MaximusMay 7, 2009
Indeed, you’re all too fast to catch me out – it shows we have some pretty sharp eyes here in the capital at picking out window details. OK, it wasn’t that hard a competition, and it is a pretty big building that we’ve all been watching with eagle eyes, and despite what I said before, its not really something that can be ignored.
Yes, the building is the Mark Dunajtschik development at number 1 Featherston Street, with the main tenant going to be the Taxman. It’s big, but nowhere near as big as the Pentagon (Mobsta, tell your source they’re sadly mistaken). To put it into some kind of perspective, this building is about 70m long, whereas each wall of the Pentagon is 280m long. And this building has – at my best guess, somewhere between 2000m2 to 3000m2 per floor, whereas the Pentagon has 116,000m2 per floor ie so the big P is about 40-50 times the size in area: although of course only half as tall. But let’s not quibble about numbers – it still will have the biggest floorplates in Wellington, and that excites a certain kind of bureaucrat who likes to see all his or her staff sitting out in front of them.
Starkive’s comment that:
Lubyanka comparisons notwithstanding – Wellington is surely big enough and capitoline enough to live up to an imposing pile of reinforced concrete and glass across from its railway station. We donít need a city made up solely of gracefully articulated apartment balconies. All that pav and no potatoes?
and Jason’s comment that:
I think I hate it. I think I love it. Itís a big full stop at the end of the city – the weighty terminator of a fifteen clause sentence about accountability. Itís big and solid and grey. What better symbol for tax bureaucracy?
shows that we’re in a love hate relationship with something of this size. Yes, it IS a very nice shade of grey – inoffensive, non-coloured, background that won’t obtrude, made up of thousands of tiny dots of white, and I’m still hoping for some more external articulation so its not so totally blank.
Personally, for me: its just too big, and just too blocky to be anything other than a blot on the city, especially poised where it is opposite the front door of the Railway Station. I don’t know how it got past the watchful eyes of the Council’s Urban Design team, who will normally pounce on anything that looks tedious and rip it apart with their bare hands until the blood starts streaming from the eyes of the Architects concerned – but here, big and boring and bland seems to be quite the acceptable thing.
It’s the Crimson Permanent Assurance sailing forth on the high accountant-seas. It is a Juggernaut, a Behemoth of the greatest order, and its amusing that apparently the Tax department does not want to buy the naming rights – they really don’t want to remind us that we work till around this time of the year just for them, and its only after April / May that we get to take home some play money. Indeed, Starkive’s further comment that:
I can see this building and its future population of tax gatherers providing a very satisfying focus for national resentment – a kind of lightning rod for neo-liberals and Friedmanites.
really says it all. They’re hoping that we will forget – and most of the Macca-munching ground floor occupants probably will – the good burghers of bad-burger-land (sorry, couldn’t resist it) will munch away happily, immune to the tapping of calculators, and shuffling of papers up above them. Of course, yes, I know, the IRD probably don’t even have calculators any more, it all just goes into a vast machine humming with electricity, and each week there’s a hole in your pay-pocket. But the point is: the rest of us won’t forget. So if there is to be no name, how about at least a nice slogan or two?
I’ll refrain from further comment, and just leave you with some pictures, just for Callum. There seems no better time than to quote Mr Orwell, on the men from the Government:
The Ministry of Truth — Minitrue, in Newspeak — was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided.
The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts.
The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war.
The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order.
And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs.
Their names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.
The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one. There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometre of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons.