Billens pays tribute to style of past
One of Christchurch’s newest buildings – Billens’ replacement building in lower High Street – has a respectful modern design that reflects and acknowledges the heritage associated with its site.
Billens 2017 is named after its predecessor that stood for more than a century at 177 High St before being damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes and then lost to arson in late 2012.
With it went a chapter of inner city retail history dating back to 1906, when shop proprietor Alfred Billens opened his camping store there.
So enduring was the store that the building eventually became known as Billens. (The distinctive brick and Oamaru stone building started out as England Brothers House, after its talented architect, Robert England.)
The new building from Stockman Group Ltd at 177 High Street is not a replica, but the design is very much in sympathy with the original.
“Our brief to Andrew Evans, of AE Architects, was to capture an element of the old but give a modern interpretation,” says Shaun Stockman, director of Stockman Group.
“We also wanted a building that would complement the neighbouring McKenzie & Willis and Duncan’s buildings.” Like the original, the replacement Billens building has five bays, the central one having greatest emphasis.
Its Oamaru stone window features are offset in the facade. Heathcote terracotta brick was made and imported from Germany especially for the building.
“It cost three times as much as a normal facade to get the look we wanted,” says Shaun.
“The bricks alone took 35 weeks to manufacture, but they are exactly the same colour as the original bricks and the Duncan’s buildings to the south.”
With bricks clipped securely to the building’s steel framing, seismic safety is assured.
The building’s pressed black tin canopy extends through into the main entry and stairwell area, finished with concrete and cedar.
Information about the old building will be displayed in the entrance lobby to further strengthen its links with the past.
Christchurch-based commercial construction company Canform Structures Limited is carrying out the build, now entering its final phase.
Stockman Group is well known fo r delivering high quality office services, mixing heritage grace and modern, well-appointed convenience.
Above Your Space at Bonnington House (225 High St) epitomises this approach. The same chic ethos is available over two floors at Billens’ replacement building, only this time the emphasis is on larger office suites.
Office tenants signed so far include lawyers, engineers, surveyors and web designers.
Confirmed for the ground floor are Kennett Crafted Jewels, Mugen Sushi, Black & White Coffee Cartel and Sari Sari (Filipino fusion cuisine).
After the earthquakes, this part of heritage High Street languished for months, but is now rapidly making a comeback with drawcards including the new McKenzie & Willis precinct, Little High Eatery and Dux Central.
Along with heavy hitters such as Kathmandu and Vodafone, high-end fashion is making a return, with World and Plume preparing to open their doors.
“It is on a more intimate scale than other parts of the central city and it’s also a little more edgy – it’s a real hot spot,” Shaun says.
Tenants are on track to start moving into the Billens replacement building from January 2018.