Architects cite city's industrial heritage as reason to save wharf sheds

By Bernard Orsman

One of the concept design entries from finalist Stevens Lawson Architects. Photo / Supplied
One of the concept design entries from finalist Stevens Lawson Architects. Photo / Supplied

Auckland architects are increasing efforts to save Queens Wharf's two 98-year-old cargo sheds, which the Government and the Auckland Regional Council want removed to make room for a temporary venue for the Rugby World Cup and a cruise ship terminal.

Gary Lawson, who has won awards for modern architecture, and heritage architects Antony and Jane Matthews, have made a public plea to keep the sheds.

In an opinion article in the Herald today, the Matthews said the sheds were the last of five substantial cargo handling and storage warehouses built as part of the Queens Wharf redevelopment between 1909 and 1914.

"We would agree with others' comments that describing the buildings as 'sheds' has a negative connotation and is dismissive of the buildings' scale.

"These are industrial buildings the equivalent of which is only found in association with other large-scale urban infrastructure such as railways, gasworks, electrical generation or factories. Sadly, we have a poor record of appreciating and preserving these building types," the architects said.

The Matthews, who prepared a heritage assessment of Queens Wharf and the sheds for the ARC and the Auckland City Council last year, said cities worldwide were rediscovering and restoring their industrial heritage.

Mr Lawson, whose firm Stevens Lawson Architects was part of a team chosen as one of the eight finalists in last year's much-maligned Queens Wharf design contest, said the design gave the judges an option to retain the sheds' history.

"We proposed to enhance and revitalise these historic buildings with the careful addition of imaginative new elements to create what we believed could have been a world-class outcome for Auckland, and indeed New Zealand," Mr Lawson said.

It was a shame, he said, that such thoughtful and achievable proposals were overlooked by the competition sponsors - Auckland Regional Council, Auckland City Council and the Government - "and now we may lose this history forever".

ARC chairman Mike Lee denounced the final eight designs as "lacklustre, underwhelming and mediocre".

Mr Lee is working with the Historic Places Trust to ensure historic features are protected and promoted in the development of the wharf, but the parties are still at odds over the sheds.

- NZ Herald

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