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Copper soffits, roof cutouts and timber sunshade awnings enhance the street perspective of this new apartment building

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Narrow high-rise buildings on inner-city streets are invariably viewed at close quarters from ground level. It was precisely this perspective that helped determine the design and material palette of the new Gallery Apartments in Christchurch.

Architect David Hill of Wilson and Hill Architects says the design was also influenced by the location – adjoining the Christchurch Art Gallery – and by the client's desire for a contemporary aesthetic that would not be too predictable.

"The client, Grant Mackinnon of DGM Group, didn't want a typical, modern, white-and-grey apartment building," Hill says. "The design needed to provide something a little different, with plenty of visual impact. Natural materials were also specified."

To maximise the long, narrow site, the building was designed as two separate towers, linked by a central lift core. The north tower has 11 apartments, including a two-storey penthouse, while the south tower accommodates six apartments and seven carparking levels.

"The building frontage is just 12m, which meant there was an insufficient turning circle for vehicles," says Hill. "The solution to the problem was a car lift to take cars directly to each floor. This was also an ideal use for the lower seven levels of the south tower, which back directly onto the gallery wall and would not have been suitable for apartment living."

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Hill says the art gallery also helped determine the facade design. Natural concrete panels with an acid finish, similar to those on the gallery exterior, define the balconies and balustrades on the towers. Other panels add a semi-industrial look to some of the interiors.

Copper and timber are the other defining materials featured on the facade. A vertical copper-clad element extends the full height of both towers, culminating in copper soffits and fascias on the roof.

"We were very conscious of the fact that apartment buildings are usually seen from below, so we have made the underside of the roof a distinctive feature," says Hill. "Cutout holes in the cantilevered parts of the roofs help lighten the top of the building, and allow a glimpse of the sky through the holes."

The architect also introduced timber to the exterior, with sunshade awnings to the north and south elevations, timber balustrades and handrail cappings.

"The timber visually softens the building, and gives it an appropriately residential feel," he says.

Timber features inside the apartments as well – the kitchens and bathrooms have seamless American oak veneer cabinets.

Contemporary, open-plan layouts maximise the expansive glazing, which provides views out at least three sides of the each apartment.

First published date: 31 March 2009

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Credit List

Location Gallery Apartments, Christchurch
Developer DGM Group
Architect David Hill NZIA, Wilson and Hill Architects, Christchurch
Civil engineer Lovell Smith Cusiel
Mechanical and electrical engineer Cosgrove Major
Fire consultant Cosgrove Major
Quantity surveyor Rider Levett Bucknall
Construction company Hawkins Construction
Earthworks Texco
Cladding Painted precast concrete panels; copper from Calder Stewart
Roofing Butynol; copper fascias and soffits from Calder Stewart
Window and door joinery Double-glazed powdercoated aluminium from Raylight Aluminium
Hardware Sopers
Handrails Glass balustrades by Metro Glasstech
Passenger lifts Kone
Car lift Phoenix Elevators
Tiles Italian Ceramics
Carpet Feltex; Godfrey Hirst
Paints Resene; clear finish to timber from Dulux
Lighting Accent Lighting
Kitchen and bathroom cabinetry American white oak
Bathroom basins Fuori Box 40, with Hansgrohe tapware