Copper cladding drapes new suburban shopping centre in Merivale, Christchurch

Post-earthquake rebuild of suburban retail building in Christchurch by Thom Craig Architects, with copper cladding

This new retail building in a high-end Christchurch architecture, building, city, downtown, facade, house, real estate, residential area, sky, blue, gray
This new retail building in a high-end Christchurch suburb has replaced an older-style block that was demolished following the 2011 earthquakes. Architect Thom Craig chose to express the three stores through clearly articulated roof forms and a monolithic copper skin.

The Christchurch city centre may be the focus of the post-earthquake rebuild, but the suburbs are also getting their share of attention.

This new retail building in Merivale, designed by architect Thom Craig, replaces an old-style building that was demolished following the quakes.

Craig says the owner Paddy Cotter wanted a quality building for the high-end suburb. The design needed to maximise the exposure of the prime corner site, and it needed to provide an innovative architectural response.

"The owner wanted to give something back to the precinct, and was prepared to invest time and money to create a building that was a little bit special and different from what went before.

"Traditionally a suburban shopping centre is a simple rectangular block with a glazed front the stores within don't have a strong individual identity. This design is a departure from that model, in terms of its form and materiality."

Craig says the design team chose to express the three stores within the building as stand-alone elements that would orientate towards the views and sightlines from the junction.

Canopies above the entry to each store in architecture, building, city, downtown, house, neighbourhood, real estate, residential area, sky, town, gray, blue
Canopies above the entry to each store in this new retail block appear as extrusions in the copper cloak that wraps the building. There are also folded copper panels between each store that help to define the entries. The design is by Thom Craig Architects.

"The architecture is far more articulated than the original building, with three high roof volumes defining the separate stores. Each roof has a skylight at the top that allows plenty of natural light inside. The high roofs also add volume and drama to the interior, providing soaring ceilings, rather than the traditional flat tiled ceilings of older retail premises."

The architect cloaked the building in copper, effectively creating a monolithic skin that wraps the entire building. Window frames are recessed behind the copper folds and hidden from sight, so the glazing appears to merge seamlessly.

"The copper skin is like a pleated garment that has been tailor made to cloak the building," Craig says. "The crafted form and materiality provide a subtle, yet visually engaging urban response.

The rich patina of the copper is highlighted by dark vertical folds between the store fronts, and by extruded entry canopies, which look as though they have been moulded, or pushed and pulled from the same skin.

"This ensures the canopies don't interfere with the overall perception of the shapes and forms. The detailing continues around the two street fronts, so the building presents itself to pedestrians and passing traffic as a strategic node on the corner."

Craig says the copper is a low-maintenance material that will weather naturally.

Taylor, a store on the corner of a boutique, interior design, retail, black, gray
Taylor, a store on the corner of a new retail block in Christchurch, has raw steel fixtures that complement the sleek, minimalist interior.

"No matter what happens to the cladding, in terms of marks and scratches, it will develop its own patina."

On the interior, the spaces are spare, white and contemporary, verging on minimalist.

"This fits with the trend towards minimal, almost gallery-like store fit-outs," says the architect. "The interiors are not detailed or prescriptive, so they will suit a variety of different shops and fit-outs. The new boutique tenants Taylor, Briarwood and JNBY have capitalised on this."

Each store is equipped with a small kitchen area and a bathroom, which is another departure from the communal facilities provided by the traditional mall-style store.

Credit list

Copper Retail Outlets, Merivale, Christchurch
Civil engineer
TM Consultants
Copper from The Architectural Roofing Company
Architect and interior designer
Thom Craig, Thom Craig Architects, Christchurch
Construction company
Buchnell Builders

Story by: Colleen Hawkes

17 Jun, 2015

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