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The Imperial Buildings

The Imperial Buildings, Fearon Hay Architects

Photo by Patrick Reynolds

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In 2013, the New Zealand Architecture Medal was presented to The Imperial Buildings, a group of heritage buildings on Auckland’s Queen Street which have been restored and revived by Fearon Hay Architects.

The awards jury convenor, Auckland architect Andrew Barclay, described the buildings as a fitting overall winner in a year in which the adaptive re-use of older buildings was a strong overall theme in the New Zealand Architecture Awards.

Speaking on behalf of his fellow jurors, Auckland architects Jane Aimer and Pete Bossley, and Sydney architect Rachel Neeson, Barclay said “the conversion of older buildings to new purposes may be a symptom of current economic circumstances, but it also signals a greater awareness of the worth of existing buildings, and of the possibilities they offer to imaginative clients and architects.”

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The Imperial Buildings succeeds on as many levels as the complex structure seems to possess. It is a building restoration project which has had an urban revitalisation effect, a commercially driven scheme which enhances the civic realm, a hermetic world which provides a public path through a city block. The generous ramped walkway from a hitherto dingy lane serves as an internal plaza which offers to pedestrians passing through and guests seated at tables intimations of the labyrinthine spaces above. The architects have not merely respected the heritage fabric of the buildings, they have revelled in the opportunity to reveal original materials and celebrate historic structure while introducing light and air into a wonderful array of working and hospitality spaces.

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