage of neighbours while maintaining a sense of privacy for the residents through simple but carefully considered details such as setbacks from circulation paths, screens, and placement of letterboxes. The generosity of the architectural approach is evident in the delightfully detailed, glazed communal stairs in the apartment block, which have produced a public space that is a joy to move through. A serendipitous deletion of an apartment block has enabled the planting of fruit trees in a sunny open area, a simple initiative that has further promoted the goal of shared public space and illustrated the importance of giving careful architectural thought to the spaces between buildings.

robinson house wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Robinson House (Plimmerton) - Novak + Middleton Architects

Judges say: A long-time dream has been realised in this solidly built, timber and concrete house that stands proudly against the elements on the bay at Plimmerton. Designed for privacy and liveability, the modest but substantial house possesses a material richness of materials and a variety of spaces inter-connected for very practical and comfortable occupation. An excellent match made between client, builder, and architect has produced a beautiful home.

waikanae house wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Waikanae House - Parsonson Architects

Judges say: The brief for this family bach was short: to capture something of the spirit of the area in a new holiday home. The resulting building, with its reference to fibrolite construction detailing, has that sense of unflappable informality so essential in a home-away-from-home. The architect designed the house as a ‘dune hopper’ – an open-plan living area perches over bedrooms to acquire a view out to Kapiti Island. With its simple built-in furniture providing a variety of superb lounging and viewing points around the room, this space is a subtle and relaxed receptacle for unfettered sunlight and expansive views.

Small Project Architecture

northland studio wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Patrick Reynolds

Northland Studio (Wellington) - James Fenton Architect

Judges say: At first glance this appears to be a simple studio above a garage, but deep architectural thought has been given to this project. The acknowledgment given to the neighbouring Northland Church Hall is sensitive and empowering; generous steps between the hall and studio acknowledge the significance of the hall and also have a generous public feel to them. Careful consideration has also been given to the relationship between the new studio, with its elegant gable form, and the family home, a villa which shares the site. The well-proportioned elevation incorporating the glazed gable end provides a public face to the architect’s practice. In sum, this is thoughtfully detailed building is a most welcome addition to the neighbourhood.

Sustainable Architecture

amesbury school wellington architecture awards 2012PHOTO: Kate Whitley

Amesbury School McKenzie - Higham Architecture

Judges say: This community school project has many positive implications for sustainability. With an NZGBC 5 Star rating, environmental sustainability is demonstrated through adaptability of interior functionality, systems for stormwater, lighting and ventilation, and how this is all made visible and therefore championed. At suburban level the school is an integral part of building a sustainable community by providing good quality education, amenity, and spaces that double for community meetings and recreation. At city scale the community school model is a clever ingredient toward achieving sustainable urban form through positive place making, building strong and educated communities, that attract families and working population to offset long term issues with ageing population. A very worthy use of a former landfill site and limited resources.

branz campus redevelopment wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

BRANZ Redevelopment (Porirua) - Warren and Mahoney Architects Ltd

Judges say: The revitalisation of the existing building through the change in roof form and construction has opened up the deep floor plan to natural light, giving the original 1970s structure further architectural significance while increasing the building’s lifespan. Architectural expression and detail is given to the elements such as the thermal chimney in the heart of the building, and the beautifully articulated louvres on the west elevation. These gestures not only reflect the client’s goals to be a leader in environmentally sustainable design, but also create a poetic spatial experience for users of the building.

ohariu house wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Paul McCredie

Ohariu House - Jasmax Limited

Judges say: The clients’ goal was to have a home that was, as much as possible, “off the grid”. In response, the architect has carefully sited and selected materials and has incorporated passive design and pursued solar energy principles. Water heating is provided by wetback water heating for the winter months, and solar panels for sunnier months. The builder’s experience of working in Canada informed the high performance insulation used in the roofs. Rainwater is collected, and wastewater is treated, on site. These measures, combined with the timeless design of the project, means this house will fulfil its inhabitants’ requirements for many years.

rangimarie wellington architecture awardsPHOTO: Sarah Gaitanos

Rangimarie (York Bay) - Architecture FCA

Judges say:  The design approach for this house is based on the three Rs: reduce; reuse; recycle. The house is deliberately small and flexible so as to reduce embodied energy in construction; it reuses suburban land more intensively and is built from a wide range of recycled materials. All the typical environmental design measures are achieved without fanfare: increased insulation; thermally broken windows; and heat recovery ventilation. The house also has rainwater and grey water collection systems and solar power. Coining the term “co-sustainability”, the architects illustrate commitment to their philosophy by continuing their family’s history on the site, living sustainably and sharing resources with their community.

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