This is a huge project of exacting detail undertaken in a robust urban and commercial environment.
Britomart is an area of nine city blocks at the heart of downtown Auckland. Our transformation of this vile, abandoned precinct began a two decades ago. Our work began with the intricate mapping of use – street by street, building by building, floor by floor, room by room. It extends now to every aspect of this completely immersive environment: from street lighting and valet services to staff uniforms and cutlery. In the service of our shared ambitions for Britomart, we have built new buildings and adaptively transformed old ones.
Since its inception, we have delivered the total adaptive re-use of Maritime, Northern Steamship, Seafarers, Excelsior and Stanbeth buildings, and the partial transformation of as many more. Most of these have supported and been supported by our fit-out projects, for venues such as 1885, Café Hanoi, Orleans, Mexico and Xuxu. Others have supported close relationships with this country’s most iconic fashion verticals, such as Karen Walker, Kate Sylvester, Zambesi, Trelise Cooper, Kathryn Wilson and World.
In the last eight years we have developed the entire block at the centre of Britomart, conceiving and delivering new buildings and shared spaces now called The Pavilions and The Showcases. We designed these from the master-plan down to the apron linen of their waiters.
Pip Cheshire generated the Plan of Works for Britomart, a document several inches thick, while a director at Jasmax . We are fifteen years into its implementation. At the heart of our work is an understanding that any such plan must balance conviction with responsiveness. We have continually collaborated with developers Cooper & Company to organically evolve our ambitions for Britomart in response to shifts in the complex markets that drive it.
Britomart is placed atop the largest public transport interchange in this country. The patterns of its use are intimately linked to the use of its terminal, and super-charged by the fluid movements and demands of the city that surrounds it. Retail offering boutique experience are nested just beyond: around a corner, in an intimate lane, nestled in a garden, this gives the precinct real depth: a quick dash through Britomart immerses a visitor in richly curated, accessible offerings, a more leisurely engagement rewards exploration with surprise and delight.
In all of these projects, efficiency of material, energy and resource is vital. This is both operational and experiential. The Showcase Buildings, for instance, were designed in tight collaboration with modular prefabrication specialists Stanley Construction. Their detailed componentry was shop-drawn within a single, virtual three-dimensional model, and coordinated to a tolerance of 2mm over 50m. At the end of their tenure at Britomart, those carefully coordinated components are designed to be demounted, that the entire building might be re-assembled and given an extended life on a different site.
Throughout Britomart we have sought to shape an experience that might become emblematic of the New Auckland. We hoped in turn that this might help focus a new reading of our local and national identity. In this pursuit we deployed organic materials, casual sophistication and a unifying language of black leavened with floral and botanical softness. We want Britomart to lead this city into its own future. We think it is doing so.
Photography Jeremy Toth