State Insurance Building
|State Insurance Tower|
State Insurance Tower at 1 Willis Street
|Former names||BNZ Centre|
|Architectural style||Structural Expressionism|
|Location||1 Willis Street, Wellington, New Zealand|
|Owner||AMP NZ office trust|
|Height||103 m (338 ft)|
|Structural system||Steel moment frame|
|Floor count||30 (3 below ground, 26 above)|
|Floor area||26,892 m² (net lettable)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Stephenson & Turner Architects|
|Structural engineer||Brickell, Moss, Rankine & Hill|
The State Insurance Building is a skyscraper at 1 Willis Street in Wellington, New Zealand, formerly named the BNZ Centre. At the time of its completion in 1984, it was the tallest building in New Zealand, overtaking the 87m Quay Tower in Auckland. It is notable for its strong, square, black form, in late International Style modernism, and for a trade dispute which delayed the construction by a decade. It remained the tallest building in New Zealand until 1986, and is currently the second tallest building in Wellington.
BNZ (Bank of New Zealand) began purchasing land for the building in 1969. Approval to build was granted by the Town Planning Committee on June 14, 1972, after the building codes were rewritten to allow the development "out of common interest." Construction began in 1973, 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 was characteristic of the time, disrupting construction for six years and stopping the large-scale use of structural steel in almost every major New Zealand building project that followed. In response to the problem, the government of the day deregistered the Boilermakers Trade Union. Although other building projects were promptly redesigned to use reinforced concrete or stopped altogether, the skeleton of the half-constructed tower sat and rusted while much of the rest of downtown Wellington was rebuilt. In 1979, the original building contract was terminated and a new contract to finish the building was signed in 1981. The complex was completed and occupied in late 1984. After the BNZ moved its head office to Auckland in 1998, State Insurance purchased the naming rights to the building, renaming it the State Insurance Tower.
The State Insurance Tower is a 26-storey tower with a square podium. It is supported by a steel frame, and clad by 3.6 m² prefabricated panels made of black granite with matching dark tinted glass. These panels are absent from two rows at the mid height of the building, to allow air into the Plant room. The floors above ground are used as offices and have prime harbour views. The ground floor, which forms a plinth from which the tower rises, is set back from the street frontage and contains a number of shops. There are three floors below ground that extend to the street boundaries, providing a large and airy below-ground courtyard, which extends under Willis Street to provide pedestrian access to the basements of the buildings across the road. These underground levels also contain a food court and a JB Hi-Fi store.
The building's stark, black form was critically received. At the time of construction, the BNZ Centre was twice as large as the surrounding buildings. The international modernist style was out of keeping with typical New Zealand architecture of the time, and behind world architecture, which was moving into a postmodern period. This led John Huggins to describe it as a "reactionary Building", "a summary and clear conclusion of mainstream developments in World Architecture of the last fifty years." Other architects writing in the fifth issue of the 1986 Architecture New Zealand were not so kind, with Ian Athfield describing it as "Darth Vader's pencil box," Sir Miles Warren describing it as "the favourite whipping boy of the architectural anti-establishment," and Roger Walker describing it as "an important opportunity lost."
- Huggins, John (1986). "BNZ Building: Wellington as symbol and architecture". Architecture New Zealand (5): 11.
- Stephenson and Turner (1986). "BNZ Wellington". Architecture New Zealand (5): 25.