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

Friday, April 20, 2007

Playing favourites #2: Racing Conference building

NZ Racing Conference building, WellingtonThis one's bound to be uncontroversial: surely everyone loves the Racing Conference building, even if they just know it as "that building with the Lido in it and the curvy verandah".

Sharp corner sites often bring out the best in buildings, but few have done it with such elegance and sense of fun. The fenestration is all proper, no-nonsense Modernism, but the curves look back a few decades to Art Deco streamlining. The materials are surprisingly rich and textured, and while the horseshoe motifs are as kitsch as ever, they're a constant reminder of the building's original purpose.

NZ Racing Conference building and Lido Cafe
But it's the sinuous ripple of the verandah that really lifts it out of the ordinary. Most people don't enjoy it quite as much as the kids I once saw somewhat gingerly skateboarding on top of it, but it's still something that raises a smile. Elegant, friendly and memorable: those are three qualities that are always welcome in a building.


At 4:33 pm, April 20, 2007, Blogger noizy said...

ah! the anticipation! what will #1 be?

At 4:40 pm, April 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this building. I make a point to walk past it every day on the way home from work.

I don `t think the cafe is as good as it used to be though....

At 5:10 pm, April 20, 2007, Blogger mikeymike said...

same here raffe.
i used to sit in the office building opposite. gazing. wishing...
"if only i could be working in a building as cool as that. i'd give anything to being looked down upon like this..."

At 5:46 pm, April 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's a great flat on the top floor that can be seen into from neighbouring buildings, especially late at night. And they used to have a huge sign saying DRUGS that was all lit up at night.... Yes, the building has stood the test of time well, despite being dsimissed as a mere piece of frippery when it was built. You can't expect hard-boiled modernists to appreciate the wonderful kitsch touches of the horseshoe motif in the facade, yet many decades later it won an award in the Arch Centre's Best dressed list.

Question is : will it make the AC list of 10 best this time round? check out the Dompost tomorrow... or Monday, or whenever they get around to publishing it....

At 6:18 pm, April 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There really is something about early modernist buildings I can't resist.

I was once told that the early modernist architects had a pre-war training that included classical proportion and scale and when they moved into designing "modern" buildings they never lost that sense of scale and proportion.

Hence early modern buildings, even bold ones like Freyburg pool, have a sense of proportion and scale that later buildings struggle to match.


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