AUT University's city campus is strategically positioned at the boundary of Auckland’s business district, Albert Park and the city’s education precinct. It is tucked into a dense urban environment, covering a site on which its elevation drops the equivalent of seven storeys. Early buildings on the site include the heritage building which was erected under the management of George George.
George George’s successful gambling of the project funds on the Stock Exchange changed the building’s fate late in the planning stage, doubling it in size. Like the other early buildings, it was devoid of frills, but very charming; the buildings all put their ‘best faces’ to the surrounding city streets (Wellesley, St Paul and Upper Lorne) and ignored the spaces between them.
When additional buildings were erected in the 1960s, the campus plan became a servant to
the needs of the maintenance manager. Boilers and service roads linking loading bays and car parks weaved their way through the site with scant regard for pedestrians or easy movement between the levels.
The first masterplan took place in the late 1980s. It has been an ongoing engagement between AUT and Jasmax, transforming the site from a technical institute into a university, with a dramatic increase in student numbers. One of the pleasures of this type of project is its evolutionary nature, where history is documented and celebrated alongside contemporary changes.
The early and subsequent masterplans have worked to create a rich urban village which adds to both campus and city life. Courtyards and pockets of open space have been created and these are connected internally and to the city through a series of landscaped lanes, atria and internal streets.
The masterplan now provides a holistic outline of development within the site. Old and new buildings are no longer considered in isolation, rather they relate to one another with interest. Buildings intersect and create new spaces, creating dynamic shared areas and new interactions. Together they work as a whole to establish a flexible framework for core campus activities.
With a rapidly expanding role, consideration of circulation was imperative. Utilising a mid-level for major circulation optimised vertical movement within the precinct. The density of this campus, which is greater than almost any other in Australasia, creates a sense of intensity and liveliness. Where the existing and new external buildings are generally solid and strong, the new structures in the centre of the campus are more light and ethereal, creating an openness and liveliness in the centre of the University’s community.