S 3 Architects Ltd (Stephen Smith) has won the Institute of Architects’ competition to design an apartment building for a brownfield Mt Eden site, which attracted 67 entries.
The other finalists were Leuschke Group Architects Ltd, Matthews & Matthews Architects Ltd, Waterfall Gunns Lowe Architects Ltd and Andrew Sexton Architecture Ltd.
The competition was launched by Ockham Residential Ltd director Mark Todd after discussions with architects about affordable construction 2 years ago.
S 3 Architects’ proposal uses cross-laminated timber panels, which Mr Smith said was a proven & fast-growing engineered timber panel construction system, well established overseas and now in use in Australia & New Zealand.
“CLT is the most environmentally sustainable form of building construction available, recyclable and with a negative carbon footprint. It weighs only one fifth the weight of concrete and can be placed by mobile crane (ie, no tower crane required). Foundations would be significantly less than for a concrete building.
“Dimensional accuracy allows concurrent fabrication of joinery items, avoiding typical onsite sequential programming. This construction method would be economic for the size & constraints of this site, reducing onsite construction time & workspace, and doesn’t require specialist skilled subcontractors that the steel & concrete construction would.”
In keeping with the passive house concept, he said the building would have a central heating recovery unit; would be highly insulated & airtight, with an internal vapour check barrier; and would have an array of photovoltaic panels fixed to the roof, providing 15Kw of power.
The competition to produce a buildable design for 11 Akepiro St – on the site of an office building sitting above the western railway line, at the end of a cul-de-sac just off the city end of Dominion Rd, Mt Eden – was organised by the Institute of Architects and developer Ockham Residential, with the support of Auckland Council.
Announcing the winner yesterday, mayor Len Brown acknowledged criticism of many of Auckland’s apartment blocks and the view of some critics that the city was building ghettoes: “When we talk about compact city we need to show them what we’re talking about.”
He said Mr Todd had approached him to help get architects to show leadership on quality, sustainability, reasonable pricing, buildings “that would show the very essence of the most liveable city”.
The Akepiro St site was perfect for a starter – above the rail tracks, near bus links, not far from the central city, a mixed-use site with a few challenges, and a building required to contain 25 apartments without going over 7 levels.
“We said to the architects, ‘We want you to lead the design of the city – we are not coming off a very high base.”
The mayor’s representative on the judging panel, Jacques Victor, will follow the project through, managing video & web production to show how intensification can have quality at all stages , from design through construction to eventual liveability.
The competition offered architects the opportunity to do more than think about a building. This site is at the end of a short industrial street, with suburban residential streets 2 blocks away and 2 other apartment blocks in this wedge between the start of Dominion Rd & New North Rd.
A number of entrants cut a public walkway through their designs to give access to a small park between this site & Dominion Rd – hard to see that happening, but it demonstrated awareness of the building’s place. However, without such a walkway, and another link through to George St, which runs down to the railway line and across to New North Rd, it’s hard to see how commercial uses such as a cafe could be justified at the end of a dead-end street.
Jury chairman Richard Goldie, a director of Peddle Thorp Architects, said the competition was a bold & timely initiative that had produced an exceptional response from architectural practices: “The competition called for innovative schemes that would make the most of a challenging site and demonstrate that good quality medium-density housing can be achieved in appropriate places in our city.
“A site near 2 train stations & one of Auckland’s busiest bus routes would seem to be an ideal candidate for a medium-density housing option. There was a wide range of compelling entries, but the successful proposal convincingly met several criteria.
“It uses a green materials & energy-saving construction technology, provides very liveable apartments, engages well with a small neighbouring reserve, contributes positively to a mixed-use street and offers the city an inspiring work of architecture.”
S3 Architects’ Stephen Smith said he wanted to demonstrate that, with a bit more effort in design & construction, New Zealand could significantly reduce energy use in buildings.
Ockham’s Mark Todd said the number & quality of the entries had exceeded his expectations: “Everyone knows the pressures on the housing market at the moment, but we think there needs to be a wider conversation about the quality of new homes & buildings that go up in the city.”
The jury panel was: Richard Goldie, Mark Todd, Jacques Victor, Maggie Carroll (Bureaux Architects) & Marshall Cook (Cook Sargisson & Pirie Architects Ltd).
Attribution: Competition display & announcement, NZIA release.