The Pedestrian's Office Building
According to urban theorist Jan Gehl (2004), Wellington’s central business district (CBD) lacks pedestrian vibrancy. Gehl identifies impermeability, caused by many large footprint commercial buildings with closed street frontages and privatised ground floors, as the main weakness in the city’s urban fabric . This thesis seeks to address Gehl’s findings that commercial buildings create a sterile pedestrian environment because of their disengaged street frontages, lack of programmatic diversity and negative impact on the connectivity of the pedestrian network. A current lack of high end commercial office buildings in Wellington’s CBD creates an architectural opportunity to reconsider the way in which office buildings are integrated into the urban environment. In this thesis the office building is used as a tool to realistically investigate how these new buildings can address the urban issues raised by Gehl, and enhance the pedestrian experience. This research uses the design principles in Nan Ellin’s Integral Urbanism to find a solution for the urban problems identified by Gehl. Three architectural and urban principles are used as devices to integrate the vertical office tower into the horizontal streetscape; hybridity, porosity and connectivity. This design proposition investigates an office building on the corner of Jervois Quay and Willeston Street in the Wellington CBD. This site is identified as a particularly weak area of the urban fabric challenged by a disconnection from the nearby waterfront; by the six lane highway, Jervois Quay. The site-specific problem combined with the challenges of the market driven Wellington office typology is explored through an iterative design process to create a commercially feasible, site-specific design solution. Ultimately this research found that through applying urban design principles, office towers can better integrate into the urban environment to create a more pedestrian orientated city.