So the news that the former BNZ building on Waterloo Quay is coming down is perhaps not really that surprising – it has, after all, been sitting empty, externally unscathed, for the last two years. But is demolition really the best thing for it?
There are no doubt many reports floating around the back corridors of power about the state of the building – upon which the insurers have made their decision. I’ve not seen any of them, so can’t claim to have any particular knowledge on which to speak. But I will say this: its a mighty odd situation when a company pays out to demolish a 9 year old building – practically brand new – that, externally, appears that it has not got even so much as a single scratch on it.
Yes – we know – that after the Kaikoura quakes, while the external facade appeared to have not suffered as much as a single broken pane of glass (congratulations to Thermoshash for an excellent job!), the inside is a different kettle of fish. And, allegedly, it does indeed look like a kettle of fish – the ceilings, having fallen down in the earlier Seddon quakes, apparently came down again, or rather: the services in the ceilings came down upon the ceilings. And for this reason, the staff inside have put their foot down and collectively said: “No way Jose, I ain’t never going back inside that darn building.” Allegedly.
What is also noticeable is that the huge emergency atrium fans mounted on the roof, are now on the ground beside the office building – so my guess is that they were bouncing around uncomfortably, and probably causing damage as well. So perhaps the atria are not pristine and clean, but instead maybe they are a disaster zone as well?
The building has never really been loved – even since day one, when WellUrban commented that it was looking a little boxy. It’s not the finest building by the architects Jasmax, nor the engineers! (Who are ….?).
But overall – is demolition really the best thing for it? Is that all we can think of? Is there no way we could re-use the building, either as a whole, or in parts? It has, after all, two great atriums – and several large, wide floors. It had a museum of the BNZ in it once too – hopefully that has been saved? But the real problem, as we all now know, is that the site is basically nothing more than a giant pavlova. Total blancmange. The Kaikoura quakes have turned the ground into a pudding, a cheesecake, a giant jelly with a small layer of raspberry ripple on top.
My question is: can we find a new site for it, that might work better? Somewhere with better ground? Could we shift it, piece by piece to Newtown, to form a new terminus for the new Light Rail? Or find new tenants, that would not mind a few cracks in the ceiling? What about as an outpost for the Wellington Zoo? Those atria could be perfect for the birds as giant avian habitats! Or perhaps let the long-armed hairy gibbons loose, swinging on liana vines, or pieces of building services, swinging arm after arm through the office space and across the atriums? Silhouetted against the sky as you drive past – the enclosure of the giant apes?
But why not a new home for Wellington University, who appear to be on an expansionist path, and who will be keen to have some more room now they have changed their name to Victoria (or was it the other way round? I forget now). It is just a stones throw from the existing Pipitea campus, with the Schools of Law and Commerce – perhaps it could be a good new home for students, who, after all, are more expendable than real people. We normally put them into the world’s shittiest buildings to live – so this would be a step up in quality.