Drawing shines light on plans for Sky Tower
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.