30 Jan 24

Auckland to receive city-shaping urban regeneration precinct and vertical village

The Symphony Centre over-station development is a $600-million urban regeneration project sited above Auckland’s new Te Waihorotiu/ City Rail Link station, creating a vibrant new precinct in the heart of Auckland’s city centre. 

Auckland CBD will be home to a dynamic new precinct slated to revive the Aotea Arts Quarter and redefine the city’s urban landscape.  

Building over the new Te Waihorotiu (Aotea) City Rail Link station at Aotea Square, the ‘Symphony Centre’ will be New Zealand’s first integrated transport-oriented development.

As a key benefit of the new railway infrastructure, the Symphony Centre will be a 21-storey mixed-use development at the crossroads of Mayoral Drive and Wellesley Street. The precinct is a response to the anticipated footfall that will result from the new station, with an estimated 54,000 Aucklanders passing through every day.

Designed by Woods Bagot, the Symphony Centre is slated to be the epicentre of Auckland’s cultural and entertainment quarter, creating a new landmark destination for night-time activation within the city.

Woods Bagot Director Bruno Mendes said the design is a compelling response to the challenges of Auckland’s rising population and rapid urban densification.

“Centred around creating an iconic, mixed-use vertical city that enriches Auckland’s arts precinct, the Symphony Centre provides a cohesive urban living environment where residents can seamlessly integrate their daily activities – living, working, and leisure – within a single structure,” says Mendes.

Through considered masterplanning and curated public space, the Symphony Centre will create a lively new civic plaza that will serve as a catalyst for growth and activation within the Aotea Arts Quarter. An activated laneway network is fundamental to creating a vibrant ground plane, connecting Wellesley Drive and Mayoral Street to Aotea Square in an extension of the civic precinct.

Landscape design is helmed by LandLAB, activated with food and beverage outlets and bordered by galleries and boutiques. Emphasis has been placed on high-quality, open and public spaces, with laneways heavily planted for biophilic connections and a strong pedestrian focus.

The Symphony Centre comprises retail at ground level, commercial levels above, and residential suites of varying densities at the top. Dubbed a ‘vertical village’, it will be one of only a handful of truly mixed-use developments in New Zealand, providing a hub for cultural, commercial and residential activities.   

“The Symphony Centre, with its diverse mix of functions, cultural offerings, and entertainment facilities, will contribute to the dynamic nightlife of the cultural entertainment quarter, creating an enchanting atmosphere that extends beyond regular business hours and entices people to experience the bustling arts and cultural scene in the heart of Auckland,” says Mendes.

The shape and massing of the building is derived from the sunlight admission into Aotea Square. Boasting a distinctive irregular façade, the sweeping gesture of the roofline creates unique tenancies internally, offering south views to Mount Eden and out to the Waitakere Ranges. The commercial floors, from level six to nine, will have terraces that overlook Aotea Square, while the residential levels benefit from a multistorey light-filled atrium and comprehensive communal amenity.  

Driving the cultural narrative for the site, client MRCB has engaged three mana whenua (Indigenous) artists that situate the Symphony Centre in its specific cultural context.   

“Throughout the process of the design, we’ve attended several hui (meetings), meeting with iwi (Indigenous groups) on the project. Each iwi has appointed an artist who will be contributing works to the building or civic plaza,” says Woods Bagot Associate Joseph Crowe.   

The building façade will be made from glass-reinforced concrete in hues that reference local Waitematā sandstone. A poutama pattern – a stepped embossed pattern designed by local artist Graham Tipene – will be cut into vertical fins on the building façade. By embossing the building fenestration, the façade is designed to produce varied celestial patterns throughout the day.

Tipene is also working with LandLAB in the public realm with fellow artists Maaka Potini and Ted Ngatai, integrating the precolonial story of the site, a former wetland, and its relationship to the Ngāpuhi people.

Leading the project on the ground, RCP Director Cristean Monreal said the Symphony Centre, in conjunction with the redevelopment of St. James Theatre and Bledisloe House, will be a catalyst for rejuvenating Auckland’s preeminent arts and cultural precinct.

“This is a legacy project for Auckland and one of true harmony,” says Monreal. “Working with MRCB, who bring their benchmark expertise in transport oriented-development and transformational infrastructure, it is only fitting that we align with the very best in commercial architecture to realise the vision we have for this precinct.

“Woods Bagot has worked seamlessly with the development team to build on this vision and create something truly special,” continues Monreal. “Symphony Centre will be a world class mixed-use development that will deliver not only a masterpiece in contemporary and considered design, but it will be the new heartbeat of Aotea Arts Quarter.”

The Symphony Centre is targeting a 5-star Green Star rating for the commercial spaces and 7-star Homestar rating for the residential floors.  

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Isla Sutherland
Content and Communications Specialist (Australia & New Zealand)

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