Plant and Food Research - Cunningham Building - Bossley Architects | ArchiPro

Plant and Food Research - Cunningham Building

The Cunningham Building was the first purpose-built science facility in New Zealand. Opened for the DSIR in 1939, it slowly became a rabbit warren of small over-crowded spaces. We were engaged to convert it into a social hub for the whole campus, comprising 280 staff.

Conversion was planned in conjunction with the refurbishment of the adjacent Hamilton Building, which accommodates the main offices and laboratories for the campus. The Hamilton is joined to the Cunningham Building by a glazed bridge.

The building contains Meeting Rooms upstairs and the Social Hub downstairs. The basement contains storage, staff change facilities and bike storage.

Significant technical complexity was involved in the refurbishment. Most significantly the building required seismic upgrading, which was achieved by the additions of reinforced panels sprayed against the interior of the external walls. The leaking bituminous roof need replacing, and many areas of all and windows were leaking. The existing steel windows, many of which had been sealed up, were carefully repaired, and new exterior doors installed in the character of the originals. The stucco cladding required repair.

Internally the building was stripped back to its original construction, with the beam and terracotta infill flooring systems left exposed to view. The hexagonal columns and capitals, previously hidden above suspended ceilings, were exposed. New elements were added to provide scale and acoustic upgrades, predominantly ‘floating’ against the original surfaces.

The beautiful staircase was repaired, and no-complying aspects of the balustrade negotiated with Council to be able to remain.

A new kitchen and toilets were added on the ground floor. The interior colours and furniture selection was by Creative Spaces.

The facility has been very well received and used by staff and having it available first eased some of the pressure which arose during the long refurbishment of the adjacent Hamilton Building.


Photography; Mark Cowen

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