Architecture + (plus what, one may ask, to complete the equation), have been one of the busiest architects in the city of late, barring Athfields and Archaus of course. They have recently unveiled the Republic 2 apartments, close on the tail of the Republic (1), which itself followed quickly behind the Monument, which followed the Piermont, and that followed the Portal. Someone’s been spending long hours at work!
More on these projects in a later post. But for now, lets look at the finished results from some of their earlier work for CAS, in two developments around Oriental Bay. The first one, alluded to earlier in the ohtel post, is a successful, but pretty bland and flat looking development on the edge of Waitangi Park. At least half of it is called the Aqua, although i can’t remember the other half’s name, and that’s the crux of this scheme: it is really just one development, pretending to be two, so as not to upset the neighbours.
This has been done by flexing the floor levels up and down (not just done for effect, it as it allows for the entry ramp to the carpark). The two halves were built at the same time, share the same basement carpark, and definitely share the same roof line, even if the balconies are different shapes and colours. One half is timber(ish), the other is glass and louvred. Balconies are glass, and just a little too exposed so that we, the public, can see the assorted potplants and furniture of the residents on display. It is clean, modern, very glassy, and sadly, just a little boring. Why so?
To me, at least, an answer lies in that roofline. Dead straight, dead level, dead boring, it screams out to the casual observer “Oriental Bay height restriction!” and indeed the height of the new ohtel seems to prove it. Whatever the height limit, this scheme is clearly right on it, not a mm more or less. Mmmm indeed. While that shows how silly the rigid application of rules are, it is a situation forced upon the architect and developer by the District Plan and the Resource Management Act: a mm under, and no public notification needed, while a mm over, and the cost to the developer is notification, and hence time and mmmmoney.
There is some scope however for the council to twist the rules, and on the basis of the next scheme, thank heavens for that. Just a bit further along the Parade, almost opposite the wonderful sculptural roofline of the Freyberg Pool (from an age when attitudes to rooflines were more relaxed), is the next development also by Stratum (or CAS, as they were). Replacing a truly hideous Spanish style monster and some other older, undistinguished houses, it is also by Architecture + and is also one development, pretending in this case to be three. Indeed, an expensive marketing decision, as the three adjoining schemes were all marketed separately in the property press at the time. But here there are some more believable differences. Balconies vary as before, with innies and outies, although also with considerably more privacy than the earlier scheme. No longer do we have to see the laundry in all its glory. My only real complaint is the grossly insensitive way that some of the owners have plonked an aircon unit right on the balcony, in two units so far, standing out like the proverbial dogs balls. Not a pretty sight, but also it is a sign of something we shouldn’t have to do in Wellington – we live in a moderate climate, where the air quality is good to breathe without needing to resort to aircon.
Mariner / Dune / Blanc is also a four level development for the most part, although in the centre, away from the neighbouring properties, it springs up to five floors, and this is where the scheme succeeds the most. Apparently the subject of some struggle with the neighbours, the extra floor and the extra height in the middle is what makes this scheme a success, certainly more so than if it had been forced to be flat. There are also familial similarities to the Dorchester – the taller, nearby apartment tower at 144, also from an age with less restrictions. But it appears to not be in anyone’s way, as there is just a blank greened cliff behind, and the houses way up on the hill behind are certainly not affected by increased roof height way down here. Full marks to the A+ team in managing to vary the roof height, and its only a pity that the same couldn’t be done to their inner-city developments as well, with their brutally truncated rooflines.
On Mariner, Dune, and Blanc, materials are mixed between the three schemes, with some running vertically, some horizontally, some timber, some metal louvre. Even the side wall is modulated, in a similar manner to the Arch + scheme at Portal by Te Papa. The tiger-striping of yellow is just a byproduct of my camera, rather than a true leap into full chromic patterning, although its a nice thought for the future.
The only remaining question then, really, is what to do with the ground floor of apartment blocks like these. There’s no call for more retail along here, although another cafe to supplement the Parade Cafe wouldn’t go amiss. Older houses nearby have low level gardens, and living rooms tantalisingly close to peer at. Surely, somehow, we can do better than a blank line of carparking that just kills the street?