Tag Archives: Human scale

Proposed 100m hotel: Damn right, the fight’s not over! #Dunedin

Great to see the letter by award-winning architect Richard Shackleton given prominence in the ODT today. It sent me hunting for my copy of Paul Goldberger’s book, The Skyscraper (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), bought in second professional year (BArch) at Auckland. Given what has happened since to skyscraper design internationally, the book is a little quaint, eclectic and short of stature – it will always be a useful commentary on the emergence and history of towers in the United States.

Most of the buildings Goldberger cites I visited on architectural study tour with a group of staff, students and friends of the Auckland School in 1984, at the start of my four-year fulltime Master of Architecture degree (thesis only). But that’s quite another rainy day story of ‘commercial facades’.

Goldberger begins his last chapter, ‘Beyond the Box’, saying:
“By 1980, one thing was clear: the box, the rationalist dream of the International Style [the austere glass box, his words], was making more and more architects uncomfortable. Not only was it no longer the clean and exhilarating structure that would serve as a clarion call to a new age, but it was not even able to hold out much promise of practicality. It was generally inefficient from the standpoint of energy, and it was not as marketable from the viewpoint of real estate operators either.”

41 Wharf Street, Dunedin
For the applicant (Betterways Advisory Ltd), architect Jeremy Whelan of Ignite Architects (Auckland) is assisting Shanghai-based ECADI (Eastern China Architectural Design Institute), who were initially engaged by the client, with the conceptual design of the proposed hotel. It is claimed in Whelan’s brief of evidence that ECADI has significant international hotel experience and has completed projects for all major 5 star brand operators including Kempinski Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels, Marriot Hotels, Ritz Carlton Hotels and the Intercontinental Hotel Group.

The design of the 27-storey hotel tower crassly proposed for one of Dunedin’s best waterfront sites is the likes of which Goldberger correctly identifies as ‘tired’ by 1980 – at the time of writing, he hadn’t yet considered Arquitectonica’s work at Miami, Florida (see the landmark 20-storey luxury Atlantis condominiums built in 1982, famous for their cutout) – but Whelan certainly had, as a BArch contemporary of mine at Auckland School, and that building too is ‘tired’ as architectural metaphors and shared language go.

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ODT 3.1.13 Letter to the editor p12

ODT 3.1.13 Letter R Shackleton (1)

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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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‘Low-rises are great for the community and the residents’

### theglobeandmail.com Tuesday, 10 July 2012, 1:07 PM EDT
Last updated Tues, 10 July 2012, 1:15 PM EDT
Real Estate
High time for more low-rises
By Nadani Ditmars
The traditional “Vancouverist” model of a tower and podium may well be headed for a civic sea change. In the midst of controversy over proposed new towers – like the Rize Alliance development in Mount Pleasant that continues to draw significant community opposition despite being approved by council – several new “low-rise” projects are quietly making their mark on the urban landscape.

Call it the “slow-rise” revolution if you will, but the model that is gaining ground is one that evokes an earlier era and a more human scale, with uniquely contemporary design. Centred around Vancouver’s historic neighbourhoods, projects like Gastown’s Paris Annex, Chinatown’s Flats on Georgia and Mount Pleasant’s Collection 45 offer modernist architectural values that respect the surrounding built-and-social environments in a way that the city’s growing number of cookie-cutter towers do not.

Developer Robert Fung, whose six-storey Paris Annex building will be completed this summer, and has already sold out, contends that “our region needs density – it’s crucially important. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be exclusively through high-rises.” He notes that Paris, one of the densest cities in the world, achieved that density largely through the six-storey walk-up typology.

While he believes that high-rises can be designed with sensitivity to their environment, low-rises offer certain advantages, says Mr. Fung, “They increase light in an area,” he notes. “They offer a strong sense of identity and individuality, but at the same time make it easier for neighbours to get to know each other.”

Because of the low-rise’s need to be “strongly contextual to where they are,” he says, “that can often mean a higher level of design, and greater attention to detail,” noting that “our historic neighbourhoods tend to offer greater opportunities for this, as the buildings have to have a greater sense of engagement with their environment.”

He notes that some towers in the area, like the Woodwards one, tend to be “inward looking” with a lack of “street-front engagement.” Low-rises by nature have a greater engagement with the street and tend to go against the grain of the “commodity ubiquity towers” that proliferate around, say, the False Creek South area.
Street view-HASTINGS-10The Paris Annex is a conjoined fraternal twin of sorts to the next-door heritage conversion (and former HQ of Paris boot-makers) Paris Block. Both buildings, designed by architect Gair Williamson, share service core infrastructure.

“You have to walk through the old 1907 building to enter the new one,” notes Mr. Williamson. “Every day, residents are literally moving through history.”

The elegant 35-foot building of glass and steel will contain 2,500 square feet of retail on the ground floor and mezzanine, with 17 market residential units on the upper floors.

The constraints of these “character sites,” as Mr. Williamson calls them, “make them unique. When you work on a 25-foot site, you have to respond with integrity and be hyper-aware of the surrounding environment.”
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Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

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