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

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

How wrong could I be?

While it was still under construction, I reviewed the extension of the Prudential Building on Lambton Quay. From the fact that the additional floors were being set back, I optimistically assumed that the form would actually improve the aesthetics of the building, creating the stepped silhouette of an Art Deco skyscraper. But then the covers came off:

The massing is actually not too bad: there's a series of setbacks, the flagpole is a nice touch, and it's broken into a cluster of smaller forms around the lightwells of the original. But the materials and the horizontal banding of the fenestration are so heavy and lumpen that they completely destroy the vertical emphasis of the host building. It squats where it should soar.


At 9:57 am, August 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tom:

I saw your page about this building on your old WellUrban Web site, and I couldn't believe what a generous assessment you had given it. I'm relieved to see this followup acknowledging its tragic ugliness.

Generally, rooftop extensions are a blight on Wellington architecture. I'm guessing it is an indirect result of the RMA.

I know your old site is an archive, but maybe you should go back to those pages and make their archival status and date of publication more prominent; and perhaps provide links to updates like this.


At 2:25 pm, August 22, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

Mea culpa! I've been planning to update it for a while, but I currently lack access to a decent camera that can show the result in all its hideous glory. I'll probably give it a go shortly to correct my over-optimistic premature assessment.

A more recently posted photo shows that the massing is actually pretty good, and that with a bit of attention to detail (even the most architecturally illiterate can tell that a vertical rhythm was essential, so I'm blaming the developer for the horizontal windows) it could have been a positive addition. Ah well, a missed opportunity.

I agree that most rooftop extensions are appalling, but there are some that do improve on the original (Croxley Mills between Frederick and Haining Streets, Walker's Wonky Windows above Lone Star in Tory St). I like a couple of very contrasting extensions that have been controversial, such as the Blair Wakefield apartments (on the eponymous corner) and TPK house (where I work: see my post about its lobby details). I'll have to write a post about the subject some time.


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