After the Christchurch earthquake, central spaces were laid bare – now a fresh-thinking development by Sheppard & Rout responds to the needs of occupants and the city itself

Designed by Sheppard & Rout

From the architects:

Project description

Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake that destroyed much of the city, entire blocks were left empty where buildings once stood. 

Worcester Terraces is located on a previously cleared inner-city site with an aim to bring residents back into the city centre. 

The project brief called for a variety of different housing types and sizes, some with garaging, to provide optionality and choice. 

The development consists of 68 residences with a mix of 2 and 3 storey townhouses and apartment typologies. 

The buildings have been designed to provide an appropriate scale to the site and create an intermediary blend for the central city, merging the lower suburban buildings to the east, and the taller central city to the west of the site. 

The scale of the development seeks to form a strong built edge to the public realm, with regular gaps providing physical and visual breaks. 

The use of setbacks, height differences and a variety of architectural forms provides interest to the circumnavigating street elevations. 

The site corners have been given particular emphasis by increasing the building height and bulk to convey prominence to the street corners and anchor the development. 

The general layout of the site sees the buildings located around the exterior lot perimeter, allowing for carparking to be kept to an interior court. 

The pedestrian circulation routes have been designed to be clear, direct, and easily understood. 

Importance has been placed on the ability to ‘look-through’ the development from one side to the other, with clearly defined visual axis that links the east and west, north and south.

Site and context

The Worcester Terraces site is encompassed by three inner-city streets and the recently developed Rauora Park. 

Established trees and green park space to the east and west allows for the site to be viewed from a distance across the parks with prominent visibility to the site corners. 

The site is in a transitional area of scale between the urban realm of city and the eastern suburbs. 

Therefore, the site experiences a high flow of foot traffic throughout all times of the day. 

Careful consideration has been given to the street interfaces, especially in situations where the primary outdoor living terrace or bedroom are facing the street or parks. 

Building platforms have been raised to a level above the public footpath levels to provide passive surveillance while decreasing the ability for the public to look into the units and amenities. 

The existing ground levels around the perimeter of the site vary while the design levels have been restricted by the need for level thresholds around the central car park for vehicle and Lifemark accreditation unit access. 

Design constraints

A key planning consideration in the design of the development was the balance in spatial arrangement between the built forms, outdoor living space amenity and the provision for garages and car parking. 

Given the design guidelines associated with the site required a single vehicle access point to/from the site, this meant that all vehicle manoeuvring need to be catered from within the development. 

While this had several advantages such as minimising the dominance of car parking and garaging when viewed from public spaces, it presented a number of challenges in the design of the central court to ensure a high level of amenity and outlook. 

The response was to break up the external car parking bulk as much as possible through pockets of green space. 

Large established trees have been planted within to mask the visibility of buildings from looking across one another in the internal car court. 

Different surface treatments and pathways have also been introduced into the central court to reduce the visual appearance of the hardscape. 

The future adaptability of the internal car court transforming into green space was also considered, as the dependence of car ownership potentially shrinks and ride-share services within city centres grows. 

This formed another reason to group the cars together within the centre of the site to allow for flexibility in the ever-changing and sustainably conscious world we live in.  

Material selection – all set in concrete and cedar

Whilst the various building typologies differ from one another, they are consistent in their palette of materials: natural precast concrete walls with either a fair face or board form finish, cedar weatherboards, fibre cement cladding with accents of aluminium balustrades and window shrouds. 

The precast concrete, which forms both the main shell of the buildings and their key structural elements, is expressed as the primary material throughout the development. 

This provides a robust and durable finish with minimal maintenance contributing to a feeling of solidness, permanence and longevity that will last over time. 

Further benefits include addressing fire and acoustic requirements given the close proximity of units with one another and shared inter-tenancy walls. 

The pockets of cedar contrast and offset the concrete and provide moments of warmth and texture to key areas where people interact closely with the building. 

The finer aluminium elements give the building a sharpness and variety of finish and feel against the more solid monolithic concrete. 

This combination of common elements unifies the overall development while allowing a degree of variety and personalisation of each building type.  


The project has been developed alongside a number of key collaborators, including Ōtākaro. 

This process allowed for early engagement to ensure significant anchor projects, such as Worcester Terraces, complement the regeneration objectives of the Central City Recovery Plan (CCRP). 

Ōtākaro was instrumental in the overall development of the project at various design stages and ensuring key criteria were met, including the wider contextual integration of the development within the central city. 

Alongside this, a number of consultants were appointed to assist in the design and delivery of the project. 

Given the adoption of highly expressed and finished structural elements such as the precast concrete walls, Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers were integral to the process. 

Kamo Marsh Landscape Architectsalso played a significant role to blend the architecture with the landscape. 

For instance, the end walls to the corner apartments are intended to become green walls over time, with Ficus Pumila (creeping fig) planting envisioned to largely cover the concrete throughout the development. 

Early engagement with the landscape architects was also invaluable to address pedestrian routes, view corridors, site and household entrances through careful selection of tree and plant species.


The development has been conceived from an early stage to achieve Homestar Level 6 rating. 

This informed a number of design considerations, including window size and orientation and ensuring the thermal envelope achieves a high rating through suitably specified insulation and glazing. 

Ongoing operational costs and limiting water usage have been addressed with the specification of heat recovery HVAC systems to the apartments, and WELS rated tapware throughout. 

While concrete is not immediately attributed for its sustainability, this material was decided early on in the inception of this project for its speed, construction methodology and economies of scale. 

The size of the development fostered the use of off-site constructed precast concrete panels, then transported to site for fast erection and reduced construction times. 

When considered over the long term, the choice of concrete for the nature and scale of this development is seen to hold up well over time with minimal ongoing maintenance costs. 

Credit list

Worcester Terraces development
City planning
Kamo Marsh Landscape Architects
Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers

Designed by: Sheppard & Rout

Story by: Trendsideas

10 Dec, 2023

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