The Auckland Skytower is an iconic building, visible from the extents of the city, it is undeniably a symbol of Auckland. But it is the wrong kind of symbol. Gordon Moller (the project architect) describes it as bearing resemblance to a church steeple or an obelisk – and this is perhaps the problem with it. He wanted it to be a marker for Auckland, and it absolutely is, however more than anything it says, “Here is the casino,” and yet it could have said so much more! Given its prominence and thus its power to mark a significant location, it missed a prime opportunity to consolidate the design structure of central Auckland.
Furthermore, the Skytower is a rather inefficient use of volume, especially considering its location. In a city which is experiencing rapid growth, the demand for central housing, office space, and better integration of the living and working space is ever growing. And the Skytower with its narrow footprint offers no solution to this problem. The central city’s current density is not sustainable in the long term, and must be increased in order to promote and facilitate a closer proximity to people’s living and working environments.
Hence, we believe the Skytower becomes a prime candidate for re-development. We drew inspiration for our project from the original Felton Mathew plan for the development of our building. Wellington Square was a feature of the original plan which was never realised, and would have been precisely where the Skytower now sits.
So our building proposes that we demolish the Skytower and the Skycity casino, and replace it with a new, more contemporary building, and in place of the casino complex we create a public, social inner city landscape. This increasingly necessary (as the central city densifies) large open space will foster positive social interaction and add continued social sustainability – especially in comparison to the existing casino – helping rejuvenate the centre of the city.
Our initial idea was to use the Skytower’s concrete shell which extends up to around 200m as the structural core of our new building. Making use of the embodied energy which already exists on site so that it would not need to be fully demolished. However this had to be ruled out along the process, seeing as we were planning for a much taller structure, we would need a much larger core than already exists anyway.
At 524 metres, our building towers over the central city, and surges past the Skytower’s mere 328m. The form was envisioned as the unification of three threads intertwining and winding around each other, slowly tapering as they pierce the sky, one by one leveling off as they reach their desired height and turning the tallest member into a spire. The structure comprises of four elevator cores inside the building which connect to the external concrete splines. The external structure is also used as a means to create a more detailed articulation of the surface elements by creating a sense of movement and directionality.
The envelope consists of mechanically operated louvres in tandem with an internal double-glazing system, allowing for variable shading and passive cooling, whilst minimising solar heat gain. The external concrete structure also acts as excellent thermal mass and passive solar shading, reducing the amount of glazing exposed to direct sunlight throughout the day. Additionally, the tower is oriented so as to minimise the surface area which receives sunlight during the day – its profile is smallest relative to the sun at midday.
Wind is one of the greatest challenges in skyscraper design; the tower addresses this with its curved, tapering form, which reduces wind loads significantly compared to an orthogonal building and diverts wind upward rather than toward street level, and the exterior structure helps to break up wind flow.
Overall, we believe this project has produced an iconic and inspired design with a more positive image and ideology for the city of Auckland. It plants itself in the middle of the city, watching over like a mechanical angel, an effervescent beacon to the masses.