Facadism: 3%, 10%, 50%, 75%, 99.9% (how much is enough) | University of Otago warps Castle Street

University of Otago OUCA Childcare Centre
541-559 Castle Street

Architects: Parker Warburton Team Architects
Structural and Fire Engineers: Stevenson Brown Ltd
Main Contractor: Amalgamated Builders Ltd (ABL)

The university is building a new childcare centre in Castle Street, opposite the historic Selwyn College, on sites formerly given to a row of timbered bay villas. The facility will provide room for 140 equivalent full-time (FTE) children – boosting childcare capacity at the university by 50%. Years ago, the houses together with others like them were mooted for demolition to provide new lecture theatres. Along came work on the Campus Master Plan to change that and what is now the decision to save the ‘appearance’ of the villas to the street – with a ‘small-person village’ tucked in behind. It’s facadism, and it’s terribly thin. The villas weren’t listed for protection in the district plan.

Villa 1a IMG_4525

On completion, the new childcare centre will probably collect one or more NZIA Southern Architecture Awards based on ingenuity, subtle(?) mixing of ‘kiwi’ Disneyland veneer, concept, scale, well-programmed function, urban design, and finishing. After all, the university has spent $200,000 on the design and used award winning architects. But is it kosher to slice the bays off period villas and ‘reconstitute’ them by nailing onto new buildings? Not sure, will wait until the opening in March to finally pronounce.

Full hoarding 1 IMG_4503

In the meantime there’s no debating that scale and proportion are correct, and the design has sensitivity on many counts. Will the built linkages, with under-roofs, between buildings read correctly and convincingly to the street? Does it matter anyway, given the facility replaces buildings the university fudged and devalued over many years for temporary use? The landscaping to street and within the block will be superior. What’s not to like?

Possibly, the ‘what’s not to like’ is that others in the building design trade will try to mimic (badly) the facadist tactics – the ‘chainsaw precedent’ having been set – as they gormlessly, constructively, work to erode historic heritage values of individual buildings and townscape values within some of our better but neglected Victorian/Edwardian era residential streets. Like streets in the North Dunedin campus area where tight sections and medium building density are found; places where developers having landbanked aren’t of a mind to fully demolish. Whether this turns truly bad, like all building fashions, will depend on the number of occurrences and scale of endeavour. When you do something (was it) cutting edge, it’s the followers you should worry about.

In its favour, this ‘academic’ dalliance with facadism, chainsaw-massacre or whatever it’s called – and alright, the institutional client has a reasonably high standard of architectural design and heritage-retention – is aesthetically far superior to the ‘piss-poor’ gouges and severe ghetto-esque rebuilds now going on in former working cottage character streets, like Grange and Leith.

Hoarding 1b IMG_4505Hoarding 6c IMG_4513Hoarding 7b IMG_4514Hoarding 4a IMG_4510Hoarding 3a IMG_4509Hoarding 2a IMG_4506

Otago Bulletin Board
Uni News: Site of new Childcare facility blessed
The new state-of-the-art facility will offer places for significantly more children than the existing centre in Great King Street, and will include a bilingual centre, landscaped external play space, dining and quiet sleep rooms, as well as non-contact and administration areas. All 11 buildings on both the Castle Street and Montgomery Avenue sides of the project will be demolished, with the exception of the period Edwardian facades of the five villas on Castle Street which will be restored. Property Services Project Manager Christian German says “The condition and arrangement of the existing buildings, as well as the need to carry out seismic strengthening, means that re-building is the most cost-effective option. However, by retaining and restoring the villa facades, the view on Castle Street will be improved without changing significantly.” The facility will provide 140 full-time equivalent (FTE) child places, including 28 nought- to five-year-olds in the bilingual centre. There will also be two nurseries and two whānau units each catering for 40 two- to five-year-olds.

*restored is a loaded word

Otago University Childcare Association
The OUCA has four new childcare centres under construction on Campus, opening April 2014. They will sit alongside Te Kaupapa ō Rōpu Tiaki Tamaiti (College Centre) 137 Union Street East. All children enrolled at the existing Nursery, Preschool and Fulltime Centres will transfer to the new centres. Link

ODT Coverage:
8.1.14 Photograph, site view (page 14). University childcare centre takes shape. Peter MacIntosh. No link available.

14.8.13 ‘Good progress’ at uni childcare facility site
The facades of period villas in Castle St were being removed for repair and restoration. These facades would be retained as part of the new development in their original positions opposite Selwyn College. Link

18.7.13 University child-care site cleared
University plans to build a $6.25 million child-care centre in Castle St are moving closer to reality as demolition work continues. Eleven buildings, in Montgomery Ave and Castle St, will be demolished to make way for the project, although the facades of five Victorian villas in Castle St will be retained. The new centre would include landscaped internal play space, as well as dining and quiet sleep rooms. Link

13.6.13 Blessing for childcare centre
The childcare centre would integrate three current centres into one. “The concept is a village for children on campus with lots of trees and natural materials.” Demolition of existing buildings on the site is scheduled to begin on June 24, and the centre is scheduled to open next March. Link

4.4.13 University plans major building projects
The only large new project on which the university has publicly committed to begin construction this year is a $6.254 million childcare centre in Castle St. The draft design for the centre was almost complete and construction was to begin in June. Link

22.12.12 New daycare centre
The university plans to build a new “state-of-the-art” childcare centre on Castle St next year. The centre would be located on Castle St opposite Selwyn College and retain the Edwardian facades of existing villas. The need for earthquake strengthening and the condition and arrangement of the existing buildings meant rebuilding was the most cost-effective option. $200,000 was spent on the design of the new centre, but the construction budget was under wraps. Once the new centre was built, the facility on Great King St would revert to accommodation or academic use. Link
UoO childcare facility - concept, Montgomery Ave [Parker Warburton] 1aSketch of the new eight-gabled building. Montgomery Avenue elevation.
Parker Warburton

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Business, Construction, Design, Economics, Heritage, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Pics, Project management, Property, Site, Town planning, University of Otago, Urban design

12 responses to “Facadism: 3%, 10%, 50%, 75%, 99.9% (how much is enough) | University of Otago warps Castle Street

  1. Anonymous

    That the University can afford to build such a low-density collection of buildings in a non-core enterprise is indicative of two things:
    a) there is no space crisis at the University of Otago
    b) the University is an enterprise

    Q: How many staff in the Division of Sciences are on short hours or have been made redundant in recent weeks?

  2. ### ODT Online Fri, 10 Jan 2014
    Plenty of work while students away
    By Vaughan Elder
    A tertiary education building boom is bringing contractors working on the Christchurch rebuild back to Dunedin. Large projects over the summer include the $3.8 million refurbishment of Selwyn College, the refurbishment of Arana College, a $6.25 million child-care centre, conversion of the former LivingSpace hotel building into Te Rangi Hiroa College, refurbishment of OUSA’s recreation centre and the creation of a student hub in Otago Polytechnic’s F and H blocks.
    Read more

  3. Dave M

    Villas (even fake ones) look odd without chimneys.

  4. Calvin Oaten

    It looks like a pioneering exercise to me. Education as a continuous process from the cradle to the grave. Maybe it is an outcome of Emeritus Professor Jim Flynn’s research into increasing IQs. Ground breaking stuff really. Imagine, Dunedin leads the world in pre-empting revolutionary techniques to expand the human brain. Next we will see scads of university ‘lifers’ running around the upper gardens pathways clad in silly little shorts and unkempt hair, prior to embarking to leave for other planets.

  5. Elizabeth

    The facades of original villas on the site were preserved in an effort to retain parts of the historic streetscape.

    ### ODT Online Wed, 14 May 2014
    Old but new centre ‘inspiring’
    By Vaughan Elder
    The University of Otago officially opened its ”state-of-the-art” $6 million childcare centre yesterday. The opening of the Otago University Childcare Association (OUCA) facility, ”Te Pa”, in Castle St, marked the completion of a 10-month construction project.
    Read more

    Excellent result. Waiting for this to be nominated in next round of the NZIA Southern architecture awards. But it isn’t “Heritage”. Pastiche.

  6. Elizabeth

    ODT on the university’s new childcare centre, Castle St. See slideshow.


  7. Elizabeth

    The chimera. Facadism at Te Pā works, but this isn’t historic heritage to the street, it’s pastiche for townscape purposes – not building conservation. At a glance, can you tell the difference?

    Architects: Parker Warburton Team Architecture

    All images, and renders (due to poor light conditions), via my cameraphone on 24.7.14.


    Te Pā to Castle St, moving south past the development (original villa windows retained and tied to new ‘housing’ structure).

    Te Pa Castle St 6Te Pa Castle St 4Te Pa Castle St 7Te Pa Castle St 5Te Pa Castle St 2Te Pa Castle St 1Te Pa Castle St 8Te Pa Castle St 10Te Pa Castle St 9Te Pa Castle St 3


    Te Pā to Montgomery Ave (all new structure), separated from the Castle St block by an internal landscaped courtyard and secure play area. Montgomery Ave will soon be closed to traffic to allow for further flood protection work on the Leith.

    Te Pa Montgomery St 21 peTe Pa Montgomery St 12 peTe Pa Montgomery St 14 peTe Pa Montgomery St 15Te Pa Montgomery St 19 pe

    • Hype O'Thermia

      Eeew, what’s with the yellow and red stained boards? Demolition-site chic? I like the front, it’s as you say streetscapey. The back though, that’s fugly as. Since it didn’t have to look good (obviously!) why do it so expensivelty, all those changes in shape, all those corners, they all add to the cost without any apparent point. Or perhaps that is the point – more intricate, more architect time & kudos, more labour and materials… more profits from a client without personal involvement in value for money.

  8. Couldn’t decide on a colour scheme, so got Resene, British Paints and Guthrie Bowron to submit some sample boards for assessing. Finally, the committee of academics called in Prof Jim Flynn. He flounced around in his littlely shorts making caustic remarks about painters IQs , and in the end the three companies consulted (I like that) spat the dummy and told them to paint the bloody things themselves, and left. Of course that was it, no-one in the establishment could work out how to get the lids off the paint tins so a committee was set up, a fund was set aside for the purpose, they all had a cup of tea and a muffin and decided that the sampling looked good enough as it was, so it was left as is.The kiddies will love it. Even the children will.

  9. Elizabeth

    Peace declared in Castle St
    […] The Zone of Peace concept was suggested earlier this year by visiting academic and international peace activist Professor Ed Garcia, who had been concerned by some reported behaviour and by children having to pass broken bottles on their way the preschool.

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