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New Zealand Architecture’s TOP 20

Press Release – NZ Architecture Awards

Twenty projects have been recognised in the 2012 New Zealand Architecture Awards. Proving that design quality is not governed by the size of buildings or type of work, winners in the country’s leading architectural awards programme ranged from the …
New Zealand Architecture’s TOP 20
Twenty projects have been recognised in the 2012 New Zealand Architecture Awards. Proving that design quality is not governed by the size of buildings or type of work, winners in the country’s leading architectural awards programme ranged from the Auckland Art Gallery to a Napier artist’s studio, from a chapel in an inner-city church to a café on the side of a mountain, and from an airport hotel to a lakeside school.

“The standard of public and commercial projects was very high,” says Hugh Tennent, the convenor of the New Zealand Institute of Architects awards jury. “The Awards show that, despite the financial constraints we’re all facing, public bodies and private developers are commissioning high-quality buildings.”
“It was also good to see that architects are finding ways to deliver great work in these tight times – as they should.”

Tennent says several trends emerged from this year’s Architecture Awards, a demanding programme that entails the scrutiny of finalists by a jury of five leading architects, including one from Australia.

“There’s a greater effort going into improving urban environments and infrastructure,” says Tennent, “and a more sophisticated approach to repairing and developing our cities.”

These developments, Tennent says, are exemplified by two award winning Auckland projects, both designed by Architectus – the new transport hub at New Lynn, which has untangled local infrastructural knots by lowering a rail platform beneath ground level, and the Urban Design Framework for Wynyard Quarter, which represents “a significant advance in the thinking about occupying and enjoying our waterfronts”.
A second feature of the Architecture Awards is the presence of projects instigated or enabled by Maori funders. Te Wharewaka, a commercial building on Wellington’s waterfront, designed by architecture+, and the Novotel Auckland Airport, designed by Warren and Mahoney Architects, convey in their design “a sense of what is physically and culturally unique about New Zealand”.

The strength of architectural responses to powerful or sensitive settings was another theme of the Awards, and one which, Tennent says, offers a positive message to a nation often suspicious about the place of buildings in the landscape.

Tennent says an important element of the success of the Auckland Art Gallery, in which Sydney-based FJMT in association with local practice Archimedia have restored the existing gallery and added a “beautifully proportioned and stunningly appointed” new building, is “the well-handled connection with Albert Park”. The Auckland Art Gallery received Architecture Awards in both the public architecture and heritage categories.

A confident treatment of the relationship between buildings and landscape is also evident on two very different but equally dramatic sites. On the Whakapapa skifield on Mt Ruapehu, Harris Butt Architecture’s Knoll Ridge Café is a “wonderful building,” Tennent says, “truly audacious in its design and also in its construction, which was carried out under very difficult circumstances”.
In Queenstown, Babbage Consultants’ Remarkables Primary School, Tennent says, lives up to the promise of its name. Located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, the state school “not only brilliantly serves its pedagogical purpose,” Tennent says, “but also provides a clearly identifiable community place in an area not well supplied with high-quality public architecture”.

An outstanding example of a built response to a tough urban environment is Anvil, an Auckland commercial building designed by Patterson Associates for a site on a perennially busy four-lane road.

Tennent says the judges were highly impressed by two Award winners using innovative timber structural technology – “a timely re-examination, given the reconstruction challenges in Christchurch, of the potential of our traditional building material”. Nelson’s NMIT Arts and Media Building, designed by Irving Smith Jack Architects, was commissioned as a test-case, multi-level timber building. “It has passed its exam with flying colours,” Tennent says.
In Auckland, the MOTAT Aviation Display Hall, designed by Studio Pacific Architecture, uses record-breaking spans of laminated veneer lumber to provide a generous volume of space for a collection of vintage aircraft.
While the Architecture Awards mainly celebrate new buildings, they also acknowledge significant conservation and restoration projects. The jury praised the conservation of Wellington’s Government House, carried out by Athfield Architects, pointing to the “thorough research” and “detailed recording” behind the revitalisation of an important heritage building, and home of the country’s titular head of state.

At the other end of the architectural scale, Salmond Reed Architects deservedly won an Award, Tennent says, for the practice’s artful insertion of St Thomas’ Chapel, which was originally housed in a nineteenth century missionary ship, into St-Matthew-in-the-City Church in downtown Auckland, itself a recently restored heritage building.

This “little jewel” of was one of several small projects to receive Architecture Awards. The others were the light-filled studio for an artist fitted into a Napier garden by Ashley Cox Architects –“a delightful realisation of the art of architecture”, the Awards jury said – and a modest holiday house designed by Crosson Clarke Carnachan Chin Architects, inspired by the model of a tramping hut in a bush clearing.

Tennent says it was disappointing the Awards jury was not presented with examples of medium or high density projects. “These are building types we desperately need to be good,” he says, “if we are to persuade people there are alternatives to urban sprawl and the endless building of motorways”.

However, Tennent says, the high quality of house architecture was again evident, “even though this year’s standout houses didn’t strive to stand out”. Three of the four Award winners in the residential category are stained or coloured a recessive black, he notes, the exception being RTA Studio’s “innovative and playful” House for Five, an Auckland suburban home “that takes a relaxed approach to the complexity of family life”.

The three other Award-winning houses are all in coastal environments. Herbst Architects’ house at Piha, which the architects have called, poetically but also accurately, Under Pohutukawa, is, Tennent says, “designed with perfection and sited with great care – an iconic beach has been graced with an exquisite house”.

On Waiheke Island, Strachan Group Architects have designed what the Awards jury said is “a generous and liveable, well ordered and well ventilated house, which is successfully integrated with its natural surroundings”. Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects have won an award for a beach house on Northland’s Tutukaka Coast – “an assured house, all black against ocean blue, that sits confidently on its site”.

The last category, but not the least, decided by the Architecture Awards jury, is Enduring Architecture, that is, buildings that have stood the test of time. Two such Awards were made, one for the Lomas House in Hamilton, designed in the early 1950s by the late Peter Middleton. The house, the Awards jury said, “has gracefully kept pace with family life for more than half a century”.

The second Enduring Architecture Award went to the 1982 redevelopment of Otago Boys High School, which was undertaken by McCoy and Wixon Architects, under the design leadership of Ted McCoy. “The excellent and unaltered condition of McCoy’s buildings is a tribute both to the Architect and to a school that has refrained from tampering with them,” the Awards jury said.

Joining Hugh Tennent on the Architecture Awards jury were architects Ivan Mercep, Ginny Pedlow, Gary Lawson, and Melbourne-based John Wardle.
The jury will select one project from among the New Zealand Architecture Award winners to receive the 2012 New Zealand Architecture Medal, the top award given in any year by the New Zealand Institute of Architects. That decision will be announced at the Awards function in Wellington on 25 May.
Commercial Architecture
ANVIL, Mt Eden, Auckland by Patterson Associates Limited
Knoll Ridge Café, Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu by Harris Butt Architecture Ltd
Novotel Auckland Airport by Warren and Mahoney Architects
Te Wharewaka, Wellington by architecture+

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki by FJMT + Archimedia architects in association
Government House Conservation, Wellington by Athfield Architects

Planning and Urban Design
New Lynn Transit-Oriented Development, Auckland by Architectus and Architecture Brewer Davidson Limited in association
Wynyard Quarter Urban Design Framework, Auckland by Architectus

Public Architecture
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki by FJMT + Archimedia architects in association
NMIT Arts and Media Building, Nelson by Irving Smith Jack Architects Ltd
Remarkables Primary School, Queenstown by Babbage Consultants Limited

Residential Architecture – Houses
House for Five, Grey Lynn, Auckland by RTA Studio
Tutukaka Beach House, Northland by Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects (Auckland) Ltd
Owhanake Bay House, Waiheke Island by Strachan Group Architects – SGA
Under Pohutukawa, Auckland by Herbst Architects Ltd

Small Project Architecture
Mt Iron House, Wanaka by Crosson Clarke Carnachan Chin Architects Ltd
St Thomas’ Chapel in St Matthew-in-the-City, Auckland by Salmond Reed Architects Limited
Studio for an Artist, Napier by Ashley Cox Architect

Sustainable Architecture
MOTAT Aviation Display Hall, Westmere, Auckland by Studio Pacific Architecture

Enduring Architecture
Lomas House, Hamilton by Peter Middleton
Otago Boys High School Redevelopment 1982, Dunedin by McCoy and Wixon Architects Ltd


Commercial Architecture
ANVIL by Patterson Associates Limited
Holding a corner on a stretch of car-dominated road, Anvil is a strong building of exceptional quality. Circulation, both of vehicles and pedestrians, is handled masterfully. It is a pleasure to discover a carpark that doesn’t seem to have been commissioned by a panelbeater, and the ramped upper-level walkway also provides a welcoming and generous approach to the building’s robustly-designed tenancies. An assertive response to a tough urban condition, Anvil stands up to its immediate surrounds; if it is joined by a neighbour or two promoting greater street-level interaction, it will also ameliorate them.

Knoll Ridge Café by Harris Butt Architecture Ltd
On Mt Ruapheu, at least one cloud has proved to have a silver lining: a café on Knoll Ridge destroyed by fire has been replaced with a dramatically sited building that rewards, with interest, a two chair-lift ascent. This is audacious architecture, realised in collaboration with an ingenious engineer, intrepid builders, and a client determined to make the most of a breathtaking setting. The exterior is strong and formally poetic; the 400-seat interior, with its large, laminated pine structural members, is just as impressive. All of the building’s elements, from decks to kitchen to handrail details, have received careful treatment. The building is a fine example of architectural grace achieved under logistical pressure, in an extreme alpine environment.

Novotel Auckland Airport by Warren and Mahoney Architects
Conveniently located, if not picturesquely sited, the Novotel Hotel rises out of an Auckland airport carpark and transcends the architectural standards of its environs. The Architect has done well to accommodate the necessary program in the available space, realising a direct and assertive building while capitalising on opportunities to add distinctiveness to an inevitably generic building type. Hotels are not easy projects; here, elements such as the splayed legs on the exterior structure and the sculptural stairway leading from the lobby demonstrate a welcome determination to transform amenity into an enlivening architecture.
Te Wharewaka by architecture+
After 170 years of European settlement Maori once more have a presence on Wellington’s waterfront. Prickly and armour-plated, Te Wharewaka assertively claims its place next to Victorian neighbours by the lagoon in the Taranaki Wharf West precinct. The building takes its name from the ceremonial waka it houses but, as a contemporary hybrid of traditional Maori spaces, it also accommodates and generates income from various commercial uses. The strength of form generated by the confident juxtaposition of hipped and gabled roofs and the staunch, well-detailed steel cloak imposes coherence on multiple programmatic requirements.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki by FJMT + Archimedia architects in association
With perseverance and commitment the Architects have worked through the issues and surmounted the difficulties attendant on conserving and adding to a significant public building. The structure of the existing 1888 building has been strengthened, successive accretions have been removed and galleries have been restored to their original glory. Most impressively, the Architects have achieved a flow through the entire Art Gallery while acknowledging the distinctive character of its two constituent parts, old and new.

Government House Conservation by Athfield Architects
An excellent exercise in conservation architecture has seen the Edwardian building that has housed New Zealand’s head of state for more than a century rendered fit for contemporary occupation and use, and preserved as an important artefact of the country’s colonial legacy. Exemplary documentation, presenting thorough research into the building’s history and detailed recording of the conservation process, has guided the project’s impressive realisation. From rooms to roof, on the exterior and throughout the interior, the architectural manners exhibited at Government House are as least as cultivated as those displayed by generations of the building’s vice-regal inhabitants.

Planning and Urban Design
New Lynn Transit-Oriented Development by Architectus and Architecture Brewer Davidson Limited in association
Designed as a hub for a catchment area benefitting from improved public transport, the New Lynn Transit-Oriented Development also performs a welcome place-making function in a part of Auckland ill-served by generations of car-focussed planning. By lowering the rail track beneath road level, the Architects have untangled local infrastructural knots and provided ample space for a user-friendly platform. Laudably, art has been integrated into this gritty subterranean environment in the form of GRC relief panels, sculpted by Louise Purvis, which run along both sides of the track. A successor to the noble tradition of railway architecture, this project is a beacon of quality in a sea of indifferent buildings and a benchmark for future development.

Wynyard Quarter Urban Design Framework by Architectus
The framework for the urban design of Wynyard Quarter reveals an appreciation of the exciting possibilities of this maritime precinct and a mature understanding of the realities of Auckland development. Benefitting from a design rather than a planning approach, the framework represents a qualitative advance in the thinking about the occupation and use of the Auckland waterfront. Based on clearly articulated design principles, intended to be sufficiently robust to both sustain and survive development, the framework is already being fleshed out with well-considered landscaping and architecture. This is an auspicious beginning for an important precinct.

Public Architecture
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki by FJMT + Archimedia architects in association
The Architects have successfully steered their competition-winning design through a challenging construction process to produce an outstanding work of public architecture. Generous spaces, both inside the building and around it, have been wrested from a constricted site, and the sensitive treatment of the Gallery’s relationship with Albert Park has yielded a series of enjoyable architectural moments. The meeting of new and existing structure is clearly expressed, navigation is logical, exhibition spaces are assured and detailing throughout is highly accomplished. The building satisfies all of the requirements of a modern art gallery.

NMIT Arts and Media Building by Irving Smith Jack Architects Ltd
The winning entry in a design competition for a test-case, multi-level timber building, Nelson’s NMIT Building validates that initiative, satisfies the programmatic requirements of the building’s users, and establishes an exemplary design precedent in a growing provincial city. An innovative structure of massive timber elements delivers on the promise of confidence and legibility proclaimed by the carefully articulated, glazed street elevation, and provides an appropriate backdrop to the tertiary arts and trades courses taught in the building. The planning and detailing of the building, and the selection of materials, is also eminently compatible with the purpose of providing an economic and enjoyable learning environment.

Remarkables Primary School by Babbage Consultants Limited
An impressive and inspiring new state school has followed upon the Architect’s mature and confident ability to acknowledge but not be overawed by a truly remarkable setting. Strung like a necklace across the sloping site, the well-planned classrooms and supporting spaces offer views and access to Lake Wakatipu, while providing, on the sunken lee side, shelter from onshore winds. While connection and containment are concepts that have driven the design, community is the principle that has animated the whole project. A committed board has been closely involved in the creation of a clearly identifiable community place in an area not over-endowed with high-quality public architecture.

Residential Architecture – Houses
House for Five by RTA Studio
This family house has a supple plan that generates, around a central courtyard, a surprising array of enjoyable spaces. A long, screened street elevation that makes outsize and playful reference to gabled neighbours provides shelter and privacy, and allows for the admission of light into living areas. While the design anticipates a relaxed and sociable occupation, the contained, galley-like kitchen indicates a departure from contemporary open-plan orthodoxy. The house might be straight and narrow, but it’s also refreshingly unconventional.

Tutukaka Beach House by Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects (Auckland) Ltd
This assured house, all black against ocean blue, sits confidently on its site, protected from coastal winds. The holiday house is at once structured and relaxed, a blend of qualities apparent in the generous verandah designed by an Architect who understands the lifestyle of New Zealanders at the beach. Inside, there is a sense of envelopment in layers of space and, in planning moves such as the pulling of the bedroom wing forward of the living areas, a suggestion of surprise invoked to good and not gratuitous effect.
Owhanake Bay House by Strachan Group Architects – SGA
This is one of those happy occasions when a house is more properly called a home. On a coastal site, in a landscape progressively rehabilitated by the clients, the Architect has designed a comfortable and appropriate dwelling that is direct without being directional. The house is generous and liveable, well ordered and well ventilated, and successfully integrated with its natural surroundings. Eminently fit for purpose, the house may have even exceeded expectations; if it has done so it is because the Architect and clients have clearly proceeded in sympathy.

Under Pohutukawa by Herbst Architects Ltd
From the road, this beach house, in its opened-up summer configuration, reads as an encampment; up close, it is experienced as a beautifully sited verandah. The house is a beguiling essay in the relationship between structure and setting, order and nature, requirements and responsibilities. There is nothing extempore about the building, which is designed and executed with perfectionist exactitude, but it is also a highly successful exercise in sympathetic placement: the pohutukawa among which the house politely nestles are constantly and closely present. An iconic beach has been graced with an exquisite house.

Small Project Architecture
Mt Iron House by Crosson Clarke Carnachan Chin Architects Ltd
Sufficiency of space and adequacy of amenity, along with economy of planning and attention to detail, characterise this holiday house which takes as its role model the Kiwi tramping hut in a bush clearing. It is a pleasure to discover a modern vacation home that so clearly renounces profligacy in favour of design rigour and conceptual consistency. The simplicity of the building is testimony to the resolved nature of the ideas that generated it. Unfussy in form and eminently habitable, the modestly-sized house is the best work of architecture for miles around: in the context of its suburban-type development, it reads as a conciliatory gesture to the ineffable Central Otago landscape.

St Thomas’ Chapel in St Matthew-in-the-City by Salmond Reed Architects Limited
An historic work of maritime ecclesiastical architecture has found terrestrial sanctuary in a heritage religious building. The St Thomas Chapel, originally a component of a nineteenth century ship commissioned for the Anglican Church’s Melanesian Mission, has been encased like a jewel in a well-crafted container inside St Matthew-in-the-City. The box and its twin, which houses a small kitchen, do not compete with the architecture of the host building: a sympathetic Architect has achieved an adroit reconciliation of difference and deference.

Studio for an Artist by Ashley Cox Architect
A simple and singular strategy, and within that a series of good decisions intelligently implemented, has produced an ideal space in which to paint and draw. Defining a boundary to the street, the portal-framed building steps down the sloping contour of the site to produce three spacious platforms, bathed in natural light from south-facing skylights which echo the roof forms of the neighbouring cottage. Large sliding windows frame views into the garden from which, as evidenced by the works occupying the generous wallspace, the artist draws considerable inspiration. The studio is a delightful realisation of the art of architecture.

Sustainable Architecture
MOTAT Aviation Display Hall by Studio Pacific Architecture
From the outset, sustainable principles guided the design of this large hall that provides maximum headroom for a significant collection of historic aircraft. An admirable economy of structure, achieved by means of Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) clear-spans of impressive extent, has allowed for the generous provision of naturally ventilated space. The specification of locally produced LVL resulted from a comprehensive life-cycle building analysis, including empirical research into relative carbon balance and the embodied energy of various structural options. This rigour is consistent with the Architect’s thorough-going sustainable approach to a project on a site requiring and receiving careful environmental monitoring.

Enduring Architecture
Lomas House by Peter Middleton
The Lomas House is a fine building and also an inspiring architectural story. Designed for a young family in the 1950s, at a time when materials were rationed but optimism was far more plentiful, the house has gracefully kept pace with that family’s life for more than half a century. Frugal, but never mean with its spatial allocation, the house on its well-positioned site is cleverly and subtly arranged around the framework of a simple grid. Over the years, it has settled into a companionate relationship with the relaxed and unfussy garden. Inhabited beautifully, altered little, and maintained with care, the house is a case study in the lasting benefits of a sympathetic relationship between clients and Architect.
Otago Boys High School Redevelopment 1982 by McCoy and Wixon Architects Ltd
Completed in 1982, Ted McCoy’s strong suite of buildings – a symphony in concrete – has survived nearly 30 years of schoolboy occupation in splendid state. The quadrangle around the former green is a terrific composition and a highly successful exercise in place-making. These classroom blocks constitute a high-water mark in the career of an outstanding New Zealand designer. With typically good manners, the Architect ceded the high ground to the Gothic Revival building that dominates the Otago Boys High School campus, but responded to its Victorian confidence with Modernist assurance. Nor did the Architect shy from refurbishing the original building, cleverly inserting a new theatre in its interior. The excellent and unaltered condition of McCoy’s buildings is a tribute both to the Architect and to a school that has recognised and respected their quality.


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