Australis Nathan


Cooper and Company


Customs Street East
New Zealand

Completion Date

December 2016

The project is the development of two neighboring heritage listed (HNZ and Akl City) buildings, Nathan Building (1903) and Australis House (1904), into premium office and retail space. The combined building offers 1000m2 office plates over 4 ½ levels. Ground floor has office lobby and retail. The buildings received full seismic, fire and services upgrades. This required subtle, inventive design using modern materials sympathetic to the heritage fabric.

The Britomart precinct was originally determined by the width of the rail yard which was internal to the ‘block’ defined by the buildings fronting Quay and Customs Streets. Elaborate Victorian facades faced the public streets, and the ‘backs’ were kept plain. When the rail terminus was relocated the Britomart precinct opened internally to Takutai Square, and the unadorned facades remained.

The Client required a new ‘front’ to Takutai Square that complemented the rich Customs Street facades. In response we surveyed and ‘sampled’ the Customs Street Victorian façade and applied the pattern using a lime plaster ‘sgraffito’ (‘sgraffito’ was used in classical times but became popular in the 15th and 16th centuries). This is applied de facto so that patterns run where they will- into window reveals, broken across window openings, etc. Heritage research revealed that Australis House had an original natural plaster finish, so the existing paint was removed prior to application of the sgraffito. Two significant ‘Plays’ were made; the ironic use of a centuries-old technology on one of our ’heritage-young’ buildings, and the sampling to ‘re-front’ the building. The treatment of the adjacent brick Nathan Building is undertaken per accepted heritage techniques as a conscious counterpoint. The ‘episodic’ approach to the two buildings is deliberate and contrasts not only the original buildings technologies but the deeper heritage ‘approach’.

Importantly, the approach was developed with the full support of Heritage New Zealand and Auckland Council Heritage officers. We suggest these innovations contribute to a progressive conversation regarding our built heritage.

2017 NZIA – Regional – Heritage Award
2017 Property Council NZ – Heritage and Adaptive Uses – Best in Category
2017 Property Council NZ – Commercial Office Property Award – Merit
2017 NZIA – National – Commercial Architecture
2014 NZSEE – Earthquake Strengthening – Highly Commended