Over the last few months we’ve been watching with interest as the new ‘Soho’ apartment building is being erected in Taranaki St. Unlike other apartment projects that seem to have been mired in the mud for some time (Watermark being one, and most of Merge Developments outputs being another few), this Taranaki St project is going full steam ahead. As I dislike their use of the name Soho (I’ve said before – it’s all just so wrong), I’m going to re-christen them the Sodo apartments, due to their attitude to the rest of the neighbourhood as well as to their future inhabitants.
But it has been fascinating to watch. This project is possibly the biggest user of precast concrete technology since the construction of the Stadium a decade or so ago – and so it has been going up rather quickly. There was always only the one published image, and I’ve never seen the plans, so it was unclear exactly how it would all go together. The answer is: Tetris. The skill of this particular design appears to be in the ruthless control of the precasting process, and so each day a fresh batch arrive on site, get hoisted into place by either the tower crane or the curiously stranded mobile, and then stacked vertically in the sky. Hats off to the Tower Crane guy!
Watching from afar, the result is just like Tetris, the once popular computer game designed by Alexey Pajitnov way back in 1985. The pieces arrive already with their legs extended to link into the matrix below – I haven’t seen them have to rotate them in mid-air, but they do seem to be arriving faster and faster as the building gets higher. So far, the guys on site don’t seem to have put a foot wrong – and you know in the game, when you get a whole line across, there’s a ‘Poof’ and the whole thing slides down a level? Well, luckily that hasn’t happened either. So, in terms of the score, I’d say the guys on site are doing pretty well.
Not so the architect, the Leuschke Group. Despite having designed some nice buildings in Auckland, here the Leuschke team seem to have shied away from creating nice places to live. I know, it’s early days yet and the building is far from completed, and its all the fault of the greedy developer and not the architect: but I am relatively amazed at how close the different tower elements are getting to each other. Certainly you would have to hope that curtains or blinds are fitted as standard, as the inhabitants will need to use them – to stop looking at the neighbours only a few metres away. The original Sodo perspective (small and grainy, the only image that has been released into the public realm) showed what looked like 3 towers on the site. Its hard to tell where one tower ends and another begins as they all seem to join together at the base, but there could be 4 or even 5 towers on site. Its telling that the architect hasn’t put this project on their website – if they’re that ashamed of it, then thanks a lot: why did you foist it off on us Wellingtonians?
So, while I have concerns over the almost inevitable small size of these apartments, and their exposure to noise from the turbo-powered hoons of Taranaki St and the drunken witless tits-out goons of Courtenay Place, and the very Manhattenite and totally unappreciated loss of sunshine and daylight down Egmont St, I no longer have concerns about people jumping to their death from their tiny triangular balconies. Its simply not possible: they’d just end up on the neighbours deck 2 floors down, with the odd broken leg. I know that people are keen on urban living these days: heavens, even I have been thinking of moving from my vast mansion into something more compact, but there is dense urban gritty living, and then there is the reality of your neighbour being almost within touching distance across the void. Human Tetris indeed.