THE LOW DOWN

Ar­chi­tect Pip Cheshire dis­cusses one of Auck­land city’s most am­bi­tious apart­ment precincts, now in phase two of de­vel­op­ment.

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The first stage of SKHY re­fit­ted an ex­ist­ing 1970s tower. How does it shape this low-rise phase? The tower sets the scene; it’s a ro­bust and sculpted form and we de­velop that way of mak­ing space in the low-rise build­ings. The build­ings step down from the height of the tower to join the neigh­bour­ing street frontages and bring the oc­cu­pants of the low-rise apart­ments into closer re­la­tion­ship with the gar­den court­yard and streets be­yond. You’ve called it ‘ur­ban acupunc­ture’. Just as the in­ser­tion of a small nee­dle can have ef­fects well be­yond the point of pen­e­tra­tion, so might the in­ser­tion of a care­fully thought-out mixed-use de­vel­op­ment have an ef­fect on a larger area, in this case a bit of the city that has been beaten up by traf­fic plan­ners over the past few decades. SKHY is not alone up there of course, but just as acupunc­ture uses a num­ber of nee­dles, SKHY will add its sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence to the re­gen­er­a­tion of this very in­ter­est­ing bit of the city. How did you an­chor it to the sur­round­ing area? I think the area is an­chored to the build­ing! The site is in such a com­mand­ing po­si­tion on the hill­top. The build­ing was cloaked, its en­er­getic mod­el­ling con­cealed be­hind ac­cre­tions from the last few decades. We’ve taken the shears to it in a process of edit­ing and re­duc­tion and strength­ened the aes­thetic. How did you bal­ance the in­dus­trial with the do­mes­tic? The aes­thetic is a re­sponse to the tower’s re­vealed struc­tural skele­ton: the rev­e­la­tion of the build­ings’ bones over­laid with com­fort, style and warmth – an ap­proach we’ve var­i­ously called ‘hum­ble spe­cial’ or ‘the raw and the cooked’. We max­imise stor­age to house the es­sen­tials of ur­ban liv­ing, and make sure ev­ery­one can see the full moon.

Above Pip Cheshire de­scribes the aes­thetic as “hum­ble spe­cial”; the in­ser­tion of ob­jects and ma­te­ri­als high­lighted by their jux­ta­po­si­tion with ro­bust build­ing ma­te­ri­als.

Be­low The gar­den apart­ments pro­vide ex­pan­sive ter­race liv­ing.

Left The SKHY gar­dens and grounds are land­scaped by Damian Wen­del­born.

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