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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Building rumours 20: The Victoria Quarter

There hasn't been much publicity about this, but it could be one of the biggest developments, residential or otherwise, to hit Wellington in a long time.

Victoria Quarter - the courtyard
It's called the "Victoria Quarter", and it's planned to take up all of the large vacant site that currently hosts the Sunday market, bordered by Victoria, Vivian and Willis streets. There's a bit more information on this property website, and larger pictures on this one. It's essentially an apartment development, though with retail on the ground floors. As I wrote earlier, this is already one of the most densely populated parts of Wellington, and this project will add several hundred apartments to the block.

Victoria Quarter - from Willis StAt ten or eleven storeys, it could seem rather massive, but in this context the height might not be inappropriate, given the taller Unicomm building to the north and the relatively wide streets around it. It could be seen more as a bookend to the high city stretching up Willis and Victoria streets than as an intrusion into the low city proper, which tends to be further to the south and east. It's also designed as a cluster of different buildings, with the southwest and southeast corners marked by colour and curves respectively, and each of the individual buildings has a reasonably deep and varied façade. While it's a lot of construction to happen all in one go, all of the above features mean that it will end up looking less like a monolith and more like a city block that has evolved over time.

It looks even better when you compare it to the original massing concepts mooted for the site, such as this "Wellington International Student Centre":

Wellington International Student Centre - early renderThat was presumably just a real estate exercise to see what could be wrung out of the planning rules, but even so, it was a particularly dire throwback to 60s housing estate planning: five anonymous slabs arranged haphazardly through the site, leaving drab fragments of useless leftover space. The current scheme seems like an admirably urban alternative, since it pushes all the mass to the boundaries, helping define the streets around it while leaving space for what could conceivably be a useful courtyard.

Courtyard developments aren't common at this scale (there are more precedents at 4-6 storeys), and I get the feeling that the bright sunlit space shown in the renders is rather optimistic. Nevertheless, it appears to be intended as a public space, with wide enough entrances to make it inviting as a shortcut. It might also be a solution to what I see as the one real possible downside of this development: the loss of the popular market. The landscaping shown in the render may take up too much of the flat space, but otherwise it might still be possible to hold Sunday markets in the courtyard. With the surrounding retail spaces fronting on to both the courtyard and the street, they could attract the sort of businesses (e.g. butchers, delis, speciality stores) that could complement the mostly vegetable-focussed market. It would be good to see the final version explicitly designed for this purpose.


At 3:36 PM, November 13, 2007, Anonymous maximus said...

Another Archaus development, but perhaps it is one without the usual Archaus sense of inevitable crapness. Or do i speak too soon? If Archaus could publish a plan view of the development that would be good.

Does this mean then that the other 5 or 10 hideous Archaus high-rise developments could instead then be deleted?

I'm suspicious of the generous amount of space as shown in the beautifully rendered courtyard. Knowing Archaus ability to stretch the truth, i distrust the amount of open space shown, and suspect there is much, much less. Prove us wrong, Archaus. Post a plan on line. Even better: publish a section.

At 5:29 PM, November 13, 2007, Blogger Erentz said...

By my estimates of the size of that land the central courtyard could easily be up to 20x30m. Which is a fair size. Looks a little too closed off though to be public in any way. And that much sun? Ha. Look down the alley between the buildings in this picture to see what it will really be like, i.e. completely shaded.

At 6:56 PM, November 13, 2007, Anonymous reshmi said...

If Archaus could publish a plan view of the development that would be good.

At 10:12 PM, November 13, 2007, Anonymous deepred said...

I managed to obtain some floorplans from the site office where the Soho Apartments will be built. Now I just need to dig out my Form 3 maths textbook. :)

At 9:29 AM, November 15, 2007, Anonymous maximus said...

There are 4 separate buildings arranged around a central courtyard, as depicted. Pyrmont, Beaumont, Ultimo, and Latitude. Gotta have that marketing in place!

The central courtyard is about 17m wide and 37m long. and buildings on each side about 30m tall: that's not a bad size for a courtyard, albiet a bit tall, and it could get quite sunny for an hour or two over lunch, and the little walkways between the 10 storey buildings mean that it could get some rays of late afternoon sunshine as well. Cold and shady for the rest of the day / month / year though, especially in winter.

But the courtyard is curiously reduced by tiny little ground floor gardens, to stop the ground floor occupants having people sitting right outside their bedroom windows. Perhaps it would be better to forget those particular apartments and go for retail on the ground floor here as well? or is that just for the second stage of Ultimo and Latitude?

But Tom's idea for speciality Deli's etc could be a great spot for these - if the apartments were a bit more upmarket. But their proposed 33-60 (mostly 50m2) size makes it highly unlikely they will be upmarket at all. Seeing as it is directly next to the UniComm building, chokka full of students, perhaps this is really just another big student project?

On the plans, but not actually visible on the perspective, is a tiny patch of lawn, about 7m wide. Perhaps thats where the remains of the food mart is to go....

At 7:46 PM, November 17, 2007, Blogger Sir H C Llenrad said...

Love the bit on The Move Channel site text where it says:

"Furthermore, Wellington is widely regarded as the most beautiful city in New Zealand, it is also the capital. It has a rich vibrant society, is renowned as the café capital and has a very strong and stable workforce."


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