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

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Kumutoto Option E

Option E, entitled "Encounter", deviates quite markedly from the brief in both plan and heights. On the overall plan, you can see buildings on sites 9 and 10, but site 8 appears to have been left as an extension of Kumutoto Plaza. Or has it?

Kumutoto Option E - the planThe rectangular outline across site 8 indicates a slab-like extension of the site 9 building, suspended four floors above the ground. It's not cantilevered but supported by columns, and most of it enclosed by enormous sliding glass walls to create something between an atrium and a winter garden.

Kumutoto Option E - winter gardenIt's all very spectacular, and on a day like the one pictured in the renders it could be a very pleasant place. But of course, no-one ever renders a typical Wellington day, and I wonder just how often those gargantuan Ranchsliders could actually be opened up.

I think, though, that it's the Site 10 building that would be most controversial. At 12 storeys it's about twice the height specified in the brief and framework:

Kumutoto Option E - both buildingsThe setbacks at the southern end helps break down the mass a bit, and the roof gardens are a nice touch. But the glass that wraps around the rest of it, while adding some visual variety, just makes it look monolithic again. It could be quite a spectacular building to be inside, with variable-sized floors arranged throughout tall atria, but from the outside it's too dominating for the context. It could work well elsewhere in the city, and perhaps a drastically scaled-down version would be appropriate here, but this is the wrong building for Site 10.

While I admire the willingness of the panel to look at entries that break the rules when there's a compelling design reason for doing so, I don't think that this scheme demonstrates such a rationale. Perhaps it just shows that there were good reasons why the brief was written the way it was. For instance, the Site 10 height limit was set to match the podium of the NZ Post building behind it, and seen from a distance there are a lot of precedents for 5-6 storeys as a consistent height across the waterfront as a whole. Also, the site footprints weren't set arbitrarily, but to create sheltered spaces and an urban network of lanes and squares. The framework would be worth reconsidering if it stood in the way of buildings of such unique architectural brilliance that to pass them up would be a crime; but these are a long way from that.


At 11:23 am, November 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that glass atrium building, this is exactly the type of building the waterfront needs. Your right about the other builing being too large at 12 stories but they could maybe scale it back a bit and make a few changes to the design and it would be ok. maybe the council can choose different buildings from different designs in the same way they selected the UN Studio and the John Wardle designs for Chaffers park. Perhaps they could use the atrium building and thethat Seattle Library style building (in your next post)for the two sites.


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