FIVE HAWKE’S BAY ARCHITECTS carried away honours for buildings in such diverse categories as Hospitality to Housing. We asked them how they achieved such structures, which sit harmoniously on site whilst providing a haven for the occupants. Their views on briefs, blending clients’ demands with their own ideals as well as the environment are an indication of just how complex architecture can be. Their favourites (and in a couple of cases, non-favourites) are a telling illustration of the role they play in producing architectural excellence.

Photo: Florence Charvin

Enduring Architecture Award: Martin House (1970) by John Sco Architect Sol Atkinson, convenor of the jury which visited 15 shortlisted projects, summed up this award as “the perfect  nale”. He also commented that the house and adjacent po
ery shed, now the much loved home of po
er Bruce Martin, reinforced the importance of the architect’s role in a building project. “This enduring building has not just withstood the tests of time, it has become a valuable example of how connections can be made between people and place.”

Small Project Architecture: Waimarama Surf Life Saving Club, Chris Ainsworth, Paris Magdalinos Architects 

Many of this year’s shortlisted works occupied sites with sea or river views. Consequently connections to water played a strong part in the architecture. None more so than the Surf Club Tower leaning out over the dunes to access a full view of the beach. “The visual strength and positioning of the structure oozes confidence and control with all sightlines open for the surf-life saving club members,” commented convenor Atkinson.

Shoal Beach Hose. Photo: Gavin Cooper

Chris says his clients asked them to provide a robust and durable solution to replacing the existing dilapidated tower. “They wanted to think ‘outside the box’ and had already considered a cantilevered structure. So our challenge was to combine those two aspirations into a singular entity. One that would result in an iconic piece of architecture of which the Waimarama community could be proud. The design process was robust with client, engineering consultants and contractors all collaborating. It did yield the best outcome for budget and expectations.”

Chris and his team provided additional design ideas such as the rear timber screen, “which was achieved through integrating the design elements into the building fabric so as to provide a sun screen and sculptural form.” The tower site is in a highly corrosive environment so they had to choose robust and serviceable products and finishes. But they were able to use these to add to those sculptural forms, such as the pre-cast concrete legs which have been sandblasted with a kōrero, by Bayden Barber, depicting the Waimarama story and history.

The award reflects his own satisfaction with the result. “We think we have achieved a fantastic piece of architecture which is fit for purpose and also fulfilled the client’s brief and budget.”

His own favourite buildings in the Bay which relate are Paxies Lane, McGlashins Building refurbishment, the Masonic, Farmers, Port Administration Building and Spriggs Park Changing Facilities – all in Napier.

Housing: The Shoal Beach House by Gavin Cooper Architect 

There were three winners in this sector. All applauded as “fine examples of how architectural responses can be sculpted by the influences of wind, the views, the contours of the land and the client’s brief”. Gavin Cooper’s creation sits in Aramoana about 40 kilometres from Waipawa. It’s part of a coastal subdivision offering a multitude of pleasures – swimming, surfing, diving, wildlife, a nesting area for the NZ dotterell and the Te Angiangi marine reserve – all surrounded by rolling sheep country. A timber clad box with central courtyard, it provides shelter from sea breezes and westerlies; a gathering space between internal living, ablutions, guest sleeping, kitchen and the owner’s quarters.

His brief was straightforward. “The owners wanted to escape to the beach as a relief from work and less commitment to their urban dwelling. This programme called for a beach house that enabled them to spend time alone or share with teenage children and friends. There was a lot of discussion along the way – a clear indication early on not to repeat the patt erns and clutt er of urban domestic living. Rather the direction was to pursue an interest in the typology of beachside campgrounds – oft en a collection of buildings catering for eating, sleeping, washing all gathered around a communal outdoor space.” A quite well-developed initial design was finally rejected because it didn’t meet those aims so well – “so we had another go from scratch.”

The environment was pivotal. “The building takes reference from the blunt shapes of local farm sheds and sculptured landforms as well as the colours and materiality of dry grasses, weathered driftwood and sand dunes. The house itself is pared back, reduced to provide form to the simple beach time rituals of sleeping, waking, eating, resting and swimming while providing resilience from the coastal environment.” And he wouldn’t change a thing.

His favourite house? “First up it would include a John Scott house,particularly the Martin House at Bridge Pa, or a Guy Natusch house.” Definitely a man of the moment he is particularly interested in how good design can be used in existing urban environments to provide higher density, affordable houses that contribute to their neighbourhoods.

Gavin Cooper Photo: Florence Charvin
Shaun Thompson- Gray Photo: Richard Brimer
Ezra Kelly
Chris Ainsworth
Simon Clarkson

High Five: Winners in the Hawke’s Bay Architecture Awards.

The Central Post Office Redevelopment. Photo: Jeff Brass

Heritage: The Central Post Office Redevelopment by Ezra Kelly, Paris Magdalinos Architects Despite surviving the 1931 earthquake the P.O. was earmarked for demolition decades later. Fortunately it was saved and given new life with enhanced accessibility through the support of the client and key tenant. Ezra was given the task of the conversion. He observes that the existing building provided an anchor to the intersection of Dickens and Hastings Streets in Napier but the needs of tenants, NZ Post (plus the NBS 100% tick) meant a complete redevelopment for it to remain viable.

“The design process on a large project like this with so many stakeholders and consultants is a challenge,” says Ezra. “The architect has to juggle what can sometimes be confl icting requirements and come up with what best meets everyone’s needs.” The feasibility of a completely new building was considered. “We looked at many options and to be able to retain the existing building and develop it took signifi cant eff ort. But so rewarding in the end.”

Obviously most of this project was internal, with environmental constraints set during original construction; but the opening up of the building to the Dickens St car park “provided an opportunity to enhance the Napier landscape”.

In hindsight would he have changed anything? “Existing buildings always uncover the unexpected during construction and some things have to be altered to accommodate. But given the extent of the work involved, this project went relatively smoothly.”

Not surprisingly Ezra regards the Masonic in Napier as an art deco jewel, but also gives credence to the conversion of more prosaic buildings such as FG Smiths and the MPI building in Ahuriri. “Both demonstrate just how well existing building stock can be reinvented.”

He is candid, however, in his comments regarding the preservation of our national heritage treasures. “Recently I had the opportunity to visit the new (and award-winning) visitor centre on the edge of Lake Waikaremoana, which is a strong asset to the community. But is tinged with sadness in terms of heritage architecture. The original centre designed by John Scott was architecturally significant. Yet DoC allowed it to become run down. This is an organisation charged with the stewardship of thousands of cultural and historical sites in NZ. Permitting the building to be demolished earlier this year is to me the ultimate abdication of responsibility marking another real loss for our heritage.”

Commercial Architecture: 1 Wright Street, Ahuriri by Shaun Thompson-Gray, Architecture HDT, Hawke’s Bay

Described by convenor Atkinson as “drawing on the woolshed building forms common in the Ahuriri precinct, these deceptively simple interventions to the building structure, utilising a considered material palette, have transformed what was a less than appealing building.”

As Shaun puts it, “Ahuriri was one of the earliest settled areas in Napier and many buildings that were once used industrially at the port have been redeveloped for a variety of commercial, residential, industrial and recreational uses. 1 Wright Street, built in the mid-20th century, included warehousing and two partial levels of commercial space which was accessed via six separate entries off Wright St., Waghorne St. and Vulcan Lane.”

Shaun was briefed by David Mackersey of Mackersey Development. It was specific and exacting: respect the Ahuriri urban context; provide naturally ventilated light-filled office spaces; reconsider the existing roof and facades; provide flexibility for future tenancy layouts; retain the existing steel structure and concrete floors; allow for staging the construction to maintain the existing tenancies spaces during Stage I. No mean task!

1 Wright Street, Ahuriri. Photo: Andrew Caldwell

He explains that the large-scale buildings with distinctive saw-tooth roof lines, exterior walls hard on street boundaries and subdued colours set Ahuriri apart and it was important to retain these historical features to help preserve the area’s character.

The transformation saw the emergence of a two-story commercial building.

A new single dramatic double-height entry lobby with a central circulation spine located off Wright St. dispensed with the original multiple access points. The old saw-tooths were extended with carefully located south-facing skylights to allow natural daylight right into the depths. All the mismatched cladding and windows were replaced with vertical metal cladding and slot windows to retain the industrial aesthetic yet develop a cohesive whole. And with the first and second floor decks which activated the corners, a physical connection with the neighbourhood was established along with a light airy environment for the offices. A portion of the rear warehouse was demolished to provide car space, which actually acts as a buffer between offices, State Highway and the railway yards.

Of the process Shaun is clear. “David has a wealth of experience. He constantly challenged our ideas and assumptions, but we also thoroughly tested in-house where all team members were encouraged to be frank and open.” And the architects did provide well-received alternate thoughts. Homage was paid to the wool store form, but the feeling was the large blank walls so typical of this typology were not appropriate for the intended use of the building. The residential verandas which abut the Hardinge Rd boundary inspired them, so they created decks at both levels to provide that visual and physical link between interior and exterior.

Fortunately HDT had been located at 1 Wright Street long before the approach to redo, so were well acquainted with all its foibles. “We would not change a thing now.”

Shaun’s views on architecture are strongly reflected on his choice of a favourite building. “The Awatoto stormwater pods, located beside the cycleway represent pure, joyous form. Considering the complex juggling act of regulations, science and art there are numerous challenges to manage in the competing requirements and constraints in any building project. These are simply beautiful objects which elicit a smile every time I cycle past them.”

His view on his least favourite building was decisive. “The Warehouse, Napier is simply an oppressive building that lacks any consideration for creating a positive shopping experience. There is a complete disconnection between the building and the public in terms of scale, connectivity and space creation.”

Craggy Range, The Lodge. photo: Richard Brimer

Hospitality and Retail: Craggy Range, The Lodge, Simon Clarkson of Clarkson Architects

Regarded as “meticulously craft ed”, the luxury short-stay accommodation at Craggy Range vineyard provides visitors with framed glimpses of the Tukituki River winding down the valley. “Bare floorboards, high ceilings and painted timber linings create an atmosphere of rustic sophistication,” Convenor Atkinson commented. “And generous openings provide easy connection to landscaped gardens and a rejuvenated private central courtyard.”

“It used to be the manager’s home on the original estate,” explains Simon. “It is now a generous four bedroom, four ensuite, two living room, two dining room, luxury detached home complete with swimming pool and beautifully tailored landscaped gardens overlooking the Tukituki River to the north east and Te Mata Peak to the north west. The brief from the owners was to turn their tired 15 year-old manager’s home into a luxury accommodation which reflected the Craggy Range values. It also needed to respect the quality of the other public buildings already on site and be a home away from home, but with a luxury escape feel.

“There are always robust conversations between all the parties involved,” Simon notes. In this case not only the owners but their fi nancial advisor and the appointed project manager Simon Radburn (whom he commends for his co-ordination of the build), as well as the builder and other professionals like the landscape and interior designers. “Architecture is a collaborative profession so the fi nished result is oft en a refl ection of how successful those conversations have been.”

He adds that usually with housing projects he will provide alternative thoughts to the initial brief, “because people come with preconceived ideas often based on what is trendy now. The problem with that is when the trend passes the building dates. It is always better to design around environmental restraints and other factors which give the building context. If a house design is driven by land, sun, wind, neighbours, contours, views etc. and decisions are based on the unchangeable then the house will always have a logic and retain relevance.”

In the case of Craggy Range he found his clients were very aware of the context of other buildings, which gave strong direction with which he was particularly comfortable. “I was happy to embrace it and felt that it greatly benefited the project.”

The environment particularly played a strong part in the final outcome. “Being beside a river, the wind coming up the valley had to be considered. The courtyard space with outside fireplace has become a sheltered retreat. Also sight lines of the gorgeous views were considered and protected. And no matter the season a house has to be always comfortable so the sun, both summer and winter, was taken into account. Environment will always play a huge part in a successful house design.”

“I think we have produced a fantastic addition to Craggy Range and wouldn’t change anything.”

His most favourite building otherwise?

“I very much like the new Parlour Projects space in Hastings.I’ve always had a weakness when it comes to fine art and the celebration of art. And this building and space was a courageous undertaking in Hastings and shows a confidence in the product being promoted. The space reflects that. It is strong, voluminous, understated and simple. The light and space allow the art work to take centre stage. And the use of simple materials puts the integrity of the building and its structure on show so there is a real honesty about the space.”

We asked the winning architects to name their favourite Hawke’s Bay buildings.

Ezra Kelly – the now demolished Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre by John Scott.
Shaun Thompson-
Gray – the Awatoto stormwater pods.

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