SKHY’s the Limit: Cheshire Architects Discuss their Newest Apartment Development

Known for their extensive work redesigning and re-imagining some of Auckland’s most celebrated spaces, including the Britomart Precinct and City Works Depot, Cheshire Architects have recently turned their design focus to transforming old into new, redeveloping a former office tower into quality density living with their SKHY Apartments.

Don’t be surprised if you double-take the first time you see the SKHY Apartments. Currently comprised of two residential buildings, and with a further two to be completed in the second phase of the project, the central tower looks familiar, but different. Formerly the Winstone office tower, the building has been refurbished into an elegant structure of concrete and glass which wouldn’t be out of place in downtown London or New York. Except, you’re in Auckland.

City Works Depot is one of the projects on Cheshire's impressive portfolio.

City Works Depot is one of the projects on Cheshire’s impressive portfolio.

 

Located on the corner of Symonds Street and Khyber Pass (Symonds + KHYber = SKHY), the development is situated at a key transport junction, with residents a 15 minute walk, or 5 minute cycle, from Mt Eden, Newmarket, Ponsonby, and the City Centre.

As well as offering six unique apartment types, the development will also include a series of laneways, complete with boutique shops, and a public garden courtyard.

We spoke with Pip Cheshire, one of the lead architects of the development, about the importance of location when choosing a site, why they chose to refurbish the former office tower rather than start from scratch, and what’s next for the team.

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the tower that your team are currently refurbishing to create the SKHY apartments?

The 12 storey tower was constructed as part of a larger development in the late 1960’s and was the former head office of Winstones, a major supplier of building materials. The development, designed by a consortium of Auckland’s leading architectural practices, also included a three storey structure linking the tower with Khyber Pass, which comprised retail, offices and a popular tavern.

The decision to refurbish the tower was made once we recognised the strength and value of the tower’s structural frame, as well as its double street frontage and historical planning rights which allow for a building of its height.

The Winstone Office Tower

An aerial of the original Winstone Tower, which underwent significant refurbishment as part of the SKHY development.

 

What first excited you about this building and its site?

We though the site’s position high up behind the city, located on the intersection of several major streets, offered great potential. The tower had a great robust frame hidden behind the accretions of the last few decades. The redevelopment of the low rise component also allowed us to create a calm heart within the project, linking Khyber Pass and Symonds Street, as well as adding some pedestrian scale to an area of the city that has been somewhat taken over by vehicular traffic within recent years.

SKHY 2

The layout of the site allowed for the development to be centred around a ‘calm heart’, adding a human scale to the surrounding area.

 

Tell us about the apartments – what is unique about their design?

There are a number of different apartment configurations throughout SKHY. These include one, two and three bedroom apartments in the tower, warehouse-like apartments below, split-level apartments, which offer a high degree of privacy, and more conventionally configured apartments looking over the courtyard and out to the Waitakere Ranges beyond. Each of the units has been carefully designed to maximise on space, orientation and outlook – living spaces optimise connections to outdoor terraces, and the bathrooms and kitchens provide a sense of elegance and functionality to the apartments.

The development offers six different apartment typologies, each of which maximises on space, orientation and outlook.

The development offers six different apartment typologies, each of which maximises on space, orientation and outlook.

 

Interest in the development has been incredibly high – what do you attribute this to?

The developer commitment to innovation and high quality design has influenced all aspects of the project, and this has been noticeable since SKHY’s marketing information was first made available. As well as this, the scale of the project allows for a great deal of variety and complexity within the development, whilst its location, looking down the Symonds Street ridge towards the Waitemata and Hauraki Gulf, provides outstanding outlook from the units.

The development offers six different apartment typologies.

The development’s central location, high-quality design, and variation in apartment sizes has proven popular.

 

SKHY includes a range of apartment styles and sizes. Who are your buyers?

The new owners reflect the wide range of apartments on offer; from a business people at the top of the tower to artists in the warehouse-like apartments below. The clustering of the apartments around the garden courtyard facilitates a sense of community among these owners: single people, couples, families - in short, a cross section of Auckland’s urban dwellers.

SKHY Apartments Location

The different apartment sizes have led to a variety of owners, including single people, couples, and families; a cross section of Auckland’s urban dwellers.

 

Looking for more on apartment design? The Auckland Design Manual has design guides for Apartments and Mixed Use developments, as well as an extensive library of case studies on exemplar developments from across Tāmaki Makaurau and New Zealand.

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