Ever wondered why 135 Albert Street is at such an odd angle to the road?
Well, according to George Farrant, Principal Heritage Advisor – Central, it’s all to do with the iconic E10 volcanic view shaft, protecting the vista of Maungawhau/Mt Eden as seen from the SH1 motorway north of the harbour bridge.
In the mid-1970s, the then Auckland Regional Authority instituted the first view shafts around the city, and these were subsequently adopted into the relevant territorial plans.
In about 1984, architect Brian Aitken of Peddle Thorp & Aitken had the commission to design the proposed ASB corporate headquarters at 135 Albert Street.
Because a significant western part of the site was constrained in height by the E10 view shaft, Brian had problems getting a tall building on the site using any normal street orientation.
As good urban citizens, ASB were prepared to squeeze their new building into the trapezoid-shaped part of their site not constrained by the E10.
“But 30 years ago the protected area was hand drawn on a survey map and in one meeting it was politely pointed out that when scaled up to real size the line was in fact 1.2 metres wide’ recalls George Farrant.
The realisation led to a precise computer-aided redefinition of the view shafts.
The millimetre-precision of the new E10 resulted, in the roughly hexagonal ASB tower, with one face along Wellesley Street, another on the boundary to the adjacent hotel site, and another hard up against the eastern wall of the E10 view shaft.
The opposite Albert Street face was therefore skew to the street grid and at the same compass angle as the view shaft, in order to maximise the floor plate while maintaining design symmetry. The outside face of the westernmost glazing of 135 – the central window bay facing St Matthews – is exactly on the view shaft edge, to the millimetre.
Interestingly, the Sky Tower which followed about six years later in 1997, sits in the only corner of that city block not constrained by the E10 shaft and is placed so that its widest ring is a cautious 100mm off the view shaft.
“The joke inside the Craig Craig Moller Architects’ office was that it ‘allows for a bit of sway…’” says George.