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

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chews clues

When I last wrote about the Chews Lane precinct, the only online image of the building planned for 45-55 Willis St showed what appeared to be an all-glass façade. The developers now have a detailed page for this building, including renderings and some PDF brochures with higher-res images, and it's clear that the building will have a mixture of glass and brick panels (click the image for a much larger version).

As I said in another forum, the developer's site refers to the images as "Indicative exterior and interior perspectives ... Subject to final design and further change", so perhaps it could evolve. It's a fairly smart-looking building, I think, but a bit of a half-hearted compromise between modernity and the token remnants of the Malthouse. The balcony will remain, but it looks like the famous lions will go (despite featuring on the development's home page), and the brick is just a reference to the previous building rather than a retention of the old fabric. Given that brick is never going to be an appropriate structural material in Wellington, I'd prefer them to be a bit bolder with the new building and play around with the solid/transparent contrast more creatively.

Some people might also object to an eight-storey building disrupting the historic low-rise streetscape of Willis St, but I've managed to track down some images of the building before it was rudely amputated to a two-storey stump. This image from about 1933 (taken from Timeframes) shows that the original hotel had five main storeys, plus a dome and a whole lot of decoration above that. By 1950 (see this other Timeframes image) it had lost those details, but still dominated the streetscape almost as much as it did in a Timeframes photo from the 1920s. It's hard to tell from the images what the total height would have been back then compared to the proposed eight storeys, but at a rough guess I'd say that the seventh storey would match the old cornice line while the top of the eighth storey would be at about the top of the dome. Thus, if anything, this is restoring the scale of the streetscape.

What that image doesn't show is the apartment building that will go down the middle of the block, spanning the Lane and rising from level 8 all the way to 18. It looks like the details of that will be released this weekend, and on page C9 of today's Dominion Post there's a sneak preview in the form of the cover page of their Saturday property supplement. While it looks slightly sleeker and ever so slightly more curvaceous than the slab visible in the background of some of the office renderings, it's still a very large building. It will certainly change the feel of the street, some might say for the worse. But consider that it will probably house about 150 people, which at the density of the so-called "eco-village" north of Waikanae would require over 5 hectares of farmland!

There's also some more detail about the ground floor uses. The updated retail plan shows that the restored heritage buildings at 29 and 35 Willis St will house upmarket women's fashion outlets (Kimberleys and Veronika Maine respectively), and that most of the Malthouse replacement will also have fashion stores on the ground floor. The southernmost Victoria St tenancy is earmarked for "Art", thus aiming to create a little arty hub with Avid and the Tinakori Gallery. All of the tenancies along Chews Lane itself seem to be set aside for "Food and Beverage" retail, including a "Gastro Bar"(perhaps a long-term replacement for the Malthouse?) at the bottom of the restored 56 Victoria St. The little café shown on the corner of the Lane and Willis St looks like a good site for something like the existing Masi, and if all the retail and hospitality tenancies succeed, Chews lane really could be Wellington's equivalent of Vulcan Lane or Hardware Lane as the developers claim.


At 2:21 pm, October 12, 2006, Blogger Hadyn said...

Do you think the new building has a crazy-cool curve to that leading edge or is it just the whacked perspective of the artist?

At 2:25 pm, October 12, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

I presume it's just the perspective. Though a curve like that would definitely make it more interesting!

At 3:25 pm, October 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The picture you show today is the other side of the building from the overhanging glass building you linked to previously. (previous view was Victoria St, current view is Willis St)

At 3:43 pm, October 12, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Not quite. The building at 45-55 Willis St (the part-brick one in today's pic) is on the south side of the lane, and only goes halfway into the block (the 1920's building at 56 Victoria St is behind it).

The overhanging glass building at 50 Victoria St is on the north side of Chews Lane and goes all the way through to Willis St to become the non-overhanging glass building shown in the picture in my previous post. Whew!

At 11:06 pm, October 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Dom Post for Saturday October 14 has made the Chews apartments their feature property. It has a better rendering (not skewed) of the streetfront buildings, and shows the enormous apartment building in the back (seems to be another 12 stories taller than the steetfront buildings, which are about eight).

The image Tom links to shows clouds in the background. That space will be all building, apparently.

FWIW, apartments in the rear building start at $400K for 70 square meters.

At 11:30 am, October 16, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Hi Gordon,

Thanks for that: I've posted about it now.

At 11:38 am, October 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too find the curved edge intriguing, pity that it is nothing but distortion!

I like the ironic use of brick here, which is clearly not structural. The tacked on verandah also works for me in a strange way. It kind of toys (perhaps, teakes the p*ss) with the idea of heritage conservation and as such, is much more successful than a straightforward facade retention...

At 3:17 pm, October 16, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

anon: I know what you mean. If you're going to keep the verandah (and it is a nice verandah) but you're not going to keep the building (and there's not much of the original left to keep), then rather than just keeping a bit of the fa├žade as a "stick on" and pretending it's real (as the HSBC building has done), it's much better to muck around with it and emphasise the artifice.

SITE used to do this brilliantly (see this image, and links to others here), and Ath himself was doing just that back in the 80s with his axe through the front of Moore Wilson. Perhaps that all a bit too po-mo and not po-faced enough for today's fashions?


Post a Comment

<< Home