Q&A with Callum Fraser, Elenberg Fraser

What’s your favourite project in the world?

The building that we have been most moved by is Mies Van der Rohe’s Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. The building was constructed in the aftermath of the second world war and is perfect in almost every way. Mies constructs an urban panorama room – a glass box that sits on a plinth so large that from the interior the horizon merges with the ground plane. The city and civilisation is laid bare.

What excites you about ICD’s Federal St project?

ICD are one of the most innovative property companies in the world at the moment. They have the thinking and the delivery capability to transform this precinct and to deliver to Auckland an environment worthy of the city’s position as a leading global tourism destination. We think that this is a real opportunity to see what the future looks like, to see what the city might be when freed of prejudice and preconception.

What do you think is the most exciting thing in store for Auckland’s future? 

The world looks to New Zealand for its freedom, ingenuity and independence of thought. The spotlight on Auckland is to see what that means for the physical construction of the city which is only a byproduct of that culture. So, with the positive flows of international capital and the inventiveness of its local culture, what kind of a city will Auckland become? We think it’s open to speculation – and yet to really emerge. And that excites us.

About the Elenberg Fraser design

Elenberg Fraser love Auckland. We have long admired the city and its exports in culture, business and the arts. Almost 20 years ago we published the works of the great Rewi Thompson in Transition magazine, it is a powerful work that we have absorbed and never forgotten. So our response to the Federal Street site is a personal and complex one.

In contemporary architecture, landscape is often reduced to view lines and decoration. But we have sought to evacuate the ground plane and to reinstate the traditional forests of the New Zealand taraire.

We see this as a gift to the city, a visceral tactile forest experience with waterfalls and rocks and moss and layered dense vegetation – a real, living forest experience for residents and visitors and public alike. At the heart of the forest is a well, where the rushing water cascades from above and crashes into an underground grotto below. A new people place, to revitalise Federal Street immediately and the precinct at large.

We have proposed a tower that reflects Auckland’s dramatic location atop 48 volcanoes. It starts almost 25 metres above the ground and rises through hotel and apartments to almost 210 metres. The architecture is driven by the desire for each room to have a huge curved glass bay window so that occupants can sit directly into the view lines of the urban geography. Tighter bubbles for the hotel rooms transition into broader bays for the apartments as the deep pewter coloured glass pours like a liquid volcanic surface. At the top of the building sits a destination restaurant dedicated to the provenance of its materials. A cylindrical telescopic lift rises from this floor to the rooftop which holds a spiral format heated ozone pool, steaming in the cool evening air. Poolside lounges allow visitors and residents to sit within the stars of the night sky and intimately consider the cosmos and our collective future.

The apartments at 67&71 Federal Street are a dramatic break from the past. A personalised direct lifting service takes residents directly into their homes, without entry corridors or strangers or keys,

making every apartment a penthouse with its own lift. The apartments are best in show in all aspects of material supply, a direct to manufacturer approach which ensures the highest quality components in an integrated technology rich environment that we call The New Standard. We have been working on it for almost three years and are finally releasing it here. This is the building that we have been learning for our whole lives to achieve, a moment in time that changes everything that will come after it. The kind of building that Auckland deserves.

See the Elenberg Fraser design entry

Bobby Kennedy