A gateway location is the perfect high-profile position for a business. But the prominence of the site also imposes a certain responsibility on the architectural design team, which has an opportunity to help shape a city.
The Ricoh building, on the apex of Wellesley and Victoria Streets in Auckland, was such a project.
Design architect Shannon Joe of Warren and Mahoney Architects says the 1980s building was initially redesigned for Mainzeal, but completed only to the end of the first stage when that company went into receivership. That stage saw the original building facade removed, the interior gutted, floors levelled, the roof removed and two new floors added. More recently, the second stage was completed for the new owner Russell Property Group, with interiors designed for Ricoh by Hauraki Design, and all construction by Dominion Interiors.
"The original client wanted something quite courageous that would maximise the site's high exposure," Joe says. "We envisaged a fully double-glazed, curved facade, with low-e, low-iron glass that would provide an inviting transparency, and literally reflect the changing atmospheric conditions of the city the passing clouds, the blue sky. But the site is quite large and the sheer bulk of such a building occupying the entire site was a concern. We felt it could be too much for an iconic building the massing would be out of context.
"So we chose to accentuate three-quarters of the site with the multifaceted glass facade, which addresses the two key street frontages and provides a strong corner gesture."
Joe says the other quarter of the site, completed in Stage 2, is a more textural design response in keeping with the infill building typology along the street. At the boundary points, a precast concrete blade wall appears to slice through the building, providing a bold vertical element.
"The site is located within the Victoria Quarter Plan, and is classed as a gateway building, which must have a strong vertical emphasis. The mullions in the facade were not enough on their own. The wrapping of the curve could have made this a rather horizontal building. So we added aluminium fins to reinforce the vertical grain and provide a sense of animation. We echoed this with black fins on the second stage.
"The entire building is highly legible, with this section having crisp and simple detailing. It also incorporates a new timber terrace that appears to have been punched out of the concrete wall. This looks back to the CBD and the Sky Tower."