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University of Auckland: Vice-Chancellor's Suite

This interior retrofit involved converting two floors in the south wing of the University of Auckland’s Clocktower building into one interconnected space to accommodate the Vice Chancellor’s Suite. This building, designed in 1929 by Roy Lippincott, is the University of Auckland’s flagship building and its heritage character was central to Salmond Reed Architects’ involvement in the project. Heritage considerations, such as reversibility – the ability to readily remove any new fit-out elements in the future without compromising the original heritage fabric – were central to the design approach.

Efficient interaction between the two levels was called for and was achieved by opening up the floor and inserting a new internal staircase. As level 2 of the south wing of this 1929 building, designed by Roy Lippincott, had originally been a mezzanine reading room extending around the perimeter of the wing in its original library use, the placement of the new internal stair provided an opportunity to reference the spatial character of the original library by visually connecting the two levels.  

The brief called for maximum acoustic privacy between individual offices and for the provision of a comfortable working environment using natural 

and mechanical ventilation. It was also important to maintain transparency and continuity at the interface between the atrium and the south wing at both levels, using predominantly transparent partitions and to maintain the transfer of light from the main stairwell into the atrium.

Very high STC ratings for acoustic privacy had to be achieved without compromising the original heritage fabric at junctions with new partition walls. This was achieved using ply panels faced with acoustic lining, scribed exactly to the existing shaped rimu beams, plaster corbels and window mullions with minimal fixing into the original fabric. Similarly, the inclined walls of the new L2 offices terminate at new ‘infill’ purlins between the existing beams. These infill purlins have been coloured and finished to ensure a close match to the original rimu beams which were also carefully refurbished as part of the fitout. Complementing the existing building was a palette of simple and honest materials and finishes – natural timber, clear-coated mill-finished steel and a limited range of whites and darker tones chosen to provide a neutral background against which the original building and its external landscape can be seen to advantage.

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