Corner of Cable Street and Wakefield Streets
Built in 1918, and comprising over 3000 square metres over three
floors, Xero House (formerly John Chambers Building) occupies a
unique triangular ‘island’ block bordering the CBD. Situated near
the waterfront and sweeping expanse of the harbour, Xero House
sits within a precinct of restored heritage buildings, its clear bold
form bringing graceful cohesion to an otherwise disparate innercity building set. A Heritage Building Schedule listing thanks to
its significant architectural style, an unusual mixture of the original
Classical style on the lower floor, and Deco on the upper floors,
which were refurbished after the 1942 Wellington earthquake.
The brief had double ambitions: to provide high quality office
accommodation in an existing heritage building, and so prove it
as a viable alternative to new construction; and to maintain the
integrity of its heritage status.
The structural aspects of the refurbishment involved external
repair and maintenance of the existing building; and the
insertion of new internal cores, amenities, services and plant
space. Seismic strengthening upgraded the building from a
classification of potentially earthquake-prone, to 100% of
current code through the innovative close coupled shear frames.
The building’s exterior is carefully preserved, its distinct scale and
plan form continuing as recognizable features.
The building’s heritage characteristics include high ceilings,
exposed structure, and windows placed high in the walls. The
refurbishment respects the heritage integrity by retaining these
design elements as features of the new use. The large open
floor plates respond to the needs of new office, and minimum
intervention to the existing fabric was required.
The high level strip windows were ideally suited to the original
engineering workshop where daylight was given importance as
opposed to views and outlook. Previous renovations in the 1990’s
by Athfield Architects introduced lower portal windows for occupant
outlook. While these have been retained, the fitout introduced
raised floors to the upper levels, resolving several design issues
at once. Elevation of the floor delivered access to outlook and the
spectacular views from throughout the floor plate, while providing
a plenum for air distribution and cable runs that do not intrude into
the exposed concrete ceiling structure. The end result is clean and
uncluttered, spacious and airy.
Conversion and modernisation of the JCB for a new longterm role
is a leading example of adaptive reuse of an existing structure,
equally preserving a valuable piece of Wellington’s architectural
history, ensuring the richness of the regions heritage fabric, with
benefits that go beyond Wellington City.
Completed February 2012
Client Willis Bond & Co Limited
Architectural Team Nick Barratt-Boyes, Daryl Calder, Karl Frost,
Lianne Cox, Diana Chaney
Structural Engineer Dunning Thornton Consultants (Adam Thornton)
Services Engineer Beca
Contractor LT McGuinness
Photography Patrick Reynolds
Photograph: Simon Devitt