Friday, May 29, 2009
#724 ... Black Monolith
The BNZ Tower ... now renamed the State Insurance Tower .. "he who pays the piper gets the naming rights"
This building has a special place in Wellington, probably for all the wrong reasons .. as it became an icon of the troubled industrial times of the '60s and '70s
The BNZ Centre is the second tallest building in Wellington, New Zealand, after the Majestic Centre. It is located at 1 Willis Street. It was the tallest building in New Zealand from 1983 until 1986.
The Tower is constructed from structural steel, the exterior is black granite with matching dark tinted glass. There are 26 floors above ground, most with prime harbour views. The Tower is a good example of the structural expressionism modernist architecture style.
Once described as "Darth Vader's Pencil Box", the building's starkness and height sets it apart from the surrounding, comparatively nondescript, buildings. The podium ground floor, which forms a plinth from which the tower rises, is set back from the street frontage. However, a sub-ground floor extends to the street boundaries, providing a large and airy below ground courtyard that then extends under Willis Street to provide pedestrian access to the basements of the buildings across the road.
Construction commenced in the late 1960's, however a labour demarcation dispute involving the Boilermakers Trade Union claiming the exclusive right of their members to weld the steel brought construction to a halt part way through construction. The dispute meant the building site lay idle for a decade and stopped the large scale use of structural steel in almost every major New Zealand building project that followed. Although other building projects were promptly redesigned to use re-enforced concrete or stopped all together, the skeleton of the half constructed BNZ tower sat and rusted while much of the rest of downtown Wellington was rebuilt. The complex was eventually completed in 1983 after much controversy.
The Tower is used for office space, but under the Tower there is a food court and on the ground floor an electronics store (Sony Style) along with a BNZ branch. After the BNZ moved its head office to Auckland in 1998, State Insurance purchased the naming rights to the building.
The underground level has a number of shops.