Slab, point-access
Trinity Apartments
Architectus | Auckland, New Zealand | 2005
Image of Trinity ...
Garden (west) facade

ProjectTrinity Apartments
CountryNew Zealand
Address431 Parnell Road
Building TypeSlab, point-access
Number of Dwellings32
Date Built2005
Dwelling Types1,2 3 BR Flats; maisonettes
No. Floors5/6
Section Typeflats & maisonettes
Exterior Finish
concrete, precast conc. steel, glass, metal windows, wood shutters, blinds
Construction TypeRC concrete/steel
Ancillary Servicesbasement parking/storage

These apartments are located in the Parnell district, a commercial center a short distance southeast of the center of Auckland. The site opposite Trinity Cathedral, along busy Parnell Road overlooks a spectacular urban landscape that includes Auckland Domain, one of the city’s largest parks, the neo-classical War Memorial Museum on an adjacent hill in the park, and distant views of downtown Auckland and the harbor. The Cathedral complex across the street includes the parish church of St. Mary’s; a fine example of wooden Gothic style built in 1886, and defines an open garden space opposite the entrance to the apartments.

Sited on the corner, the ell-shaped building consists of two rectangular blocks that are separated by a glazed 5-story high entrance hall that is also the entrance to one of the vertical service cores. The ell defines a lower formal garden that includes a reflecting pool, a raised lap pool, and a lower irregular landscaped area. A second entrance along Parnell provides access to a second vertical lobby and service core. The site falls off sharply to the west so that the building is 5 stories high along the street and 6-stories high at the garden level. The two blocks share elevator cores but are organized as two different buildings. The block facing Parnell contains very deep through apartments that are arranged similar to row houses that open to continuous terraces along both facades. The service areas in these dwellings are positioned rather unsystematically resulting in unusual interior spatial variety. The plans are organized so that each apartment takes up three structural bays with one additional vertical bay for the entrance slot. In the middle three floors, there is a mix of one, two, and three bedroom flats per floor some of which are very large. The building steps back the depth of the terrace on the top two floors. This is a zone of back-to-back maisonettes that open to a roof terrace detailed with a continuous glass balustrade at the bottom level and adjustable louvers on the top floor and a partial glass canopy. The zone of maisonettes suggests a formal cornice to the building. Basement parking extends under the reflecting pool with an access ramp from the side street.

The north/south slab along the street is narrower and is also organized as flats but with a zone of service spaces along the garden side. Living spaces open to deep terraces along the street or north façade. The south wall of this block facing the garden, is finished with dark-colored wood slats that cover the small high windows behind the wood that provide minimal light to the baths and kitchens behind this wall. The blank wall strategy is done to provide privacy to the terraces along the garden site of the other block. The east end of this block is finished in precast pebble finish concrete and sets back a few feet from the building and forms a narrow plaza with sculpture and a ramp to mark the building entrance.

Although the plans of each building are different, both street facades follow the same cellular organization and use the same details. A third dwelling type, a smaller, single-aspect type is used along the ground floor of the north/south block, the result of the sloping site. These apartments open directly to a terrace area along the reflecting pool that is partially enclosed by the raised lap pool running across the garden. The ground floor dwellings have a variable relationship with the changing levels of the site walk. While there is some loss of privacy and security, these units are usually raised a bit above the level of the sidewalk and are equipped with higher than normal railings and plantings so that passersby cannot see into the terrace space and a low wall along Parnell Road shields the bottom dwellings.

In addition to the layered depth of the facades that results from the use of terraces, glass and steel balustrades, and the recessed infill glass wall, some additional accessories are used that enhance the sense of depth and highly articulated quality of the facades. A grillage of tempered glass panels is secured to the concrete frame with Pilkington connectors. These panels are applied in both parallel and perpendicular positions to create a glass skin outside the concrete structure that also forms a glass balustrade for the terraces at the 4th floor. The discontinuous glass skin emphasizes the structure of steel wide flange columns that support the outside edge of the terraces. While it may be hard to justify the glass veneer on functional terms alone, the slightly detached nature and green tint of the glass results in a reflective, diaphanous, quality that combines with the terraces to suggest a deep layered space that is an essential part of the of the building concept. Additionally, roller blinds on the street facades, folding wooden shutters on the garden façade, and adjustable louvers on the upper floors of the maisonettes are used for sun control. On the garden façade, cantilevered slabs extending out from the terraces in the middle are used as fire breaks between floors because of the folding wood shutters.

While the density is quite low with only 32 apartments, the Trinity fits well into the Parnell setting providing continuity along the street while also responding to the residential nature of the neighborhood. The intelligent development of the site, careful detailing, imaginative use of materials, the large outdoor terraces, and expansive interiors are all features that mark Trinity as an important example of low rise multi-family housing.

Beck, Haig, Jackie Cooper (intro), Architectus: Between Order and Opportunity, ORO Editions, Singapore, 2009.

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