May 29, 2011 Leave a comment
So, on the face of it, there have been some huge criticisms about the Wellywood sign that is being erected in Wellington City.
The complaints mostly consist of the sign being tacky and cheap, and giving a bad image of the city from this. While others would argue that the sign is a waste of money considering how many other considerations there are in Wellington city. Yet, Wellington is undeniably successful because of what WETA Workshops and other film studios has accomplished in the city, and the whole country. The sign is a natural extension of this celebration.
I just want to point out another piece of foreign architecture in Wellington: The State Insurance Tower.
Finally inhabited in 1987, after more than 10 years of union action about the steel that it was constructed from, it was a distinctly influenced by American upmarket office architecture. It is the sort of building that you would find in every large commercial city–the Seagram in Chicago an example of such buildings, and the Bank of China in Hong Kong. The scariest thought is that at the time of construction the building towered 2 times the size of the other buildings surrounding.
The criticism towards the building was very angry, the rapidly changing Wellington skyscape caused the public to rise to action. As well as the architectural critics, Sir Miles Warren described the building as an opportunity lost–while Roger Walker described the building was designed by “philistines”. Moreover, if we could call the Wellywood sign tacky, Stuart Niven called the State Insurance Building as a “budget basement Mies-Van-Der Rohe” as a reference to Rohe, who was the pioneer of skyscrapers in the world.
Is the Wellywood sign following the same path as these?
Resulting from these criticisms, the changes to the building have been great, seemingly in reaction. The breezy forecourt with the pyramidal canopy has now been converted into a retail area to reduce the wind uplift. Bank of New Zealand itself has moved its head office to the Wellington waterfront with large translucent windows that give a transparency to the operations of the bank, in stark contrast to the impersonal sheer walls of the B.N.Z. building (Figure 5, 6). There is little evidence of the Bank that remains in the building, having sold off its naming rights to the building, and moving its customer centre across the road on Willis Street.
A foreign concept stolen from Hollywood, to celebrate the birth of the film industry in New Zealand is no different from celebrating the economic growth of Wellington through the construction of “Darth Vader’s pencilbox”. Surely the airport would recognize that this is history repeating itself surely.
How would the airport in supporting this venture react when has such monumental opposition before the sign has even been erected?