Nightmare on Taranaki St
For those of you who wonder how something as ghastly as Q on Taranaki could be okayed by the planners, the answer is: it hasn't. I have it on good authority that the proposal is still at the "pre-application" phase, and that the council's urban designers have told the developers that their design is utterly wrong for the site, and that not only should they rethink their plans but they should try to retain the Murdoch building. Furthermore, the current owner of the land has yet to sell.
I don't think this is the last we've heard of this proposal, but there's some hope that the system can work for the benefit of Wellington's urban fabric. It does seem odd that ArcHaus would promote this design on their website at such an early and speculative stage: surely they're not proud of this design?
Further down the road, though, is another ugly building project that is definitely too late to stop. The steel frame for the Bellagio apartments next to Molly Malone's has almost reached its full 12-storey height. Hold on, wasn't it supposed to be nine storeys? Yes it was, but no longer: the excavations unearthed the remains of Te Aro pa, and the owners were presumably allowed some extra height to compensate for not being able to have underground carparks. It's only now that we've got to see the new version, and here's a rough comparison between the old render on the left, and a new one (taken from a billboard on the street) on the right.
As you can see, it was never going to be exactly pretty. But at least in its shorter incarnation it was less imposing, and something about the detailing seemed to break up its bulk a bit more. It now seems more monolithic, and reminds me of Rutherford House by the railway station, which despite the best efforts of its refurbishers has just served to prove that you can't make a hippo attractive by slathering on some orange lipstick.
But the worst thing about it is that, like the twin lumps of Q, it's clearly not a work of architecture: it's a maximum allowable volume diagram with some balconies slapped on. Twelve stories needn't have been entirely out of context here, if only the building could have exhibited the merest whisker of grace, elegance or imagination. As it is, it looks like one of the Ministry of Works' worst sixties efforts in Thorndon. Wellington doesn't have many physical traces of pre-European occupation, so retaining the pa remnants was essential, but surely there was a better way than this. It smacks of archaeological blackmail: "Give us some extra storeys, or the whare gets it".