Britomart project full steam ahead

Niki May Young
Friday 03 Oct 2008

Auckland's central business district undergoing a transformation

The Britomart Project in Auckland’s CBD is a large transport, heritage and urban revitalisation project spread over seven inner city blocks. The 5.2 hectare precinct sits 200m from the city waterfront and at NZD 350M it is the countries most expensive infrastructure project undertaken by a local authority.

This mixed-use development by the Auckland City Council aims at reconnecting train, bus and ferry services by providing an innovative, well-crafted transport hub. By project end 18 heritage buildings will have been renovated and retrofitted – NZ’s largest heritage restoration project to date. In combination with six new buildings by local and international architects the entire development will create a vibrant mix of shops, cafes, apartments, business and new public open space.

The key to the development, and its most significant completed building to date, is the Britomart Transport Centre building designed by Californian Mario Madayag with support from local Jasmax. The Transport Centre’s role as architectural anchor in the precinct is advanced by its prominent frontage onto the very busy Queen Street, and its programme. It illustrates the central ideas of the masterplan by being both a contemporary high-tech extension and a sensitive retrofit to the Chief Post Office building of 1911.

A fine steel louvred cube thrusts from the neo-classical envelope toward the heart of the precinct. Underground, the platforms of the rail terminal are brightly lit with multicoloured lights. Volcanic cone lightwells draw light down into the underground, while providing at ground level the studs which form the vertebrae of the central axis of the masterplan. Silver ersatz native tree trunks run the triple heighted void from the station into the distribution cube creating a strong verticality and sense of upward lift. One finds in this building the high tech tempered by obvious regionalist aspirations.

The implementation of the rest of the masterplan is moving ahead. Next on the to-build list is the Central Building, Takutai Square and the East Building expected to begin construction shortly under the command of local master architect Pip Cheshire of Cheshire Architects.

Rowan Fraser

Key Facts:

New Zealand
Transport Urban design

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