Britomart Showcases

We set out to make a building that was about enticement.

The showcase is about an experience different from the wide open marketing of Queen Street – shrouded in a glossy black diaphanous mesh, it is about veiled seduction, not explicit exposure. A collection of small apertures are placed within that mesh, offering fleeting but focused glimpses of the delights secreted inside. At night, hundreds of meters of LED lights glow inside the facade, emphasising its soft translucency while using only the power of only three kettles.

Neither shop-fronts nor doors are located on the street. Instead, a single closed building is pulled apart at its centre; visitors enter the site in the rupture between these two parts, slipping through native Totara hedges into a private garden sanctuary. At its very centre stand seven Pou Tu Te Rangi; tall, proud  and erect, these sculptures by local Maori artist Chris Bailey claim the sanctuary for the Cooper family that conceived and developed it. Either side of the garden, the buildings finally open up: frameless glass stretches across the entire site and gives on to four broad retail spaces offering a carefully curated mix of fashion and technology. Shopping here is deliberate, and engaging.

Everywhere black dominates: it becomes a visual language that binds together buildings and sculpture, skin and structure, HVAC ducting and cable distribution, floor and ceiling, that the building might be read as one single body.

This is a thousand square meter project that was designed, developed, leased, documented and consented within three months. It was constructed in only nine weeks. To deliver a project of this delicacy and precision within these time frames required a highly coordinated relationship between the designers at Cheshire Architects and the architects of record, Assembly. More importantly, that coordination had to extend into the wider consultant and construction teams, and particular modular building experts Stanley construction.

This is also a temporary project, on a site previously used as an open-air car park  Requisitioned for five years, it will eventually become the site of a major commercial development. To make sense of this, the buildings needed to be easily dismantled and relocated. They are comprised of simple construction technologies treated with great care. At rapid speed, the team developed a modular, prefabricated building with clip- and bolt-together components that were at once swift to install and elegant enough to deliver a building of sophistication and conviction in the hard core of the city.

2012 NZIA Auckland Architecture Award

2012 Best Awards : Silver

Showcase Buildings — Australian Design Review

Photography by Jeremy Toth