A monumental rebuild

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It was one of the early rebuilds after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes and stands monumental — a unique arrow pointing north-west reaching beyond the city towards the mountains.

Situated on a narrow corner site on Christchurch’s Montreal and Salisbury Streets, with Victoria Street cutting through at an approximate 45° angle, the Norwest on Victoria’s site is hardly typical.

But rather than despairing at the challenging space, the team from MAP Architects saw it as an architectural opportunity, making the most of the triangular nature and interesting geometry.

The completed four-storey triangular building, featuring a sharp façade and aluminium louvres which accentuate the corner (and control the sun’s heat), consists of a basement, a restaurant on the ground floor, and three levels of offices with a steel frame and metal deck floors.

Designed to bring some of the Canterbury Plains feel into the city, the combination of glass panels, limestone, recycled timber and naturally rusted steel ensure the building takes pride of place in the Victoria Street precinct.

Where possible, materials are locally sourced — the limestone at the base of the building is from Mt Somers, inside the entrance foyer to the offices is Canterbury Plains black beech from Oxford, Canterbury-grown Eucalyptus nitens and southern beech from Fiordland. Timaru bluestone from Pleasant Pt and Mt Somers limestone link the exterior with the interior.

Glass panels on one side of the building reflect the heritage-listed Victoria Clock Tower and provide uninterrupted views of the tower and Hagley Park below.

Winning the Commercial and Civic category at last year’s New Zealand Commercial Project Awards, judges praised the construction team’s perseverance, overcoming the huge challenge of construction on one of the busiest intersections in the city.

“With no room for any of the normal construction areas — and with the extensive traffic management required and up to five cranes operating at a time — this project required exceptionally good management skills,” the judges said.

“This building is a testament to the skills of the architect, engineers and build team.”

Fletcher Construction’s Jack Harris described the build as challenging, with around-the-clock traffic management needed on site.

“We had a permanent traffic manager set up onsite, and on the big days we’d bring in extra traffic control. We learnt a lot from the project, and would take many of those lessons forward to other projects.”

Another issue facing the team was the location of the basement — situated below the water table so that pumps were required to continuously dewater the site.

“First we sealed the water off and then set up four pumps on an alarm system that were used to cull the water back 24 hours a day,” Mr Harris says.

“At the end of the day, it was challenging because of the location, but it was completed on time with very positive feedback from the client. A happy client means we’re happy.”