The scaffold has come down and the last of the glass balustrading was going on Saturday morning – and its great to see at last what Piermont really looks like.
This is an apartment building that has been carefully designed for this particular corner: maximising the views out to the Waitangi Park, carefully trying to avoid seeing too much of the black hulk of the Museum Hotel, and staunchly turning its back to Portal, the other Architecture + development for CAS just up the road.
It’s always hard to comment about a building if you haven’t been inside, but until they have an open day for Fish, I’m unlikely to be able to afford an entry tag. The building has been designed with a very rigid fixation to the 45º afforded by the oblique view, and every apartment seems to have a balcony that faces out, hopefully, to the morning sun. Portal, rising flattly directly opposite from Te Papa, is competent but bland, and sadly forms an impenetrable wall onto the street. While this particular block presents a solid wall as well, the frontage is really broken down by the 45º schema, and the balconies project back and forth to give an endless play across the facade.
I’m still not sure quite what happens in the middle of the block – if there are so many balconies jostling for position along the main frontage, then presumably there are also some gasping for fresh air along the ‘back’side somewhere, possibly into a central courtyard – which I would hope there is. Mind you, this picture on the SkyScraperCity website implies that it may have a decent sized courtyard – or at least more than it looks from out the front. The Piermont website is a pointless thing, that tells you nothing except for some flowing script and the odd photo, and I have yet to find the ‘show’ apartment actually open for viewing, so its hard to tell. I like the way that websites for such things imply that the apartments concerned will be full of impeccably groomed, glossy skinned women in skimpy frocks and italianate, swarthy, impossibly young men of roughly shaven visage, while the more probable truth is that it will only be affordable to a corpulent and balding wave of bulging walleted lawyers.
An interesting side effect that I’ve only just noticed with the scaffolding down is the accumulative effect of the balconies to the view along Cable St – especially in the morning sunshine, where the strong horizontal bands of the balconies stack up with a twisting motion. Cleverly, this all turns its back on the traffic that roars along the waterfront – hopefully, it reduces the noise somewhat as well. There’s a nice swathe of well lit retail space along the street frontage as well, which always deserved better than its previous incarnation as a giant Red Shed for the nations favourite shopping chain. Although, I suspect that this is not the kind of place where everyone gets a bargain any more. But the concatenation of the balconies and the spiralling up, in a manner similar to Calatrava’s Turning Torso Tower (although of course a static presentation only) has a good chance of continuously enlivening the facade.
The building is clad with a very regular grid of pale clay terracotta tiles, in a similar manner to the cladding on the Te Puni student block reviewed a while back here on the Fish, and just recently in Arch NZ. It’s interesting that the same cladding is used to house both year 1 students, and the year 55+ professionals who will be packing these particular halls. Evidently, it must be a good product – curious perhaps that it hasn’t found its way onto cladding any of our thousands of boring suburban villas, of which it could presumably farewell those leaky building blues. The Tory St frontage is clad also in these tiles, but in the darker tone, more suiting its sombre relationship with the Museum Hotel and its black-coated friend, the Museum Apartments. Both of these Museum related places slightly give me the creeps with their maudlin funereal overtones (although the world’s greatest virginia creeper does give a great show across the hotel frontage in autumn).
Overall then, it seems like a pretty good result from developer driven architecture + and the need for insatiable views out to sea. Yes, it could have been better if it didn’t stick so rigidly to the height limits, giving it such a sawn off top look, but sadly it seems there is a limit to how much a developer wants to attract noticification. All eyes will now be on the little neighbour to the south, as it rapidly climbs in height. Let’s save that for another day.