Driving past Waiheke Island’s new library construction site last month, I raised a bushy eyebrow on seeing the hoarding announcing Mainzeal Group as main contractor. I hadn’t seen their name anywhere for a very long while. I had thought they had been laid waste to on Black Monday, 1987. But I am an infrequent visitor to Auckland, my old home town.
The other eyebrow was raised today, seeing Mainzeal Group has gone into receivership, finally. It was apparently the country’s 3rd largest builder, with many new builds in Auckland and repairs in Christchurch on the books. The company’s collapse came as quite a surprise to everyone except the board. So there will be an awful lot of collateral damage.. not only have subbies probably lost any money due to them, all their tools are locked into sites around the new Zealand.
Mainzeal emerged into my consciousness during the boom times in Auckland in the mid 1980s. It was a good time for architects, but an appalling time for anyone interested in the city beautiful. There was not much left of the pedestrian-friendly Victorian Auckland by the time I departed in 1995, it had all been laid waste to for cheaply built towers and at-grade Wilson’s car parks. I saw a few too many of my favourite buildings disappear, and this became on of the 16 reasons I left Auckland for Melbourne.
Mainzeal brought about a particular hatred in my teenaged self. I, and many others, thought Mainzeal were scum for illegally knocking down His Majesty’s theatre and arcade in Auckland in 1987. That arcade was something any city would kill for. I think they paid something like a $500 fine.
Robin Morrison’s beautiful photo of the lost arcade is linked to here as I can’t reproduce it. When questioned by police as to why builders were all over the site in the middle of the night, Mainzeal said they were removing some seats from the theatre. By morning the whole lot was razed, and for years after there was only an at-grade car park and pie cart to replace it.
A year later, the equally covert overnight demolition of Brown’s Mill was carried out without even bothering to turn off the power and water, or removing artworks stored in the building. I was so annoyed that I cut the article from the paper, and very weirdly happened to have it sitting on my table today, 25 years later…
Yay! I thought I was the only one be celebrating MainZeal’s demise due to their appalling behaviour in the 80s. They deserve only part of the blame though; they were acting under instruction of the building’s owners and no doubt another company would have taken the contract if Mainzeal had demonstrated integrity and/or a spine. In part it still rankles because decades later the site on Elliot St is still just an ugly hole in the ground instead of a gracious row of 100 yr old merchant buildings. That does not mean I don’t feel for the sub-contractors. I do. It tells me the core values at Mainzeal didn’t change much over the last 25 odd years.
by mark yelspal on 20 February 13 ·#
I have just returned from a few days in New Zealand. The house extension I have been working on there for four years got its code of compliance certificate as I left – a major relief as any NZ architect will know. I may pop a photo below when I figure out how to get one onto this Macintosh…
It was an odd and awful time to be there. On the first day the mine near Greymouth exploded and an old hotel was demolished early in the morning by Auckland’s council. The first devestating event has been well covered, the second understandably not so much.
Auckland has a bit of a reputation for getting rid of old buildings worth holding onto, and replacing them with… well usually junk. The annexes of the Aurora / Palace Hotel in the central city had started falling down of their own accord on Thursday afternoon and council took it upon themselves to help the whole 124 year old building on its way the same night, in the interests of public safety.
To my eye, the cracks shown in the photos are only between the annex and the main building, but I am no engineer. Apparently something happened in the basement that caused the whole building to teeter. The timing is a bit strange though. The building was on the verge of being redeveloped into an “upmarket brothel” for the Rugby World Cup being held in 2011. Those plans are now dust and the developer is planning to sue the council. He was not consulted about the demolition.
24.11.10 in heritage
In a compromise decision if there ever was one, powers that be in Auckland have decided to keep one of the two 98 year old industrial sheds on Queens Wharf, and to build a temporary $9M tent next to it. This was thought to be for Rugby World Cup hoons to party in and so was named “Party Central”. NZ Prime Minister John Keys has jumped into the fray of clamouring pollies to say that he doesn’t think people will actually be getting drunk there.
“It’s a place where there’s going to be quite a bit of celebration… [drinking]‘s one aspect of it but that’s not its role in totality.”
On the small matter of that abandoned design competition, Herald columnist John Roughan toes the line that it was reasonable to waste people’s time with a dud competition: “McCully and Lee were right to invite design ideas as soon as they had agreed on the wharf’s joint purchase last year. It was just possible an inspired idea was lurking in someone’s mind or bottom drawer.” Hmm… they would have been lucky, having briefed a booze barn next to a pensioners’ cruise terminal, on a rickety wharf half half-covered with “heritage”, and then saying it needed to be built in 18 months for a pittance. Oh right, I have one of those in my bottom drawer.
Still everyone I’ve heard has sounded mildly happy with the outcome. Maybe not Jasmax, who will now have to start all over again – the slug does not look like it wants to share the wharf with a big rectangular shed.
Thanks to the NZ Herald for the great coverage of the debate from the outset.
29.07.10 in heritage
The architects-vs-the rest battle to keep the Queen’s Wharf sheds is getting hotter on the pages of the New Zealand Herald.
Background: A half-baked rushed competition was held late last year for the quick construction of a cruise ship terminal and “Party Central” for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Competitors were informed by the brief that the 98 year old sheds had a significant industrial heritage status, being the last of their sort on the waterfront. Many entrants incorporated one or both of them into their designs. The competition was scuttled soon after a winner was chosen, the mayor saying at the time that at least they hadn’t had to spend much on architects.
The local council and regional council, who ran the competition, now support a scheme to demolish both sheds and erect a temporary Party central tent structure.
Architects have come out against this, the general sway being that the sheds are worthy of protection and shouldn’t be demolished without at least a long term plan for the wharf and its surrounds. Architect David Mitchell is leading a group of 21 prominent architects protesting. He says:
“There are noble structures beneath the battered tin sheathing of these sheds, and we now strongly urge Aucklanders to resist the current proposal to bowl them over and replace them with a new building.”
AUT history professor Paul Moon has replied in the Herald that given the track record of architects in Auckland, especially in the ’80s, they shouldn’t be entitled to be the “self-appointed arbiters of public taste” in this debate. For him, the sheds have no aesthetic appeal.
“The fact is that the sheds on the Wharf were designed purely for functional reasons, in an age where aesthetic appeal in industrial buildings was considered even less important than it is now.”
Memories of the Eighties cloud the argument. Architects were complicit in the development frenzy that saw many loved 19th Century watering holes, laneways, thheatres and arcades demolished. When Black Monday stopped developmers in their tracks, Aucklanders adjusted to the pockmarked city of barren at-grade car parks and corporate towers left in their wake. Some, like Moon, haven’t forgiven architects for their part in this – though many of the firms involved were Australian. Some architects, myself included, wonder what it is about Auckland that drives this continuing urge to demolish without considered and coordinated plans for the future.
04.07.10 in heritage
To demolish these heritage listed structures is a pretty poor excuse to make way for a temporary tent. Do they have any other plans for this site after the world cup?
I don’t think so. That would involve long term thinking. Update on site now – they are keeping one shed – easy compromise – lucky there were two of them.
by peter on 30 July 10 ·#
It’s been a mess from the start. Last year hundreds of designers provided proposals for Queen Street Wharf based on a half-baked design brief provided at the last minute. The brief underlined the importance of keeping at least one of the two 98 year old sheds.
A winner was chosen and then then the process was cancelled. The cruise ship terminal was removed from the scheme. All that was required was a tent that will act as “Party Central” for the Rugby World Cup 2011. Now, a few months later, the Auckland Regional Council is proposing to demolish both sheds and put up a temporary structure , designed by Jasmax. The Auckland City Council came up with an alternative proposal in April that reused both industrial sheds. But it doesn’t seem to have the power here. So Auckland will lose its last two wharf sheds and gain a $9M temporary shed. This is a decision that doesn’t take into account the long term future of the waterfront, made because the ARC didn’t want to be “severely embarrassed”.
The Auckland Architecture Association has joined the Historic Places Trust in condemning the plans, calling for the process to be halted. AAA spokesperson Adam Mercer said , “to wastefully demolish the last of Auckland’s working waterfront heritage before the Super City is formed and a comprehensive masterplan for the waterfront can be developed is premature, foolish and wasteful”. That Super City he is talking about is the plan to amalgamate Auckland Councils into one, and abolish the ARC. This is becoming a political battle between two bodies that soon won’t exist.
Whichever way it goes, the architectural fratenity has been badly bruised by the process. Untold hours have been wasted by architects from around the world on an incompetently handled competition. To rub salt into the wounds, late last year Auckland Mayor John Banks said, “I have not yet jumped to a conclusion that the whole show has been a waste of time, because at the very least, at not very great cost, we have got people thinking of this.” Not at great cost to the city perhaps – but costing the many participating architectural firms a good lot.
Last week Tim Greer, of Sydney practice Tokin Zulaikha Greer, published his opinion in the NZ Herald.
In the end, no project eventuated, no thanks were given, only a bit of crowing from politicians about how little the whole fiasco had cost them.
Auckland does not need a Rugby World Cup “Party Central” on the wharf, if the consequence of it is a wharf full of nothing. This is a short term solution for a pivotal site made by a government body that won’t exist after November 1st.
07.06.10 in heritage
This makes me so sad for Auckland, eh. They never get it right …
by kmcf on 9 June 10 ·#
33 Kitchener Road, one of my faves from a childhood spent ambling back and forward along the Takapuna foreshore, by Group Architects member Vernon Brown, is to be demolished. This follows 20 years after a similar house by Ivan Juriss nearby was shipped out to the countryside, no longer appropriate for the skyrocketing property values on the foreshore.
Brown and Juriss were both members of Group Architects, an informal squad of academic architects who dominated the Auckland Architecture School during the 50s and 60s. Their housing was simple, modern, and monopitch. It was an introduction to Modernism via the modesty of the beachfront bach.
Vernon Brown’s trademark style was locally known as the ‘Brown Box’, a creosoted monopitch home with large white framed windows. This 150 sqm 1942 house is one of the most well-known.
ANOTHER VERNON BROWN
Disappointing in the extreme, the demolition application has sailed through the North Shore City Council with no requirement for notification, meaning that there is no advertising period for objections.
These copyrighted photographs are redisplayed under the fair use provisions of copyright law – for discussion and preservation.
19.09.09 in heritage
End of the world bum trip. Nice house. Seen it in the flesh – AG were the real deal and hardcore barbers.
by hairdresser on 20 September 09 ·#
yep hd these blokes were certainly on to something
by cabbie on 23 September 09 ·#
word is council vetoed proposal to move house off site as trees would have been damaged. Lucky pohutukawas!
by peter on 23 September 09 ·#
its a fcuken tragedy when u think about it.
that house was for its times but like a fish out of water now – but hd guarantees – only just ahead of a time around the corner too. Caught in the cross hairs of an short era of idiocy.
by hairdresser on 26 September 09 ·#
So very sad… One point, Vernon Brown wasn’t a member of the Group (he was a mentor and teacher for them). Not that it makes any difference to the destruction of an impt and much-loved house.
by Justine on 2 October 09 ·#
Thanks Justine. I used to know that. Addled brain.
by peter on 3 October 09 ·#
A rumour has flown into my inbox. The house was meant to be listed by council but a mistake was made and the neighbour ended up registered. Sounds like quite a blooper. The neighbour is a group house, but heavily altered. Can anyone verify?
by peter on 5 October 09 ·#
i used to visit the house as a child and loved it. i remember saying that one day i wish it were mine.. i return to NZ on holiday and find it gone.. tragedy!
I once bought a genuine Vernon Brown house from a Remmers estate…. it ended up unloved in a North Shore Houseshifter’s yard after they stole it from me during a spell of illness…. might even still be in the yard…. Hint 1 try 095782968 for further info. Hint 2, phone anyway, ‘cos I have a genuine Malcolm-Smith group house needing an, er, “good home”.
I dunno why more folks don’t get into relocating houses…. it isn’t difficult (well, no more difficult than the Effing bureaucrats make it for us human merely beings)… and you don’t absolutely HAVE TO try and lever Mike Rose out of architecturally-practiced retirement to sort a project…. although I must admit it does help to secure the services of somebody with experience in proper carpentering and proper houseshifting.