According to yesterday's Dominion Post, "Architects [are] in uproar over [the] Supreme Court building". What, all of them? Well, if you combine that article with one from last November, a total of three architectural lecturers have actually said they oppose the design, and another has spoken out against the process. I'm not close enough to the architectural community to know whether that's the general consensus, but I don't think that it quite constitutes an uproar.
My first and second thoughts on the design were vaguely positive, but I have to admit I'm less so now. I don't agree with Judi Keith-Brown that it's "quite horrible and a real lemon", or with Peter Cresswell that it's "supreme crap": it's just a bit underwhelming for what should be a building of national importance. It would actually make a very pleasant suburban library, of the sort that Warren and Mahoney are getting a name for, or a small low-rise commercial building with considerably more élan than usual. It would sit very nicely in Wanganui, and as someone once pointed out to me, something remarkably similar already does. But it doesn't say "Supreme Court" to me.
My objections are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Keith-Brown's: she says it's too big, but I believe it's too timid and deferential to the old building, and it needs to respond much more boldly to Lambton Quay and the Beehive. I think I can see where W&M were coming from by designing the courtroom itself as a sculptural ovoid clad in rich materials, but surrounded by a transparent rectangular box so that it fits the urban grid. But the ovoid is too small, and the box not transparent enough due to the heavy copper screen, so that from most angles it appears that the most interesting parts would disappear from public view, leaving the impression of a tame and conventional building. As for the park: it was always intended to be temporary, and as I said nearly a year ago when the site was announced, it has never been particularly good. Besides, with its proximity to Parliament grounds, the Government Building gardens and the forecourts of Rutherford House and the Railway Station, this is a part of town that doesn't lack for green space.
Where I do agree wholeheartedly with the objections is that this should have been the subject of a competition. A Supreme Court isn't just a courtroom and judges' chambers, but a national symbol. A competition, possibly international, would have made it less likely for the process to be dominated by the judges and the Historic Places Trust. This design will result in a decent building, but the purpose and the location call for something much more.