Reaction to planned $452m Auckland mega-scheme: Māori pa sites reflected in roof design

Terraced roofing reflecting Māori pa sites, a cut-through laneway beside the Bledisloe Building and stepped design to avoid shading Aotea Square – these are some of the design features of the planned new $452 million Aotea Central.

Property chiefs welcomed the 21-level office/apartment/retail project to rise above the new City Rail Link Aotea train station.

The architects explained more about the designs too.

Scott Pritchard, Property Council of NZ chairman, said: “It’s great for the city and we really support Auckland Council freeing up sites like this for world-class developments that provide a stimulus for the city and housing so this will hopefully be a great addition to the city.”

Risks certainly existed on any projects, he said, “but it’s for the developer to manage those and they’ve got a high degree of experience and expertise”.

Mayor Phil Goff today said Panuku Development Auckland would sell an ex-carpark to Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) and the scheme would be a big CBD boost.

MRCB had experience in developing integrated commercial and residential properties around transportation hubs and a good reputation for the design and quality of its developments, Goff said. Construction of the new Aotea Central is to start after the $4.4 billion City Rail Link was completed in 2024.

Pritchard said city centres internationally were being affected by the pandemic with more people who worked from home, but the scale of the proposed plans meant the new building could be a catalyst for revitalisation.

More people were living in the centre of Auckland which meant a more vibrant, lively city.

“Having this residential component is supported by the Property Council,” Pritchard said of the retail/office/apartment mixed-use scheme.

Andrew Hay, Auckland branch chairman for the Property Council, said bringing in a Malaysian firm with expertise in the field made sense.

“One of the key things the Property Council has identified is making sure you get infrastructure round stations.”

The new $1b Commercial Bay was an anchor at the waterfront end of town, so Aotea Central would be an anchor further up, Hay said.

Asked if he thought a local firm should have won the development contract, Hay said: “A lot of local firms have international connections and if we only focus internally, that would be a barrier to getting these projects.”

The Link Alliance building CRL was itself an international collaboration, showing the benefit of bringing parties here from offshore, Hay said.

The build to rent model was also increasingly of interest to developers and New Zealand was undergoing a transformation as many people moved from suburbs into CBDs: “Younger people are not so focused on getting their driver’s licence or a car.”

Kirsten Trengove, Australia and New Zealand public relations manager of Woods Bagot, said architects from the Auckland and Melbourne offices were involved in the design.

The planned building’s design reflected aspects of te ao Māori.

“Tāmaki Makaurau’s pre-European history of terraced pā strategically placed on
headlands, ridges and maunga for visibility and safety is recalled in the
building’s rooftop which offers a lookout over Aotea Square,” the architects said.

“This will be a catalyst project to rejuvenate Auckland’s mid-town.

“The architectural design of the façade takes cues from the wider precinct and its
collection of heritage and culturally significant buildings such as the town hall, the Civic
theatre and the Fergusson building,” the architects said.

“Monolithic in nature, these neighbouring buildings share a consistent architectural language that is directly in keeping with the civic character of the precinct and surrounding neighbourhood,” Woods Bagot said.

The same architectural firm worked with New Zealand architects Warren and Mahoney on Commercial Bay.

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