Prudential Assurance Building, 332−340 Lambton Quay (1934−35)

Prudential Assurance building.
The Prudential Assurance Building just after its completion

The Prudential Assurance building is one of a group of head office buildings, built together on Lambton Quay, which offer quite different visual experiences.

This building is noted for its four nearly identical Art Deco elevations, a tour-de-force of urban design. Of particular interest is the artificial stone ‘veneer’ — Benedict stone — on the ground and first floors. Above that is coloured cement render, lined out to resemble stone blocks, now painted over.

The British firm of Prudential Assurance relocated its head office from Auckland to Wellington in 1932. It demolished the landmark Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (1877) and a new building, designed by the Melbourne firm of Hennessy and Hennessy in association with local architects Gray Young Morton and Young, was built. In what were very difficult economic times the company was encouraged to construct the building by the Government’s offer of relief workers. It opened in 1935. The future of the building was the subject of much controversy during the 1990s but its sale by Prudential Assurance ensured its future.

It has since been converted into apartments. Additions made to the north elevation and top storey have robbed the building of its symmetry.

The image shows the building before construction of the CBA building began next-door − giving a brief opportunity to see the building in all its symmetrical glory.

Image reference: Prudential Assurance building, Lambton Quay, Wellington. Burt, Gordon Onslow Hilbury, 1893-1968 :Negatives. Ref: 1/1-015619-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.