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While people are inspired by strong form, their hearts and minds are primarily captured by engaging experiences.

John Coop

There is a place in any city for iconic buildings with unique form to become talismanic. That sometimes happens through highly innovative technology - for example the glass pyramid of The Louvre or the dome of St Paul’s -  or it can be through good timing. The Empire State Building was constructed during the Depression when America needed to believe in US achievement: there were better things to come. Sometimes it is also innovation in the typology that is the foundation of achieving iconic status. Before the Louvre, many museums were simply academic institutions. The modernisation of this typology (by introducing restaurants, cafés and a major bookstore) was integral to the democratisation of culture, and turned the museum into a civic experience.  

The role a powerful form has in representing the identity of a city and community will always be valid, but we don’t always have that option. In fact, an iconic building might not be the right answer around what people seek when connecting with place. Take the Sydney Opera House, for instance, so often referred to as the ultimate reference point. For the first 30 years, the public’s experience of that building in terms of attending an event and engaging with it wasn’t good. More recently, it has been transformed into a more open and accessible space, with a richer purpose. It connects with Circular Quay, you can walk into the building to see an exhibition, pick up information, or have lunch there. The barriers have come down.

While people are inspired by strong form, their hearts and minds are primarily captured by engaging experiences. That changes everything. It means when architects design an office building, a tertiary education project, or a convention centre, we need to see the project as part of the city and focus on the human dimension including the needs and aspirations of the occupants. How will people work in the building, use the technology, connect with one another, eat, drink and socialise? And importantly, how will the building contribute to the public realm coherently? The new Auckland Convention Centre is very strong in this space. It will be central to the city’s identity for the visitors who us the building, and in some ways also for locals. At Warren and Mahoney, we worked hard to avoid it being a stand-alone, singular form.  It’s a strong form but it’s also highly permeable both physically and visually. The building can be entered on all sides and a public laneway through the site provides connection to the city. It will tell powerful stories about New Zealand both within its fabric and in its artworks. The reality is there was not the budget to create, say, an iconic roof form. But also it was not the correct response for a site that is within the fabric of the city.

Commercial Bay on the other hand is different. Its location on the waterfront brings with it the responsibility to design a sculptural form for the tower but, as it meets the ground, ensure that the project is inviting and of a scale that does not dominate. Commercial Bay is an answer in ‘cross-section’ if you like as to how architecture shapes the identity of city - a balance of form and experience.

How are we doing in this opportunity to use architecture as a tool for creating social identity? Many put forward the notion that New Zealand’s cities are filled with like-minded glass boxes. By and large, that impression is correct. 

A great deal of our established built stock is of the same height and the same size and the buildings do have a similar appearance.  If these structures are of a high quality in their detailing and their proportion, then that’s not always a bad thing. When you think of great cities of the world such as Paris, Copenhagen, New York and Barcelona or even more locally parts of the commercial district on the fringe of Sydney (eg Surry Hills), you have row upon row of comparable buildings that are simply well built and well designed. Together they provide a cohesive urban tapestry – a unified whole. In New Zealand, we simply haven’t had a high enough volume of work produced in one decade, to achieve the same results. In the last building boom in 2005/2006, there were only two major commercial projects built in the CBD – 80 Queen Street and the Ernst & Young building at Britomart.

It’s difficult to build a coherent city when there is insufficient concentrated growth.  But, take a look at our skyline. That time is beginning here now. Along with a thriving economy, there is perhaps a more sophisticated level of thought and process about what a building can and should be and more courageous clients to push those projects forward. And it’s not just happening in the CBDs of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It’s happening on a localised level. Some commercial work on the city fringe is playing its part. The retail precinct in Mackelvie Street by architects RTA Studio is a good example. It’s very Ponsonby: delicate, detailed and happy to include an ornamental expression. The same firm’s Ironbank building in K Road responds intelligently and confidently to context and Patterson Architects has achieved some superb work in Parnell. There is a growing body of work that responds to place where the ubiquity of commercial architecture – those maligned glass boxes - is overcome.

Neither is this revolution happening only in commercial, institutional and civic contexts. The Unitary Plan has unlocked the residential realm. Post World War II, the architect-designed home in the suburbs was the exception to the rule – the ‘funny’ house in the street. But times have changed. In Auckland, more than 50 per cent of housing over the next 20 years will be high-density apartments, or medium-density townhouses, designed by architects.  We are now invited in. It’s a great privilege and a responsibility. Within these new villages where future residents (young and old across many cultures) will live in apartments, there needs to be decent, small-scale true public space. The evolution of cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and even Tauranga is being steered by multi-disciplined teams of master planners, architects and landscape architects to provide a built fabric that makes living here a positive experience.  It’s this, rather than iconic buildings, that translates into identity. When people say “I loved my visit to New York”, they don’t think of the Empire State alone – they remember the sights, sounds and feel of the city as a whole.

It’s an exciting time for architects and architecture in New Zealand, where higher density can translate into a coherent fabric for ‘our place’: cities where identity will be defined by experience not form.


Waterview Connection1

Waterview Connection

The New Zealand Institute of Architects honoured innovation and celebrated old and new at their local awards this year.

The awards are part of the New Zealand Architecture Awards programme run by the New Zealand Institute of Architects

This year’s Canterbury jury was led by architect Melanda Slemint. 

“What really stood out is the way architects have been able to keep sight of the human scale, and the context within which the projects sit. Christchurch is undergoing a period of identity change, and some of the new projects speak eloquently about the quality of life we celebrate here,” Slemint noted.

“The world’s best cities have a fine-grained rhythm that creates interest and variation and prevents streets and public spaces from being overwhelming. As post-quake Christchurch continues to develop, it is heartening to see that the city’s architects are attuned to the needs of people.”

Canterbury

King Edward Barracks – Commercial Building Award 

“A fearless sense of adventure and invention is expressed by the skin of this building, that is lyrical and sensuous, and complementary to both the plan and the commercial character of the building. The building acknowledges the river and courtyard like a parent loves a good daughter or son. The Right Honourable R. J. Seddon, Premier and Minister of Defence, would be proud of the fact that 113 years on, his stone still holds centre stage in this fine new building,” the jury commented.

The Arts Centre of Christchurch – Heritage and Restoration Award 

“Designed by Colin Hammond, the EA building is one of several Gothic Revival Buildings that combine to form the Arts Centre, a unique and important part of the cultural and historical heritage of Christchurch, even more so in the post-earthquake city. Accessibility has been introduced to all levels and spaces reconfigured to allow the School of Music to operate effectively in this historic building.

Every detail has been carefully considered in this sympathetic restoration which has breathed life back into the building,” the jury said. 

RJ Stewart Glandovey Road – Heritage and Restoration Award 

A large part of the comprehensive repair of this 80 year old Helmore and Cotterill home was the process of jacking up and relocating the primary structural to allow access to the subfloor. The judges commended the architects for their respect of the original detailing in creating this elegantly designed home.

“Sensitive alterations and extensions to the primary plan have allowed for a conservatory, new service buildings, glasshouse and garage that complement the original building and create seamless transitions from old to new,” the jury said.

Chapman Tripp – Interior Architecture Award 

The jury commended the simple and elegant materiality of this project noting that the light timber and white walls complement the art displayed. Gorgeous views, two exterior terraces, staff breakout rooms and flexible spaces make this workspace a delight to be in, the judges say.

“The simple idea of dividing a long, narrow interior with a spine wall imparts a clear sense of order. This wall also offers a welcoming gesture by creating a stepped series of panels where art is hung and built-in seating provided.”

Christchurch Justice & Emergency Services Precinct – Public Architecture and Interior Architecture Awards

The Justice and Emergency Services Precinct is a Christchurch rebuild ‘anchor project’ that the jury described as a “building without local precedent” that “encompasses many public functions necessary for society to work well.”

“Arranged loosely around a courtyard, this is an imposing building of incredible complexity. Formally ordered to the last sun louvre, it has a palate of materials that suggests endurance. In court, it is perfectly permissible to seek clarification of any ruling. In this instance the ruling is good; this is a well-conceived and beautifully constructed project.”

University of Canterbury College of Engineering – Education Award 

“Separate engineering facilities are now connected to form one cohesive College of Engineering through the design of a new central linking core. This new hub is the strength of this project: the primary elevation is carefully composed, the entry to the college provides an interesting spatial experience, and the hub provides for a wide variety of activities. The atrium is enclosed by a trussed ceiling that is a clear, and appropriate, expression of structural engineering,” the jury said.

The Wool Exchange – Enduring Architecture Award 

This building that originally housed the auction of wool goods was converted into a religious meeting place. The auctioneers’ podium was made in to a lectern for preaching and the square plan that once housed hectic auctions is now used by a Chinese religious congregation. 

The jury said, “The skylight and stairs are exciting architectural moves in an otherwise stolid structure built for endurance like a tight-head prop. In a post-earthquake city, this building has reinforced to the public the message that architecture can endure adversity.”

Auckland

119 Great North Road – Commercial Building, Interior Architecture and Colour Awards 

A winner of three awards this year, this building thoroughly impressed the jury inside and out. “The exposed steel and concrete beams and concrete trusses evoke the modern industrial genesis of automobiles, and sleek surfaces complement the cars’ sculptural forms,” the jury commented about this luxury car showroom and office building’s interior.

The meticulous logistics planning and rigorous detailing mirror the intricacy of the luxury cars on offer. Office interiors are highly polished and the two-storey concrete truss that braces the building is a dramatic diagonal element that adroitly frames the ‘jewel box’ car displays.

King’s School Centennial Building – Education Award 

The jury said the design of this building has “clearly articulated the desire for a learning environment that would create a positive pedagogical impact.”

The well-resolved design incorporates open, flexible and specialised teaching areas that support strong student engagement and interactivity. By opening to Portland Road, the project also shows generosity to the public realm.

Waterview Connection – Planning and Urban Design Award 

This project was a response to growing pressure on Auckland’s infrastructure and the jury commended it for its, “sheer grandeur.” Of particular note was Te Whitinga, the Hendon footbridge, of which the jury said, “[It] successfully and dramatically stitches back together a community that had found itself on either side of the motorway.”

Warren and Mahoney has added a layer of sophistication to the development of this motorway infrastructure project. The use of pou at ventilation shafts and as markers at each portal, seamlessly integrated with the tunnel, brings sheer grandeur to the project.

Wellington

Te Toki a Rata Victoria University of Wellington – Education Award

On the University’s Kelburn campus this science building provides a “legible new gateway.” The jury said, “The building unites this part of the university and forms a dark, reflective backdrop to the array of existing buildings on the opposite side of the courtyard.”

Kscb 3470 Lr

King's School Centennial Building

Warren and Mahoney was recognised with five awards at the Property Council Rider Levett Bucknall Property Industry Awards last Friday.

Held annually, the awards judge property developments on their economic and financial attributes, vision, design, construction, end user satisfaction and sustainability credentials. Five projects designed by Warren and Mahoney won at the black-tie, sold-out event, which was held at Auckland’s Spark Arena.

Warren and Mahoney’s Managing Director John Coop applauded all who delivered the winning projects.

“We are particularly proud of the projects that we have collaborated on and achieving recognition in four diverse categories. Delivering specialist work across this breadth of sectors requires true depth of capability. The Property Council Awards judge projects on their commercial success and viability, as well as their design. Congratulations to our clients and collaborators."

Judged over a course of three months, the winning entries were:

Warren & Mahoney Civic & Arts Property Award
Excellence
Justice & Emergency Services Precinct, Christchurch

GIB Education Property Award
Excellence & Best in Category
King’s School Centennial Building, Auckland

RCP Commercial Office Property Award
Excellence
12 Madden Street, Auckland 

RCP Commercial Office Property Award
Excellence
Pita Te Hori Centre (King Edward Barracks), Christchurch 

Holmes Consulting Tourism & Leisure Property Award
Excellence
Auckland International Airport Pier B Extension Project, Auckland

 

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Architectural Graduate at Warren and Mahoney's Auckland studio, Divya Purushotham, is the newest Co-Chair of Architecture+Women-NZ after being promoted from the role of Secretary.

Appointed earlier this week, Divya joins current Co-Chair and Architect Lynda Simmons to support A+W-NZ’s core aims of visibility and inclusiveness. The organisation provides a support system and makes the work of its members visible, by removing or reducing as many barriers as possible - including class, religion, culture, sexual orientation or age. A+W-NZ works from the strong platform of gender, for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

“I am delighted to take on this position for an organisation that does important work. Discussing issues around diversity and workplace culture can be a great tool for the visibility of many other groups in the profession. We wouldn’t be where we are if we weren’t already talking about these issues but particularly, if it wasn’t for previous generations of female architects who have worked tirelessly to achieve this nurturing environment for the rest of us.”

She also credits Warren and Mahoney’s support. 

“Warren and Mahoney has been immensely supportive of my involvement with A+W-NZ. Adding to this, generous sponsorships towards the SGA Building Workshop and the Diversity + Inclusion Panel event held at our Auckland Studios earlier this year have enabled some key events and conversations for the organisation.”

Divya takes on the role following the resignation of Elisapeta Heta, who stepped down from Co-Chair after many years of service to A+W-NZ.

 

Nzia Awards

The New Zealand Institute of Architects Canterbury branch honoured innovation and restoration at their local awards this year. The jury conferred 34 wins in 10 categories last night at the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch. 

Warren and Mahoney received a total of eight awards, recognising human scale and the context within the projects sit.

"Christchurch is undergoing a period of identity change, and some of the new projects speak eloquently about the quality of life we celebrate here,” Slemint noted.

“The world’s best cities have a fine-grained rhythm that creates interest and variation and prevents streets and public spaces from being overwhelming. As post-quake Christchurch continues to develop, it is heartening to see that the city’s architects are attuned to the needs of people.”

Chapman Tripp - Interior Award

The jury commended the simple and elegant materiality of this project noting that the light timber and white walls complement the art displayed. Gorgeous views, two exterior terraces, staff breakout rooms and flexible spaces make this workspace a delight to be in, the judges say.

“The simple idea of dividing a long, narrow interior with a spine wall imparts a clear sense of order. This wall also offers a welcoming gesture by creating a stepped series of panels where art is hung and built-in seating provided.”

Christchurch Justice & Emergency Services Precinct - Interior Award + Public Award

The Justice and Emergency Services Precinct is a Christchurch rebuild ‘anchor project’ that the jury described as a “building without local precedent” that “encompasses many public functions necessary for society to work well.”

“Formally ordered to the last sun louvre, it has a palate of materials that suggests endurance. In court, it is perfectly permissible to seek clarification of any ruling. In this instance the ruling is good; this is a well-conceived and beautifully constructed project.”

Glandovey Road - Heritage Award

A large part of the comprehensive repair of this 80 year old Helmore and Cotterill home was the process of jacking up and relocating the primary structural to allow access to the subfloor. The judges commended the architects for their respect of the original detailing in creating this elegantly designed home.

“Sensitive alterations and extensions to the primary plan have allowed for a conservatory, new service buildings, glasshouse and garage that complement the original building and create seamless transitions from old to new,” the jury said.

King Edward Barracks - Commercial Award

“A fearless sense of adventure and invention is expressed by the skin of this building, that is lyrical and sensuous, and complementary to both the plan and the commercial character of the building. The building acknowledges the river and courtyard like a parent loves a good daughter or son. The Right Honourable R. J. Seddon, Premier and Minister of Defence, would be proud of the fact that 113 years on, his stone still holds centre stage in this fine new building,” the jury commented.

The Arts Centre of Christchurch - Chemistry Building - Heritage Award

“Designed by Colin Hammond, the EA building is one of several Gothic Revival Buildings that combine to form the Arts Centre, a unique and important part of the cultural and historical heritage of Christchurch, even more so in the post-earthquake city. Accessibility has been introduced to all levels and spaces reconfigured to allow the School of Music to operate effectively in this historic building. Every detail has been carefully considered in this sympathetic restoration which has breathed life back into the building,” the jury said.

University of Canterbury - College of Engineering - Education Award

“Separate engineering facilities are now connected to form one cohesive College of Engineering through the design of a new central linking core. This new hub is the strength of this project: the primary elevation is carefully composed, the entry to the college provides an interesting spatial experience, and the hub provides for a wide variety of activities. The atrium is enclosed by a trussed ceiling that is a clear, and appropriate, expression of structural engineering,” the jury said.

The Wool Exchange - Enduring Architecture

This building that originally housed the auction of wool goods was converted into a religious meeting place. The auctioneers’ podium was made in to a lectern for preaching and the square plan that once housed hectic auctions is now used by a Chinese religious congregation.

The jury said, “The skylight and stairs are exciting architectural moves in an otherwise stolid structure built for endurance like a tight-head prop. In a post-earthquake city, this building has reinforced to the public the message that architecture can endure adversity.”