New-look building gets stamp of approval
A new building in central Nelson has set the bar for contemporary inner city design, after concerns about how the city might look in the future as earthquake-prone buildings are torn down.
The Trafalgar St building now housing The Body Shop, which was built to replace housed the former Trendez and Specsavers shops, is an example of a "successful single-storey infill", said Nelson architect Marc Barron who has been a key commenter on the need for clear thinking on design for the inner city.
Australian urban design specialist Michael Cullen said in recent months that Nelson's economic growth was under threat from a lack of proper controls over the types of buildings that could replace those demolished for earthquake-related reasons.
The project for the new Trafalgar St building was led by Brendon Monk of Nelson firm Arthouse Architects.
Mr Barron said it fitted architecturally with the environment, but the city should be looking beyond aesthetics towards function as well.
"It seems a shame the option of two storeys was not taken and we need to be looking at why that is.
"Simple economics come into it, but current planning legislation doesn't help," Mr Barron said.
He said mixing residential and commercial use started to get complex because of rules around mixed use regulations, but the council should be looking at how to facilitate things like apartments and offices above retail spaces.
Building owner Ray Muollo said the original 1930s structure had to come down after it was classified as earthquake-prone and needed to be fixed or demolished by December. It was not economical to reinforce it.
He said the decision to re-build in single storey was driven by financial considerations.
"The old building was one and a half levels and we couldn't justify anything other than a single level. Financially, it didn't stack up," Mr Muollo said.
He credited Mr Monk for the look of the new building, and was "very happy with the outcome".
"Arthouse came up with a good idea which was very well received by the urban design panel," he said.
The Nelson and Tasman councils are signatories to the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol. The urban design panel's function is to help guide "better urban design outcomes".
Mr Muollo said the new building had one tenant [Body Shop] and the other side had been tenanted with the occupant due to start there next month. He declined to say who it was.
Arthouse principal architect David Wallace, who is also a member of the city's urban design panel, said the project worked because of a "sympathetic client who wanted a good building".
"The council has design guidelines for the central area and we had to work to that."
Mr Wallace said the building, which was essentially a facade, did not mimic others in the vicinity, but followed accents of their appearance.
He said they looked for material that was long-lasting and which would tie in with existing buildings, but still be sympathetic to modern treatment.
"We're really only talking about a facade, featuring Corten steel [weathering steel], which is linked in with the brick of neighbouring buildings.
"I think it's a really good example of how you can have a successful building to replace and older one. It wasn't an expensive building but it was thought through properly and it was carefully designed to have a positive influence on the streetscape," Mr Wallace said.
Mr Cullen told a workshop in Nelson on urban design and its links to economic performance that the city centre had "amenity in spades" and its character had to be retained if it was to grow.
- © Fairfax NZ News