Following swiftly on from the post about the hole they’re digging, today I wanted to look at what is going to fill it. We posted some time ago on the project (just over a year ago) when it hit the papers, with a hideous green render, and speculated that the building would have a bit more development before it hit the site. And so it has. Thanks to a helpful tip off from one of our daily Fish readers (thanks Mark), who spotted that Willis Central have upgraded the info on their website, there are some spanking new images to view coutesy of the wonderfully talented designers and rendering team at Architecture +.
The facade still wiggles in and out, like a frozen image from Len Lye’s water Whirler (when it’s working) in the same pattern that we saw first in the earlier green depiction. You can check out more on this building from Mechaniker’s blog here and his photos here. But in these latest renders, the glass has been shown as an enticing total transparency. Will it really be that clear or will it be bleakly dark reflective green, like so many other double glazed tinted behemoths around the city?. If we look closer we can see that the building is not twin skinned (like Arch +’s last building for DoC), but instead is pushing right out to the boundary and beyond with the angled glazing.
Looking even more closely we can see several curious things: there are no opening windows (a pity, given the green credentials of DoC House), the mullions stagger vertically up the building, and the triangular reveals to the projecting walls appear to be a material like weatherboard or even corrugated iron. Surely not: despite Ian Cassells being partially responsible for the tanalisation of Cuba St (hat tip to Honey), I’m sure there is a more sophisticated material being used.

The elevations are more resolved, more slick, although basically still unchanged: a more sophisticated rendering does bring a more mature presentation to the fore. I sometimes wonder if architects shoot themselves in the foot by releasing unresolved renders – a good old atmospheric hand drawing will give a better, more friendly result than a quick, amateurishly bad render can ever hope to. On the whole though, the development looks simple, keen and practical – not as outlandish as it did once. There has been little murmur from the uncaring public, nor of course a whimper of dissent from the architectural community, although not everyone was happy with the proposals last year – one commenter grumpily stated that:

“Am I the only person to find this design really weak and child-like? The wavering facades are as if the designer could not make their mind up, and the junction with the very dignified building that houses the Vault is oppressive and hugely clumsy. Ye gods, that’s the most insensitive junction i’ve seen since Britney was snapped getting out of that limo.”

Hmmm, there’s a visual we really don’t need reminding of. So: onwards and upwards.

At ground level, on Willis St, the carefully animated graphic shows a healthy amount of happy shoppers and joyous Telecom workers entering the building, off to develop new starburst logos or find another reason to slow down your broadband speed. It’s great to see the old building fully restored – and indeed, even the gracious old stair that formerly lead to the Vault has been retained (but we hope, a higher handrail installed as the old one was lethally low).
Again, the transparency here is enticingly see-through: I’m hoping that they manage to pull it off, so to speak. Certainly their competitor Vodafone have managed that with their Auckland building.

It’s worth looking at some plans while we’re here: we spoke last year about the desire for a public route through,

“With a bit of luck and good management by the consenting authorities, a through walkway and publicly accessible lift up to Boulcott St should also be available. That’s one of the great things about Wellington – the enforced cooperation of large commercial tenants to share their hill-climbing vertical transportation with the general public.”

and that has been carried out in the completed scheme, right from Willis St:

up to Boulcott St:
The Boulcott tower will of course (sadly) destroy the view that Antrim House has held for over a 100 years. Built for Mrs Hannah, of the shoes fame and Hannahs factory fame, Antrim House (now the home of the Historic Places Trust) has possessed a marvelous lookout over the city and through to the sea until Chews Lane and Willis Central came along. No doubt they’ll not be that impressed, although presumably they’re happy with the old building being (partially) saved down on Willis St. So, apart from them, does that mean that most people are satisfied? Maybe even me? Well, almost. But there was one other thing we spoke off last year, which the renders still do not show:

“Of interest in the finished building will be a potentially giant atrium, rising possibly 12 stories up from ground level where currently exists only deep plan gardens and retaining walls behind the existing shops.”

I’m unsure if that has made it through unscathed. There is a remnant of green right down the bottom of the northern side, with a probably overly hopeful grass lawn next to the cafe (the green patch on the plan above). The cafe is on the way to the pedestrian lift right at the back of the site, which must be in the depths of that hole we showed yesterday. But no sign of a giant atrium between the 2 office towers. We spotted it last year in this picture but have lost sight of it from the plans in the latest incarnation. And that’s a pity. Wellington needs a few more buildings with massive areas of free public space, even if it is skinny in plan – but especially if it is 12 storeys high.

Let’s hope that it is just missing off the letting plans shown here, perhaps still floating between the two towers (whereupon the tiny angled stair poised in the slipstream on the lower plan). While I’m quietly hopeful that the atrium is still there, I suspect that it may be organised for Telecom workers only, and not open to the public, who will still be sliding reluctantly along the narrow corridor to the lift at the end. Yes, the uncomfortable narrow slot that looks like a mugger’s paradise. If we could just gain some better public access along there, and get public access to that atrium, I’d be a very happy fish indeed.

I’ll leave you now with one last final picture from the team at Architecture + , yes, it’s the entry on Boulcott St.