Wellington.Scoop” Just another office building…

Wellington architecture critic Nemo joined the discussion about the new building which has been approved for parking next to the Michael Fowler Centre. The building was advertised as a home for Victoria University’s School of Music. But Nemo writes on eyeofthefish:

One thing quickly becomes apparent – this is NOT a music school proposal – it’s just another office block, placed directly across from the Amora Hotel, virtually guaranteeing that the Amora won’t get up again. There isn’t a single feature titled “Music Room” or “Practice Room” on the plans for this building – and although the Vic Uni website still claims this building will be part of their National Conservatory of Music , I think Everything has to happen in the new building of the old town hall, where such rooms could still live….

…I have read the six million pages of information provided by the design and planning teams, and as far as I know there is not a single reference to the building being part of the School of Music. So, is it really more honest to say that it’s just one more office building?

Nemo also writes about what the building should be built on:

This proposal popped up in the parking lot of the MFC, where there is currently a large hangar for the NZ Ballet. As you may have noticed if you’re a nerd like me, the NZ Ballet Shed sits on a large flat concrete slab, so as not to put any load on the floor below, because like some of us know this, there is an almighty large tank of water/air/smelly rainwater/wet sewer under the parking lot. And the one thing you don’t want to do with a water or sewer tank is put a lot of load on it and possibly blow it up, spilling the contents. No, that would be bad… The proposal is for a flat slab and a building extending just above the flat slab, not putting too much load on the existing underground structures.

It’s obviously a fearless engineering decision, not an architectural one I guess, because literally no one wants to end up in deep shit, given that the Tonkin Taylor report says:

“The MFCC site is relatively exposed to potential natural hazards, including earthquake shaking, liquefaction, lateral propagation, and flooding (resulting from local flooding and/or predictable sea level rise).”

He continues by saying:

“Within the site are two existing elements of public utility infrastructure:
1) A large underground wastewater storage/retention tank, at the western end of the site; and
2) A former ovoid, buried, mostly concrete stormwater culvert running through the southeast corner of the site…”

north car park building

Nemo examines how the new building can sit above a sewage tank. And then he repeats his concern that the building looks like “just another office building”. He concludes : “I’m sorry, but this ploy is trivial. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement.”

Read his full eyeofthefish reviews.

Plans for what has been called a “national music center” have been announced eight years ago, when it was meant to be in Civic Square, bringing new life to central Wellington. Students would spill out into the plaza, bringing life and music to the underutilized space.

Concept plans showed that the municipal office building was to be converted into classrooms and offices, directly connected to the reinforced city hall and its performance spaces, which would also be part of the music center. But although an agreement was signed in 2019 by Victoria University, the NZSO and the City Council, it came to nothing when the council decided to demolish the 70-year-old building instead of reinforcing it.

This decision was followed by a long silence, until in September of last year we learned that Willis Bond negotiated a 175-year ground lease for “a multi-level green building with outdoor public spaces” in the parking lot. And Mayor Andy Foster said it would “potentially pave the way for the location within the Te Ngākau municipal precinct of the proposed National Music Centre”.

Professor Grant Guilford, who was then Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, was quoted as describing it as an “exciting opportunity to advance the creation of a dynamic and innovative new music centre”.

The a new agreement was concluded last December, apparently without any fuss about the music center being split into two separate buildings – part in the town hall and part in the new Willis Bond building. The University Council has agreed to enter into a 25-year lease for levels one and two and part of the ground floor of the new building. The NZSO Board had previously confirmed its commitment to sublet Tier Two of the university.

VUW announced:

The University’s New Zealand School of Music – Te Kōkī (NZSM) – will occupy part of the ground floor, where there will be a public space to celebrate music. On the first level, modern offices and state-of-the-art teaching spaces will be used by NZSM academic and administrative staff. There will also be spaces for collaboration between the NZSM and the NZSO. The NZSO will occupy part of level two as an administrative base, where it will also have soundproof practice rooms and ensemble rooms for its musicians.

If there are no other plan changes (and if they add the missing music rooms and practice rooms), the students will move into the two halves of the National Music Center in 2026.

And as to where the municipal office building once was torn down, not a word is said. Would it be an open space? Or are the developers lining up for another 175-year lease. No doubt discussions behind closed doors have already begun.

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Helene Ritchie on a small notice for a large building

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