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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Building rumours 10: new BNZ at Harbour Quays

I've wondered before about images of the planned new BNZ building at Harbour Quays, and I've just had a pointer from a helpful reader to say that there's now a publication on the CentrePort website (458kB PDF) with a couple of renders. Here's the first, from an angle we haven't seen before (click for a larger version):

Render of new BNZ building from the northI'm inclined to think that this doesn't look too bad: its undeniable bulk is broken down into multiple volumes, and there's quite a variety of surface treatments. There's also intended to be retail on the ground floor, and there's a fair amount of shelter for pedestrians, at least along Waterloo Quay. It's from the south that it all starts to go pear-shaped (at least, if pears were shaped like great big square boxes):

Render of new BNZ building from the southFrom this angle, you can just make out that there is still some attempt to break down the volume, but the boxy outer skin that wraps over the roof and southwest elevation dooms that attempt to failure and it ends up looking monolithic again. That southwest elevation also looks problematic, as it seems rather blank for a six-storey wall that will loom over the much lower Bluebridge building.

The whole thing looks far too imposing for a single building so close to the water's edge, especially when compared to something like the Meridian building not far south of here, which uses curves, setbacks and roof details to decrease its visual impact. In the latter case, it's clear that the public spaces were planned first and the buildings specified to define support them: while there is a masterplan for Harbour Quays, it's hard not to get the impression that the brief was to create as much cheap floor space as possible, and then make some reluctant efforts to fit some spaces around them.

It still seems hard to reconcile these renders with either the published masterplan or the apparent boundaries of the building site, part of which you can make out from the webcam. Those both indicate a footprint resembling a parallelogram, whereas the renders show something much more rectangular. Perhaps there's still hope that these images are slightly inaccurate, or from confusing viewpoints, and the final building will have some more interesting angles. But I wouldn't (ahem) bank on it.


At 8:10 am, March 23, 2007, Blogger Hadyn said...

Reminds me of a polished version of this Ancient Wellington Building. Maybe not in visuals but in tone.

At 8:43 am, March 23, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is an atrocious building, no doubt about it. Those new renders make no difference,it's still a bulky mess that should never have been granted consent and what a waste of prime space as well. In 20 years people will view it in the same way they view the nzpost bulding near by - a bulky, ugly hunk of garbage.

At 8:53 am, March 23, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you look at that second render you can see the railway station building to the left which as we all know is a very large building, and yet from the render it looks as though the BNZ building is going to be even larger - at least in height, which puts into context how monolithic it will be. The building looks more like a hospital than an office building. Just appalling! It's funny all the fuss over the supreme court building taking place especially when that building is a masterpiece compared to this.

At 9:43 am, March 23, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a disgusting object - all we can hope for is that the neigbouring buildings help to contextualise the bulk a little. I would have thought that the bulk and scale would have reduced on the perimeters of the new development area to help it integrate with the other areas of the waterfront - sadly this building seems to show that the opposite is true. A bit fo facade articulation is not going to cut it here...

At 2:20 pm, March 23, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

> A bit of facade articulation is not going to cut it here...

One way to fix it: stand it on end! Then it would make a half-decent 18-storey glass mini-skyscraper. Then it should be moved into the city, and ... oh wait, then it wouldn't be a cheap & nasty office park, would it?

I don't think it's as bad as the NZ post building or the Works-era government building that Hadyn linked to, but it's still an ugly lump, especially when seen from the water. The perspective might be a little misleading, and if you follow the sightlines it looks like it won't be much taller than the station. It should be pretty much exactly the same height as the Stats building, but with three or four times the footprint, it's much much bulkier.

It's a pity, because without too much work it could have been much better. If you dropped the southern third by one or two floors, and added the volume to the middle section, it would have have read more like three separate buildings than one big lump, as well as stepping down to integrate better with the context to the south. But of course that would never happen: the reason it is this shape is that anything up to six stories on the CentrePort land requires no notification, making the consent process quicker and cheaper while avoiding having to deal with all those pesky urban design issues. It's one of those cases where rigid building restrictions, combined with the wrong sort of developer, conspire to give a worse outcome (aesthetically and urbanistically) than looser and more subjective rules.

At 1:14 pm, March 27, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous, regarding the fuss over the supreme court building I think the argument about that is that the supreme court building is the second most important public building in New Zealand (next to parliament). Hence something fitting its purpose and importance should be built. And something that is going to be able to be kept for centuries. While there are some arguments about the qualities of the design, I don't think people would be complaining much if it was just another office block going up.

As I think Tom identifies in his post, it could be made much more attractive simple by breaking the three sections up a bit, altering their heights. Design wise I think they took their allotted box, and just started cutting away bits and pieces until they had, well, a box with small bits and pieces missing. Viola. This reminds me of the kinds of buildings I saw around places like Copenhagen's docklands areas which were built in the 90s and now look wet and miserable.

I was hoping the whole "Harbour Quays" and railyards areas could be developed more cohesively so the two connect up, but Harbour Quays is really just a business park making money for the port. Wellington could be loosing an massive opportunity if it doesn't making moves to plan for this area a bit more. (Look at the wasted opportunity that is Dublin's docklands to see what we should fear.)

At 1:23 pm, May 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Noted in the back of this mornings NBR, is a request from Wellington Waterfront for interest in tenanting office space on sites 9 and 10 at queens wharf North (the old lynx carpark, and the spare site opposite the shell/maritime tower)

I guess the Expressions of Interests that closed at the end of April looked promising,

At 12:34 pm, April 10, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I drove past the new BNZ building recently and thought it looks great. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished building next year. The artwork that is being constructed on the 2 roadside facades is going to set this building apart from a lot of other corporate buildings in Wellington. Maybe the critics should wait till it's finished before slagging it off.


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