Built between 1886 and 1911, the Imperial Buildings are a rich mix of heritage spaces and building fabric in downtown Auckland. The brief sought to bring this mix together with a comprehensive rework, restoration and upgrade of the existing buildings.
The design approach is based on creating a new network of circulation through the properties, enabling connection and interaction of previously inaccessible volumes contained within the buildings. The backbone of this strategy is a new laneway for Auckland: Imperial Lane.
This ground level connection between recently upgraded serviceway Fort Lane and the retail thoroughfare of Queen Street is activated by street dining serviced from central tables stepped to follow the level of the new ramped lane.
Vertical shafts are cut through the floors above the lane, introducing light into the space and a language of opaque glass and steel to complement the ‘found’ brickwork, timber truss, stone and dilapidated concrete of the original fabric.
A vertical connection is made from the middle of the lane – a sculptural staircase accesses a new courtyard on the level above ground.
This courtyard was carved from a service-filled lightwell, with large openings formed in the surrounding walls and the addition of new steel plate stairways and balconies ensuring that spaces over the upper levels enjoy connection and interaction with this enlarged central space.
The network of public connection and open circulation spaces provides a sense of precinct for the five levels of commercial office space, restaurants, bars and retail spaces that have now occupied the revitalised buildings.