The team have started working on the Nīkau and plan on removing them one by one to restore them, say Nick.
“There are various layers that we need to peel back, like steel and concrete. The fronds are very delicate, with a combination of coppers, lead and zinc-type cladding. They haven’t aged well over the last 10 years, and most of the time you only get 20 to 25 years out of a coating system.
“What’s happening at a technical level is that all the fixings are being removed and will be blasted back to their metal finish, and have a new coating put on top. The way they’re made will be different but they’ll look the same, but with more grounded palms.”
Nick says another exciting element of the restoration is that the base of the refurbished Nīkau will be made from repurposed stone from the Town Hall.
“The town hall project had a large quantity of bluestone which used to be wrapped around the base of the building. Based on the base isolator work, a lot of the stone had to be removed and there were around 75 pallets of material.
“To offset costs, we’re working with main contractor LT McGuinness, and their expert stonemason Goldfield Stone, who can help us with the installation. We’ve been able to amend our designs to use the existing stone and it’s got a beautiful texture. We have some stone-clad elements on the Victoria Street side, which will be the new interpretation of the plinth of the Nikau.”
Nick says that the team at Athfield are thrilled to be working on the building again.
“There is so much connection around the building, either through the palms or the inside spaces. Wellingtonians have studied there, or even just walked through Clark’s café to escape the howling southerly rain to get to Victoria Street.
“It’s exciting to work within Te Ngākau Civic Square and modify and reinterpret Te Matapihi again.”