The ivy-covered building at 19 Princes Street is one of Auckland’s most identifiable. It’s a category 1 Historic Place and home to the Northern Club. The building has seen several alterations and additions over its 160-year lifespan: a decade on from its last extension, the club wanted to broaden its membership and re-imagine what it is understood as and what it offers, not just to its members, but to the city. The club wanted to leverage a relatively undeveloped piece of sloping land on Bankside Street, several levels below the existing premises – an empty 500-square-metre carpark.
The Boston ivy is such a big part of the club’s charm. Even the Wintergarden – an extension by Fearon Hay Architects in 2009 – was named with a botanic theme in mind. The old building and its extension are two strong pieces of architecture, so it seemed fitting that Bankside might be less of a building and more of a landscape. We hoped we wouldn’t diminish the impact of previous work: we hoped to frame it. The club loved the planting of Britomart, Ortolana in particular. The prospect of drinking and dining among wonderful planting seemed like a fitting way to stimulate the project; so a building fit for a growing landscape was our goal.
Bankside, with its elevated gardens, courtyards, lounges and connecting lift and stair cores, became the keystone for unlocking the site. The space allowed us to turn the club around, face it down to the city and create a new way for people to approach it... from the arrival off Bankside Street into the covered porte cochere, into the powder rooms to adjust yourself before ascending into Bankside and the club beyond.
The success of the club relies on spaces that cater to varying numbers and occasions. Bankside’s success is partially to do with the lounge feeling cosy late at night when it’s dining for just one, the fire roaring, and equally comfortable when entertaining 200, with the doors pivoted open and the volume tumbles into the gardens on long summer evenings. Bankside offers the club a platform for its members to explore.
The garden-like environment, pivoting on Bankside’s leafy green exterior finding its way into the interiors, was the central driver for the material choices. This is a landscape-based project and blurring the transition between inside and out was the intent. Formally, this meant clear visual connections with the planted courtyards and Albert Park beyond. But those botanicals needed to find their way inside. This principle drove the use of deep-green marble plaster across the walls and ceilings, the hand-blown green-tinted glass globe chandeliers in the lounge, the dark oak timber cabinetry and the boulder pulled from Te Kuiti, the hearth of the lounge fire. These are all natural materials. They are real, not synthetic, and will patina with age and use. We wanted to create a palette of materials that would transcend with time, rather than deteriorate with it.
We didn’t want a space that was over-lit, rather a soft glow to illuminate the planting and offer an intimate bar and dining lounge. The clients requested that art have a major place and we hoped it could become an active part of the club’s lighting strategy. We proposed 300 hand-blown glass shapes of varying form and scale. These were assembled into an array of clusters bound by a brass framework and carried across the ceiling of the dining lounge. Among the sea of green glass are small carved discs of honey onyx, each disc illuminated by its own light source – each a jewel in that sea of green. Appropriately, the green glass sweeping over the room pays homage to Albert Park’s pōhutukawa at the window’s edge.
The Northern Club
19 Princes St, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland