Multimillionaire property developer and investor Peter Cooper has created links between his company's new 99-room Auckland hotel and the 400ha Bay of Islands rural lifestyle property.
Cooper, partly based in Auckland but currently in the United States in California's Newport Beach, founded the $1 billion-plus Britomart and has long wanted to develop a new hotel to complement retail, hospitality and commercial uses.
And the architect who designed that new hotel said the Apple iPhone was partly the inspiration, at least originally when he started working on designs a decade ago, although that changed as plans changed.
Matthew Cockram, chief executive of Peter Cooper's Cooper and Company, which developed The Hotel Britomart at 29 Galway St in the precinct, said guests going to Northland's The Landing had often asked about where to stay in Auckland.
Not only would they be offered rooms in the hotel when it opens on October 1, but wine from the Landing's Northland vineyard would be served in Auckland.
The Landing is a 1000ha Cooper project on part of the Purerua Peninsula north of Waitangi where 50ha has been created for 41 blocks of land which are being sold. A further 90ha is stock grazing, 160ha is restored native bush, wetland and heritage sites and 130ha is grasslands including the 12ha vineyard and winery.
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The first vines were planted at The Landing in 2007 and the first wine produced in 2010. Cockram acknowledges Northland is not traditionally thought of as vineyard country but said significant successes had already been achieved at the biodynamic operation. This year, about 47 tonnes of grapes were harvested.
Cockram said original plans for the Auckland operation to be managed by TFE Hotels were for a much darker cladding but the eye-catching block was instead sheathed in 150,000 hand-made sandstone-coloured bricks which he says fits well with surrounding lighter-coloured buildings.
New development has been stitched together with old: a new twin-block building links to four heritage structures: the Bucklands Building, Masonic Building, Stanbeth Building and Excelsior House.
And in a tenant reshuffle, existing Britomart shops will move to the hotel's ground-level: Karen Walker will be on the Gore St/Galway St corner and Huffer will be on Customs St East, Cockram said. Hospitality tenants are also moving.
The hotel's ground-floor bar and restaurant opens into an internal laneway, Cockram said.
The hotel is partially a new build, partially retrofitting heritage space. It won't be five-star because it lacks a swimming pool and spa. Cockram also acknowledged standard rooms were small at around 25sq m.
The new-build rose on the site of Better Burger and The Britomart Country Club and Bracewell Construction won the main contract.
Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Architects designed the hotel with colleague Dajiang Tai. Cheshire said the flat face of an iPhone was only partly the inspiration for the exterior: "I first drew this building when I was 29 and now I'm 39.
"It is a contemporary building amongst buildings which are 140 years older than it. It's a pair of thin towers made entirely from bricks that are rough, small and irregular. Those bricks are perforated with a constellation of windows that are as precise and flat as iPhone screens," he said.
"I'm interested in the way that windows can be a super-flat piece of precision glass, set amongst objects which date back thousands of years," Cheshire said of the bricks from Australia on the hotel's facade.
"The glass sits entirely flush with the outside face of the building. When you see that, the windows almost seem to float, like little jewels. The iPhone screen is the frame, the whole thing is edgeless."
And it was that edgelessness or self-containment which he partly wanted to reference.
Asked about varying window sizes, he said: "The building has evolved from the original design, more inspired by the iPhone. The key is how do we have [something] that's a 21st-century building, having a mindful conversation with 19th-century buildings?"
His answer? "The window shapes genuflect to the buildings alongside it. As it moves closer to the sky, that dissolves into a much freer constellation. Four window sizes are sprinkled across the face, rather than it being a wall of glass which the original design was. This massively reduces the air conditioning bill because there's less solar heat coming into the building.
"It also let us put smaller windows where we wanted privacy like around bathrooms, but bigger windows in the main part of the guest hotel room. We have bigger windows still at the top of the building," Cheshire said.