An historic city building is refurbished & reinvented by Urbanfunction – an activated retail street front, spiral stair, lux penthouse and respect for the setting result

Renovated by Aaron Jones, Urbanfunction

From the building designer:

129 High, formerly the BNZ bank and Ace Video building, is a historic structure in the heart of the city. 

After it was significantly damaged and condemned following the 2011 earthquakes, our brief was to create a mixed-use development that includes a family home seamlessly integrated into the inner city environment – while restoring the heritage building to its former glory.

We were asked to:

  •  Include revenue-generating commercial spaces on the ground floor.
  •  Enliven the street frontage and add value to the vibrancy of the local community. 
  • Create a new penthouse ‘pop’ with a rooftop terrace for entertaining, privacy and escape – a sanctuary for residents to unwind and enjoy panoramic city views.

Sustainability is at the forefront of the design, including a green roof and energy efficient systems wherever possible. 

We also had to exceed current code requirements with re-strengthening to ensure its resilience for the future.

Our brief required us to fundamentally show respect for the surrounding neighbourhood context and heritage of High Street.

This included paying homage to the area's historical significance and trees while establishing 129 High as a cornerstone of the precinct.

With such a prominent historical corner site, we were determined to ensure 129 High was treated with the utmost care and respect. 

We undertook a structural re-strengthening and alteration programme designed to minimise impact on interior spaces.

The restored building features two ground floor commercial tenancies, a 3-bedroom apartment on the first floor and a roof terrace studio apartment addition on the top floor.

The apartments are accessed via the insertion of a triangular spiral staircase and lift.

Selection of materials and finishes play a pivotal role in the design – choices tightly considered re their use and application. 

The existing concrete elements of the building have been repaired, plastered and re-painted, thus retaining the historical memory of the building. 

Heritage steel window frames have been carefully restored, maintaining character and charm. 

The stairwell and commercial spaces have been finished in a raw industrial aesthetic, adding an honest edge to the historical building.

The penthouse apartment has been clad with an ultra-modern durable aluminium tile that creates an intentional contrast between the original and new elements of the building.

Impact on the urban context has been carefully considered with the setback of the rooftop addition from the pointy end of the building, lessening visual bulk. 

The mixed-use building programme, with the ground floor sandwich shop and barber, contributes to vibrant city activity.

Sustainability is considered in the use of cedar timber accents, recyclable aluminium tiles, recycled brick from neighbouring buildings and the repurposing of existing rimu timber framing into furniture and feature wall details. 

Insulation cavities have been maximised through the use of carbon fibre structural wrap, eliminating bulky steel frames on the external building outline. 

Heritage steel window frames have been restored, retrofitted with double glazing and sealed for both acoustic and energy efficiency.

129 High is a rare, unique and innovative project that combines historical preservation with modern design elements, creating dynamic and functional spaces in the heart of the city.

Credit list

Bushnell Builders
Kitchen designer/interior designer
Abbie Herniman, The Home Maker
Engineered American Oak
Trends International Design Awards (TIDA) Homes – Runner Up
Renovating building designer
TARC Rhomboid Panel – Aluminium
Kitchen manufacturer
Ryan's Kitchens & Joinery
Window/door joinery
General heating
Ducted heat pumps

Designed by: Urbanfunction

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Steve Entwisle, Rightangles Photography

24 Mar, 2024

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