WellUrban

Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Building rumours 16: Thorndon rising?


Trawling the web for renderings of proposed buildings can give one an early hint of what's on the way, but you have to take the results with a bit of caution. Developers, architects and real estate agents often post images of buildings long before the design is finalised, the project receives consent and in some cases before the land is even acquired, so the buildings may end up substantially different or never even get built. Websites for architectural illustrators can be even more misleading for the unwary, as some of the images may have never been intended to see the light of day. With that in mind, it's still worth looking at what could be, if they're serious, some very significant developments as shown on Stantiall Studio's site.

The first image is not too much of a surprise: it's of "Pipitea Plaza", an office development proposed by the Tenths Trust on some of their land on Pipitea St. I've seen renderings before in the Dominion Post, but this is the first I've seen online, and from a different angle.
Rendering of Pipitea PlazaWhile most architectural renderings seem to fall into the "Impress the client" category, I think this belongs to the opposite school: "Don't scare the neighbours". The proposal has drawn a bit of flak from the friends of Old St Paul's, ostensibly because the additional shading would cause the timbers of the old church to dry out and even fall to pieces. Now, I'm no expert on the properties of old wood, and maybe this rendering is doing too good a job of making the new building look insignificant, but that really does sound rather far-fetched to me.

Down the other end of Pipitea St, on the site of the currently derelict Thorndon Tavern, a much larger development is (apparently) being considered by Mainzeal.
Rendering of Mainzeal developmentWhile I quite like the pseudo-random patterning of the windows, there's no disguising the stolid rectilinearity of this building. Mainzeal were also the contractors behind two mediocre lumps in the vicinity: Defence House and the rapidly-rising Vogel "Integrated Campus". The family resemblance is depressingly obvious, and it's almost as if they're going out of their way to continue the leaden precedent set by the Ministry of Works back in the sixties and seventies.

This next one is rather different, and one that I've heard a bit about from other sources: a street-level extension to the National Library.
Rendering of National Library additionThe additions look very clean and light (assisted by one of Stantiall's trademark twilight renderings), and by replacing the currently forbidding shuttered concrete with a much more welcoming entrance that comes properly to the street edge it could be a good move from an urbanist perspective. But I'm a little worried that the library (which I have much more affection for than some critics) will lose some of its integrity and boldness of form, and it makes Athfields' very recently completed glass entrance seem like a waste of effort.

Finally, something that came as a complete, and rather pleasant, surprise: a tall and very glassy tower on Kate Sheppard Place.
Rendering of 'Kate Sheppard Place' developmentIt's hard to tell for sure whether the perspective might be misleading, but it looks like there are some complex angles going on here, with perhaps even a slight lean towards the east in the upper floors. It's a seductive image of a sleek, daring and crystalline building that shows up the neighbouring Environment House for the timid mediocrity that it really is (can anyone explain to me why it had to get cheap imitations of stripped classical detailing slapped over its fa├žade?). It's impossible to tell from this angle how well it would relate to the street, and there's clearly not a lot of detail to go on, but it's a heartening sign that someone's thinking (literally) outside of the box when it comes to office tower design.

Of course, most of this is speculation, and with the exception of Pipitea Plaza and possibly the National Library, I haven't come across any other information that might attest to the status of these renderings. The appearance of so many illustrations by the same studio in a small area seems a strong hint to me that these may be part of the "Capital Precinct" urban design project, and some of them may just be conceptual drawings to illustrate how major buildings could conceivably fit into the overall scheme, rather than concrete proposals. As usual, I'm opening the floor to confirmations, denials, opinions and gossip.

21 Comments:

At 10:49 am, August 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always liked the National Library as well. It's a unique building in Wellington and fits in well with that whole Parlimentary area.

 
At 10:56 am, August 07, 2007, Anonymous Julian said...

Have to agree about the National Library, it's one of the best buildings in that area.

 
At 10:57 am, August 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you notice that the Kate Sheppard Place glass tower appears to include a 3 level podium sticking out above the bus interchange? This might have something to do with a recent court case where the old owners of the Hotel Cecil were entitled to have ownership of that land and not the Council (who is using the land now for the bus interchange). Perchance a compromise - the Council saves face by keeping the interchange where it currently is and in return the building developer gets to build a rather tall glass tower?

 
At 11:23 am, August 07, 2007, Blogger Glassboy said...

That reminds me, I've been meaning to tell you. The vacent lot opposite the Chews Lane Development (that I sent you the picture of) has had a drilling crew on it for the last two weeks taking core samples.

Guess we might see a fancy rendering for that site as well soon.

 
At 12:23 pm, August 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The vacent lot opposite the Chews Lane Development

Where?, on Willis or Victoria, there are no vacant lots on Willis, and the only place I can think you could call vacant on Victoria is down the service lane behind the police station (Maning lane)

 
At 12:47 pm, August 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are more works in progress in thorndon. Some not at such a level of development however.

I'm glad to see something proposed for the old tavern site.

 
At 12:56 pm, August 07, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"Where?, on Willis or Victoria, there are no vacant lots on Willis"

I think he's talking about the space in behind the shops in Willis St: there's a big overgrown empty section there and heading towards Boulcott St. There have been plans floating around for a while, which also involve demolishing some of the old shop buildings (around about where The Vault is), so in that sense any development there wouldn't be entirely on a vacant lot.

 
At 12:58 pm, August 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the current entrance to the National Library is an abomination....

 
At 1:04 pm, August 07, 2007, Anonymous M-D said...

The entry to the Nat Library has long been a serious problem, both in terms of 'urbanist values' as well as the fact that this is a national public building of some importance. The current entry is too intimidating for the building's role (not to mention sadly inadequate for disabled users). I applaud the proposed changes - integrity of form is one thing, integrity of meeting human requirements is another.

I reckon the defence dept should have relocated to the building (that's what its language is really about isn't it) and a new library should have been built behind...

Don't renderings of glass look so much more compelling than the actual physical qualities of the finished object though...

 
At 1:23 pm, August 07, 2007, Blogger Erentz said...

National Library isn't too bad, perhaps there are maybe some minor improvements that could be made. But it's big, bold, and makes an impact in a good way that is appropriate for its value, which is rare for NZ government buildings and I've always enjoyed that about it.

Perhaps the supreme court could've taken a lesson from that.

 
At 2:08 pm, August 07, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

m-d: I think I agree about the entrance: on balance, I'd prefer to see the improvements, but I'd like to see some more detailed plans and renderings before deciding.

"Don't renderings of glass look so much more compelling than the actual physical qualities of the finished object though..."

:-) that's so often the case! On the other hand, there have been some recent buildings that looked much better than the renders (Maritime House & the Museum Hotel Apartments) come to mind, and I think a lot of that was due to the treatment of the glass. The Meridian building and Chaffers Dock "Boathouse" apartments always looked good in the renders, and look at least as good in real life.

 
At 7:59 pm, August 07, 2007, Anonymous m-d said...

Re: the Govt Precinct scheme - there really isn't one at present. I have just attended a presentation on that very topic, and it is very little more than an urban design desire on the part of some council officers. I think it is very well intentioned, but as yet has no discernable official buy-in from WCC itself, let alone Central Govt (who haven't even been properly pitched to yet). At this stage it is a very long term goal to wotk towards, and full credit to those who are trying to give the impetus needed to get off the ground...

 
At 11:48 am, August 08, 2007, Blogger Glassboy said...

"I think he's talking about the space in behind the shops in Willis St: there's a big overgrown empty section there and heading towards Boulcott St."

Yep between Wills St and the Data General carpark on Boulcott. If you took out the old one story shops at the front you'd have a big space to build on.

 
At 4:35 pm, August 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=-41.286935,174.775647&spn=0.00133,0.002511&t=k&z=19&om=1

Is this the place you're talking about?

Maybe it's this building:

http://img234.imageshack.us/img234/7596/jll486038368607kz3.jpg

Can anyone confirm or deny this possibility?

 
At 10:25 pm, August 08, 2007, Anonymous DeepRed said...

That was advertised in one listing as 70-80 Willis, and in another as 22-42 Willis.

And the Google Maps pin-point is indeed 22-42 Willis. To be precise, it's that single-storey area just south of the Grand Arcade.

I've also noticed that 44-48 Willis is nearly empty since Airways Corp moved to the Majestic. Is it a sign of impending wrecker balls?

 
At 8:50 am, August 09, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

DeepRed: "That was advertised in one listing as 70-80 Willis, and in another as 22-42 Willis."

Yes, I think I've seen it advertised as both, but that rendering should definitely be for #22-4. #70-80 is the site of a proposed 95m development, but that's still speculative and the renderings for that are purely to help sell the site.

"I've also noticed that 44-48 Willis is nearly empty since Airways Corp moved to the Majestic. Is it a sign of impending wrecker balls?"

I'm not sure, but it seems that at least two of the upstairs businesses facing Willis St (Salon Love and the Ye Jun Chinese restaurant) have closed in the last few months, with no sign of replacement, so that could be another sign.

 
At 1:18 pm, August 09, 2007, Blogger Erentz said...

Woah, is there speculation that the Airways Corp building will be demolished?

There goes my fantasy for a major plan encompassing the whole area (including the carparks/etc above Metro NW) centred around a new central train terminus (accessed by a tunnel up Featherston St), and Light Rail transfer point. :(

 
At 3:40 pm, August 09, 2007, Anonymous deepred said...

In case anyone's wondering, the owners of the Ye Jun moved house and opened Majestic Cuisine on Courtenay Pl.

 
At 4:00 pm, August 09, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

DeepRed: Thanks for the info. I thought that Majestic Cuisine opened before Ye Jun closed, but it's not unheard of for a replacement place to open before the old one closes.

 
At 4:29 am, March 22, 2008, Blogger Meredith said...

Those are some cool renderings. Sometimes it's fun just to see what various architectural illustrators come up with even if the actual building won't ever be built or ends up looking different from the rendering.

 
At 1:42 pm, April 13, 2009, Anonymous prinda said...

The national library is a great building and also a cool architectural rendering.

 

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