Traditionally, High Street buildings have provided retail facilities at street level, with commercial tenancies on the upper floors. It's a formula that hasn't changed in centuries, but the Christchurch rebuild is providing opportunities for developers and designers to literally think outside the square, as this project shows.
The building, at 76-78 Victoria Street, replaces a 1950s block that was abandoned following the first Christchurch earthquake in September 2010. The owners, Andy and Trish MacFarlane, commissioned MAP Architects to design the new building almost immediately, says architect Simon Elvidge.
"This is a very high visibility triangular site, at the junction of two main streets, and the owners were keen to maximise this exposure," he says. "We designed the building to have a transparent ground floor to promote an engaging retail frontage the Spice Paragon restaurant has subsequently taken the tenancy."
Elvidge says the site boundaries excluded the very tip of the triangle.
"We wanted to avoid a stubby end to the building, which would have been the result if we had built right up to the boundary. So we sculpted the end of the building, putting a slight kink in the structure to provide a pointed end. Horizontal louvres enhance this sharp leading edge. At street level, however, we left enough space for a small area of outdoor seating at the apex."
The architect says the owners have a farming background and expressed a desire for the building to feature natural materials.
"The clients requested a town-meets-country approach. We chose a rich material palette that speaks of rural and urban imagery. The northwest elevation features Corten steel fins we call them billowing fins as they have a slight curve. The rusted, weathered patina complements the oiled timber that lines the recessed areas at ground level. The fins also provide essential sun shading to the office floors, which means office workers rarely need to pull the blinds. This in turn helps to activate the exterior of the building, which adds to the vibrancy."
A local Mt Somers limestone features at ground level, while Timaru bluestone clads columns and a long feature wall in the entry foyer. This is a highly textural volcanic stone with air bubble fissures.