Architecture students from the University of Auckland have set up shop in an inner-city toilet block to use as a design space and venue for weekly seminars.
Natalie Bradburn and Sam Aislabie, both fourth year Master of Architecture students, contacted Auckland Council’s Strategic Development Manager Ian Reid after calls for tenders from community and business groups interested in transforming a series of disused heritage toilet blocks around the city.
The pair proposed they make use of the old women’s toilets on Wellesley Street as a temporary architecture practice while the council was still working through applications from prospective tenants.
Reid willingly accepted, and the students spent two full days scrubbing the block before it started resembling a place they’d be able to occupy. Bradburn says, “It wasn’t a space you’d want to be alone in!”
Now, the space has been transformed. An array of materials adorn the walls for a unique lighting effect, and specially labelled toilet cubicles are used as filing spaces for the group’s work.
There’s still no electricity in the underground space, but it is suitable for office use during the day, and weekly seminars are attended by up to 30 people.
Reid is happy to see the space being used productively while it is untenanted.
“Auckland Council is very aware of the need to look at new ways to approach the city’s intensification, and using these spaces is an important part of building the layers and complexity of the urban environment.
"The students have offered us a fresh set of eyes – so we’re now looking at other disused spaces within the city where we can work with them again. The whole process can stimulate ideas which might be picked up by private developers or the council; and this can add to the cosmopolitan feel of the city.”
You can check out more of the group's work on their website.