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

Monday, April 12, 2004

Urban Eye: Pacific Jewellers

Stylish urban infill on the smallest of scales.

Urbanism +3
It's hardly a building at all, just an enclosure of space, but this tiny shop has transformed a narrow, unused service alley into useful commercial space, while also repairing a gap in the urban fabric.

Lambton Quay already feels like the densest part of Wellington, but with imagination it has proved possible to find a few such unexploited spaces and make the most of them. It shows that when land is valued highly enough, developers will find creative ways of using that land.

Aesthetics +2
The context could have been problematic here, with the exuberant art deco of the Prudential building on one side and stripped classical on the other. A simple-minded contextualist approach could have been disastrous, producing either a poor imitation of one style or a confused hybrid of the two.

Instead, the architects have chosen another style entirely: crisp high-tech modernism at its most minimal. The shopfront is almost entirely glass, with a barely-there steel frame. This restraint allows the details from the Prudential building to show through, while the dimensions follow the lines of both buildings. The window display is rather cluttered, detracting from the simplicity, but otherwise this is an unassuming but stylish addition to the streetscape.

Environment +1
This has a positive environmental effect because it makes use of otherwise unused space in the central city, rather than taking up new space on the fringes. It also make use of the adjoining structures, meaning that very little new materials were required.

Social 0
If this had taken over useful public space, then the social effects would have been negative. But it had been just a dark service alley, so nothing has been lost.


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