Marshall Court design award ‘well deserved’

2 November 2015

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has welcomed tonight’s NZIA national award (multi-unit category) for the City Council’s new Marshall Court social housing apartments in Miramar as “thoroughly well-deserved”.

“We’re thrilled – and we’re proud our tenants are living not only in modern, warm, dry, safe, secure housing acknowledged as an example of New Zealand’s best multi-unit architecture.”

“The design provides a homely environment where tenants feel comfortable and there are opportunities for social interaction,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.

Councillor Paul Eagle, Chair of the City Council committee that oversees the Council’s social housing policy, says he is hugely pleased for the Marshall Court architects, Designgroup Stapleton Elliott, contractors Maycroft Construction, and the many other consultancies, sub-contractors and Council staff who contributed to the development.

The $8.7 million Marshall Court development was a complete new-build project as part of the ongoing $400 million upgrade of the City Council’s social housing stock. It replaced a 1960s-vintage apartment block that Cr Eagle described as “out of date and unfit for purpose in the 21st century”.

Cr Eagle acknowledged that Marshall Court had some teething troubles this year – “But this award is a perfect bookend to the settling in period and our tenants can enjoy living in their thoughtfully designed, high quality homes.”

The NZIA citation:
One of society’s challenges is to provide decent housing for its vulnerable citizens when there are many demands on the public purse. Social housing is a tough architectural genre. In this project client and architect have worked hard to produce safe and suitable pensioner housing, and in the face of the usual budgetary constrictions they have succeeded admirably. The L-shaped apartment complex overlooks a north-facing communal garden, giving the apartments a focus for social interaction, which is also encouraged by carefully planned circulation routes. The concern for amenity carries through to the individual one-bed apartments, in which a small footprint is ameliorated by the provision of verandahs on the outside and sliding screens between the bedroom and living room. The building, which is located close to shops and public transport, holds its site well and its façade modulation adds some vivacity to the block.

For Craig Roberts and Shani MacKenzie of Designgroup Stapleton Elliott this is their second winning project with Council’s Housing Upgrade Programme. They say the winning formula is the focus of the whole project team – the architects, the Council staff and other contractors – on the opportunity to enrich tenants’ lives.

The projects are funded by Council’s 20-year partnership with the Crown to upgrade its housing to modern standards of warm, dry, secure housing and to enhance pride and sense of belonging for the tenant community.

DGSE designed the Regent Park Apartments in Newtown, which also received a national award for multi-unit housing from NZIA in 2012.

The Council’s Central Park Apartments in Brooklyn, designed by Novak+Middleton, received the same award in 2014.

Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, of He Kainga Orango, University of Otago says: “We applaud City Housing’s efforts to ensure their homes are warm dry and well insulated.”

“Our work has shown the huge benefits of living in warm dry homes - with improved health, fewer hospitalisations, fewer GP visits and less time off work and school. This is in addition to the energy and cost saving of good insulation.”

The architects credited the Council’s project managers for their empathy with the tenants as the end users of the building. They believe the design has achieved more than healthy housing. “There are lifestyle aspects to the design; it’s about healthy communities – gardens where tenants can grow food, safe spaces outdoors and indoors for social interactions, along with space for privacy.”

The design shows how even small interventions can make a big impact and promote wellbeing: providing space outside front doors that residents can personalise to make it their home; reclaiming previously underused car parking into garden spaces.