A tight time frame was a key challenge when designing the Maru building for Victoria University of Wellington. The brief required an agile education space, which the university could use to house various faculties as works were carried out on buildings around the site.
The building also had to fit the longer term development aspirations of the university. It was an ideal project for Athfield Architects, which specialise in education and public projects, says one of the practice directors Jeremy Perrott.
The three-level building includes one level of car parking and two office levels. Jeremy says the design was kept open plan with minimal structure and coupled with good natural light and the opportunity to open windows to naturally ventilate the space if desired.
Athfield Architects tested the floor plate to see how it could be configured to accommodate different situations and needs. The design needed to be cost-effective, efficient and practical as well as supporting transitional education requirements, he says.
Made from insulated panels the building has a modular design, supporting quick and cost effective constructionJeremy says that Athfield Architects has a great team, familiar with education needs and challenging sites, which helped the planning process run smoothly.
The building was well considered to ensure it fitted in with the existing gymnasium and campus residential buildings that surround it, as well as anticipated future development on the site.
“It’s a very simple yet effective building that meets the university’s needs,” he says. Athfield Architects is unique in that most of the company’s staff have shareholdings in the business and it therefore operates with a fairly flat business structure, says Jeremy.
He says that Athfield Architects has enjoyed a long successful relationship with the university spanning decades, which has seen the practice recently work on the campus hub and library, Rutherford House and Adam Art Gallery.
It is currently undertaking seismic work on the previous town hall building, which, along with the adjoining Municipal Building, is being transformed into the new National Music Centre. Athfield Architects is also working with Victoria University of Wellington to move their music school into the new building.
The town hall works are under construction and the remainder of the project is in the design phase.Based in Wellington, the practice began in 1968 and now has offices in Auckland and Christchurch giving it the ability to work on projects nationally.
The team offers integrated design across architecture, interior design, urban planning and landscape architecture. Projects range from urban masterplans to public infrastructure, civic and cultural buildings, education spaces, offices and workplaces and private housing.
Athfield Architects has received more than 150 national and international awards for architecture. “We have a strongly context driven design approach, informed by the culture and climate of a place.”
Jeremy says that public architecture remains a focus and a passion for the practice: “We are particularly interested in projects with a public interface, where possible, seeking opportunity to provide benefit beyond immediate site or client requirements, and enabling better spaces for people to work, live and enjoy.”
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