Wellington Scoop

Redesigned and upgraded Central Park apartments win award for architects

Central Park Apartments – photo NZ Institute of Architects

News from Wellington City Council
Architects Novak & Middleton have won a NZ Architecture Award for the redesign and upgrade of the Central Park apartments in Wellington.

“This award is deserved recognition for an inspired transformation of a drab 1960s apartment building into social housing fit for the 21st century,” says Mayor Wade-Brown. “Congratulations to Simon Novak and Greg Lagoutaris who have led a successful design team and done a brilliant job. I know the residents of Central Park also love their new apartments. We’re a city that cares for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Councillor Paul Eagle, Chair of Wellington City Council’s Community, Sport and Recreation Committee, added that the upgrade has combined the technical challenges of earthquake strengthening, improving security and bringing these homes and community spaces up to modern standards.

“Providing social housing in Wellington is a core public service for our Council – we’re honoured to be rewarded for making sure those most in need have a decent roof over their head and somewhere they can now feel proud to call home.”

The $34 million Central Park project is part of the $400 million upgrade of the City Council’s social housing stock. The 20-year project, which started in 2008, is 50:50-funded by the Crown and the City Council.

According to the award citation, read at last night’s Institute of Architects awards event in Auckland: “A tired and socially dysfunctional Council apartment complex has been transformed by means of intelligent re-organisation and relatively minor structural alterations. The original 1960s architecture has been given due respect, but its scale has been broken down and articulated on a more sympathetic scale. A ground level car park has been transformed into an engaging communal park, existing garages and under-croft spaces have been converted to much-needed community rooms, and new balconies have been added. The strategy of fragmenting the apartment complex into smaller clusters has dramatically improved the apartments’ safety, seismic performance and circulation, and has promoted a sense of community. This is a good story of architecture having a positive impact on hundreds of lives.”

The City Council’s Housing Manager, Vicki McLaren, says the transformation of Central Park has been positive and significant to the extent that “we regularly receive enquiries from members of the public – who can see the site from Brooklyn Hill Road – about whether they can buy an apartment.”

She says the award is also a tribute to main contractor L T McGuinness, structural engineers Dunning Thornton and the more than 750 contractors and subcontractors who worked on site over the two-year project duration.

Central Park apartments – facts and figures

· The $34.4 million revamp of the complex – at the bottom of the Brooklyn Hill – is one of the largest single-site projects so far in the 20-year housing upgrade programme

· The site’s original stock of 213 units has been reconfigured to 190 units, but many enlarged apartments suitable for families allow more people to be housed overall. Central Park Apartments is now home to 253 occupants

· Architects Novak & Middleton along with contractor LT McGuinness began work at Central Park in June 2010, completed in August 2012, on schedule and on budget.

· The five-building complex, dating from the late 1960s, was transformed. The work included major seismic strengthening, landscaping, improved kitchens and bathrooms, improved security, rubbish and recycling facilities, lighting, better ventilation, thermal and acoustic insulation, double glazing and purpose built communal facilities.

· One key design element has been the development of a shared community space – reducing the need for individual private spaces at neighbouring Council complexes. A redundant ground floor car park has been transformed into a community centre that will be shared with residents from the Council’s neighbouring Berkeley Dallard Apartments, Pukehinau, Etona and Nairn Street Flats. It includes a tenancy advisor’s office, medical room, recreation rooms and laundry facilities.

· Another feature was to enhance access and security in the buildings. “Horizontal’ access (via communal landings) to the apartments once opened to the public was changed to ‘vertical’ access. Residents now only have access to their own blocks which has greatly improved security and peace-of-mind for tenants. This means instead of from having over 200 ‘neighbours’ tenants have about 30 immediate neighbours and are now likely to get to know who they are. It’s hoped this will encourage more people to get to know each other within the blocks.

Housing Upgrade Programme – awards to date

HUP projects have won seven architectural awards to date within New Zealand, as well as being shortlisted for an International award. Central Park has received three previous awards for housing, earthquake strengthening and enhancement of the built environment.

News from NZ Institute of Architects
One trend emerging from this year’s Architecture Awards is the development of new learning environments at tertiary institutions. Architectus and Athfield Architects won an award in the Education category for the Victoria University of Wellington Campus Hub and Library Upgrade, which the jury described as an “exemplary project, tightly resolved on many levels, from campus planning to construction detailing” which “transforms wasted space into a real place”….

The move by architects into the realm of urban design was evident in the 2014 Architecture Awards. Lower Hutt’s Dowse Square is a new public space designed by Athfield Architects which the jury described as project in which “civic seriousness has been leavened with playful delight” to produce “a refreshing and sustaining community asset.” Dowse Square received an award in the Planning and Urban Design category.

One of the goals of the New Zealand Architecture Awards programme is to acknowledge buildings that have stood the test of time. The jury made two awards in the Enduring Architecture category, which is reserved for buildings that are at least 25 years old. One of the Enduring Architecture Awards is A House at the Beach, Te Horo, designed by Gordon Moller of Moller Architects for his own family. “After nearly 30 years of use, this beach house has proved its enduring quality and appeal,” the jury said. “It is an excellent model of a holiday house on the New Zealand coast.”