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

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Playing favourites #9: School of Architecture and Design

Victoria University Of Wellington School Of Architecture And DesignThe next on my list is Victoria University's School of Architecture and Design at 139 Vivian St. Strangely, the School's own "About Us" page doesn't mention anything about its architectural history, beyond that it was converted from a cargo building. I know that it was originally an Air New Zealand building from the 1960s (I think that one of the artworks at Olive cafe uses the letters from the old sign), and from memory I think that the architects of the conversion were Craig Craig Moller, but I'm open to correction.

In any case, it was one of the most radical building conversions in Wellington, and it's hard to remember the dull grey original. It looks like a huge glass spike has been driven through the front elevation, and this brutal slicing of the host building, together with the acute angles of the glass and steel elements, give it just the slightest hint of deconstructivist architecture. This is softened by the smooth curves along the top, and brightened up by the bold red paint job, giving a nod to postmodernism. Inside, there are hints of High-Tech and remnants of the late Modernist original, making this a mini-essay in the architecture of the last 50 years.

Victoria University Of Wellington School Of Architecture And DesignIt's far from perfect from an urbanist perspective, though. The entrance is tucked almost apologetically around the corner, whereas Cobblestone Park gets a dour stone wall as a backdrop rather than the active edge it deserves. I know that the park is supposed to be redesigned soon, and this would be a great opportunity to give the building a park entrance. Despite these niggles, it's still a bright and lively presence on Vivian St and a great example of how building conversions don't have to be timid and deferential to be successful.


At 5:16 pm, April 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, absolutely - one of the most interesting internal spaces in any building in Wellington. And also one of the most flexible and successful as well. Definitely on my list !

At 10:52 pm, April 18, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be a design snob, but this building, to me, represents the relatively poor state of contemporary architecture in wellington.

This building is really rather unremarkable. That's not to say it's a bad building, it's just eh. "Vegetable Lasagne" if you will, from Seinfeld lexicon. Nothing particularly noxious, but nothing all that special either. In a different context, this would be seen for what it is, a pretty ordinary building.

At 12:21 pm, April 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once one has undergone years of imprisonment within it's walls, it becomes hard to look upon this building with anything more than fear, regardless of it's aesthetic merits.


At 12:14 pm, April 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting point denmt.

I remember walking through the doors the first time thinking wow. After 5 years and many subsequent visits [drinks and nibbles etc…] the interest wanes to say the least.

It is really hard to shake ones personal and experiential memory of the building with its aesthetic and contextual merits....maybe time to attempt an 'objective' rethink.

At 1:51 pm, April 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's my visual representation of the gripping fear that the student feels as they approach...

At 7:52 am, February 13, 2013, Blogger Unknown said...

Building style refers to the generally based architectural, engineering and technical applications to the design of buildings.Thanks! Look for additional posts on this topic soon.
Building Conversions


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