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

Friday, October 19, 2007

Building rumours 19: Featherston Tower

With so many new buildings planned or rumoured at the moment, it's hard to know where to start. I'll round up some of the apartment developments soon, but for the moment here's something to show that, despite predictions from the anti-Harbour Quays lobby, there's still plenty of interest in building office towers in the core CBD.

A sign has popped up on the corner of Featherston and Waring Taylor streets advertising "Featherston Tower". This is an unusual development, since while most of it will be built on the site of what's now a low-rise building at 128 Featherston St, a lot of it will be constructed on top of the 11-storey Laptop Company Building next door.

Featherston Tower - current render?Interestingly, this is not the first we've seen of this project. DeepRed over at SkyscraperCity posted a link to the engineers' website, and that has some rather different renders:

Featherston Tower - old render?Apart from the apparent fa├žade differences, which may just be because the engineers are concentrating on the structural details, the main difference is that the southern section is significantly taller and appears to have an angled roof. Given the timing, I'd expect that the top render is what will actually be built, and I think it's quite an improvement.

Rather than a single, rather heavy slab, the building now reads as a slender tower adjacent to a floating glassy volume. The vertical fins on the tower section seem to extend slightly above the building itself, increasing the sense of slenderness and, if the detailing is handled well, giving a sense of the top of the building dissolving into the sky. While there's something to be said for the argument that a building's top and bottom should be marked architecturally, too often the tops of office towers have been capped with pseudo-domestic pitched roofs or quasi-Classical frippery: this seems like a more appropriate way to treat the top of a skyscraper without descending into pastiche.

It will be a shame to lose the existing brick building, partly because of the warmth of its materials and restrained Deco-ish details, but mostly because it's been a rare example of a cheap old building in the CBD that's allowed small and interesting businesses to get a start. Still, the signs are good that this will be a decent enough replacement, if not a brilliant piece of architecture. The earlier design was by ArcHaus: does anyone know whether the new version is the work of a different firm, or just an evolution of the design?


At 12:40 pm, October 19, 2007, Blogger Jack said...

That's a very odd experience. I'm currently sitting in Laptop House, and got about halfway through the second paragraph before I twigged that the proposal covered precisely where I'm sitting right now. --jack

At 12:50 pm, October 19, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

That must be weird! I imagine that it feels like a giant Tetris piece is about to be lowered on top of you.

The engineers' site refers a bit to the challenges involved in that sort of addition:

"This building is to be constructed partly over an existing building. Therefore the design needed to consider access for construction, impact on existing building and tenants as well as the construction of the new tower ... The floor plates are to be connected to the existing building floor plates to provide a 600m2 floor on all levels."

At 2:34 pm, October 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

20 stories - so will that make this close to or over 100m. How many stories is the State Insurance building. Either way this will be a great addition to the new look Featherstone Street. Featherstone could really do with 2 or 3 decent tall buildings.

At 3:37 pm, October 19, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"20 stories - so will that make this close to or over 100m."

Not necessarily: it'd be pretty rare to have 5m per floor for a standard office building.

"How many stories is the State Insurance building."

According to Emporis, it's 27 floors and 103m. I'd suspect that this Featherston St tower could end up being a bit shorter than the "Vodafone on the Park" building, or maybe a similar height depending upon what happens with those fins or spikes at the top.

At 5:52 pm, October 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It could conceivably be the same architect. I know with the Ascott Metropolis in AKL, it was designed by Peddle Thorp Montgomery, who often lean toward the mediocre. But the developer, Andrew Krukziener, has a reputation for perfectionism, and it shows in the Metropolis' design.

At 2:52 pm, October 20, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

An article in the Dom today confirmed that it's ArcHaus. Perhaps they do commercial buildings better than residential; maybe the council planners forced them into the changes; or maybe it's just that the client isn't going for a cynical cheap & nasty building for a change.

At 2:35 pm, November 02, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 2:40 pm, November 02, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Yes, I saw that. I've put my immediate response over on SkyscraperCity, but I'll write a bit more on it after the Kumutoto & Frank Kitts feedback has closed.


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