Heritage build for city icon

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After substantial earthquake strengthening, an Italian-styled restaurant adorns the ground floor of a much-loved city building at Dunedin’s St Clair beach.

Located in arguably one of the best sites in the city with views over St Clair beach, the Hydro building is a Dunedin icon that has been transformed in an innovative and unique purpose-built refit designed to breathe new life into the site.

The winner of the National Value Award for Projects Under $2 million and a Gold Award at this year’s New Zealand Commercial Project Awards, judges praised the project’s collaborative approach, which involved landlord, tenant, consultants and the building team at W Hamilton Building Ltd working closely together.

“Significant structural upgrading was required to strengthen and repair the building, and the team had to react to a constant ‘journey of discovery’ during demolition work,” the judges noted.

“The interior was reconfigured and refurbished with a meticulously detailed interior fit-out, incorporating recycled earthquake recovery timber from Christchurch demolition yards and recycled power poles from Central Otago.

“This superb finished product reflects the unique and special blend of inputs contributed by landlord, tenant, consultants and builder.”

W Hamilton Building’s Bill Hamilton says the team’s previous work with the business owner on another award-winning restaurant project contributed to a fantastic working relationship.

And despite the design team from Cheshire Architects being based in Auckland, distance did not hinder the project at all.

“It was a great experience working with such an innovative company,” Mr Hamilton says.

“As well as clearly thinking through the practical steps of a project from beginning to end, having ‘your creative hat on all the time’ was a necessity for this project.

“Selection of the right subcontractors who shared the company’s quality focus also enabled us to produce the end product.”

The brief was to renovate and refit the restaurant area, including creating a commercial kitchen, a custom-built wood-fired pizza oven, and bar facilities.

From this, the requirement for earthquake strengthening to the building emerged, as well as the requirement to upgrade the building’s fire rating and mechanical systems.

“This involved a considerable amount of deconstruction,” Mr Hamilton says.

“As our brief was to ‘completely make over the Esplanade, but make it look like we’d never been there’, these works had to be thought through from the outset.”

Inside, the restaurant, that specialises in Italian-inspired food, includes the pizza oven — with ventilation of the oven channelled upwards through two storeys of accommodation areas.

Acoustic panels were also designed, specifically to soften noise in the restaurant travelling to the two storeys, while the recycled timber, hand-picked by the construction team from demolition yards in Christchurch, is a feature.

The majority of the joinery was handcrafted on site, including the prominent feature bar cabinetry, which was crafted from hardwood recycled power poles from Central Otago.

“The use of these materials also brings a wornness and warmth to the building,” Mr Hamilton says.

“It is a project we are very proud of, and gaining acknowledgment from our industry peers at the Awards which recognised that was great.”

Winners will be announced at a national gala event on May 12, 2017, in Auckland.