Mercer & Mercer's new take on apartment living
The clients wanted a building that would challenge preconceived notions of apartment living from the street and from within; a design infused with emotion, mindful of the sun, the moon and the stars, the wind and the rain. Generous surroundings for large informal gatherings and for extended family living were also required.
The long and narrow site, sloping from a residential ridge to a commercial carpark, is flanked by the painted weatherboard houses of the 1930’s and 50’s with a mix of commercial and residential uses. There are views of the city and of the hills at the perimeter of the Waikato plains. The district plan allowed full site coverage 10 metres high and in discussion with neighbours it was decided that the form should follow the land down the site.
Mercer & Mercer proposed to protect the site from the south and provide theatre to the street, by building a ten-metre-high wall parallel to the street and down the full length of the south boundary. This organised the site into public and private zones, and afforded as much sheltered sunfilled space as possible to the north west aspect. A three-storey arrangement with cars underneath, living at street level and bedrooms above was conceived with glass walls to the north and west, playing off the solid boundary walls. Passive solar principles are at work here, resulting in energy efficient living with a high degree of thermal comfort.
A judges' citation from the NZ Architecture Award (N.Z.I.A. 2009) stated: "This set of three apartments is an exemplar for inner city housing….there is a natural and joyous expression of materials…..the courtyards and clerestory light wells allow an ever-changing play of light across the concrete walls. The spaces are warm, firm and comfortable with an easy flow and a well considered balance between privacy and view. The building is both strong and gentle, protective and open and emanates a serene peacefulness that makes it a wonderful place to live."
The result is a building that challenges our perceptions of urban living, minimal hardness and regional style.