Draw­ing shines light on plans for Sky Tower

Central Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - SI­MON MAUDE

As it nears its 20th an­niver­sary of be­ing built, few re­mem­ber Auck­land’s land­mark Sky Tower was first pitched as a far more el­e­gant spire - and its cur­rent con­crete look was de­rided as re­sem­bling a ‘‘sewer pipe’’.

When first pro­posed and pitched to Auck­lan­ders by thenown­ers Har­rah’s, the 328 me­tre high tower, which opened in Fe­bru­ary 1997, had a fu­tur­is­tic ‘satin fin­ish’ alu­minum cladding in­stead of a plain grey con­crete shaft.

It was one of New Zealand’s largest com­mer­cial con­struc­tion projects - the tower alone cost $69 mil­lion to fin­ish. The orig­i­nal de­sign for the Sky Tower fea­tured alu­minium cladding all the way down the shaft. Gor­don Moller, the orig­i­nal de­signer, said the Sky Tower was con­ceived as an ‘‘el­e­gant spire’’. The alu­minium cladding around the top of the tower was meant to ex­tend right down the tower shaft. But a de­ci­sion was made to ditch the alu­minium cladding on the shaft - no rea­son was given, but it trimmed costs.

In­stead the tower’s con­crete shaft was given a smooth fin­ish con­tain­ing a spe­cial ad­di­tive called Sil­ica Fume, which has re­sulted in vir­tu­ally no dis­coloura­tion over 20 years, Moller said.

Back in early 1997, one New Zealand Her­ald let­ter writer told the news­pa­per the ex­posed con­crete made the tower re­sem­ble a ’’sewer pipe’’.

One un­named ar­chi­tect made the fan­ci­ful claim the tower’s con­crete would be­come a tar­get for ‘‘keen tag­gers’’.

Auck­land ar­chi­tect Gareth Ross told the news­pa­per the raw con­crete de­ci­sion made the Sky Tower look like a ‘bru­tal­ist’ style ar­chi­tec­tural throw­back to the 1960s and 70s. Ross be­moaned the de­ci­sion to aban­don the tower’s orig­i­nal, all-out ‘‘fu­tur­is­tic’’ look. Now, how­ever, he has grown to ac­cept the con­crete tower.

‘‘Oh God, did I say that?’’ Ross laughs down the phone 19 years later. ‘‘I’m pretty re­laxed now [about Sky Tower], I’m not stand­ing by my guns on what I said. [The day the news­pa­per called] I was the one who picked up the phone . . . it might have been I was hav­ing a par­tic­u­larly bad day.’’

As the con­crete shaft has weath­ered it has ‘‘soft­ened’’ and the tower now looks ‘‘pretty good’’, Ross said.

Auck­land cul­tural critic Hamish Keith said over time the de­ci­sion to keep the ex­posed con­crete shaft has proved right.


A con­cept draw­ing of Har­rah’s Sky City com­plex from Au­gust 1993.

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