One of New Zealand's first curtained walled buildings is undergoing a major transformation to breathe new life into it once again. The Wellington Company in collaboration with award winning architects Architecture + are re-imagining Massey House into the new modern 126LQ. The restoration and redevelopment will deliver over 7000 square meters of A Grade premium commercial office and retail space set over 9 levels, incorporating an outdoor roof-top garden terrace providing flexible staff and entertaining area overlooking Lambton Quay.
Completed in 1957, Massey House on Lambton Quay was created to house the joint national headquarters for both the Dairy Producers Board and the Meat Producers Board. Austrian immigrant Ernst Plischke had arrived in Wellington in May 1939 with his wife and son seeking refuge from Nazi occupation in Austria. He went on to become one of the foremost exponents of Modernist architecture in New Zealand. Plischke and his partner Cedric Firth were commissioned for the Massey House project, and they delivered a thoroughly modern statement that had a major impact on Wellington's Central Business District.
The precursor to the modern high rise, Massey House quickly influenced other Wellington buildings, such as Shell House, Wool House and Manchester House. Along with many of the buildings it influenced, it came to establish the architectural context of the north end of the current CBD.
The building played a role in the birth of Wellington's café culture too: one of the first cafés in the city was the Coffee Gallery situated within Parsons Bookshop on the ground floor on Lambton Quay. Run by Harry Seresin (another refugee of WW2 and friend of Plischke), the Coffee Gallery served an important function for the Wellington community.
Today, sustainability is at the forefront of the design, with an all-new energy efficient Mitsubishi Electric Hybrid VRF System (HVRF) which will be fully monitored and managed by the new Building Management System. The building will be designed to achieve a high NABERSNZ star rating, which is an effective way to measure the energy efficiency over time. In addition, a solar array will be installed on the roof, as well as LED lighting throughout. All new building infrastructure, fire systems, services and lifts will make this building feel new, yet with a sensitive touch to its rich legacy.
Architecturally an internal lightwell will be converted into a beautiful, enclosed atrium with a spiral staircase allowing free movement between floors.
As noted by The Wellington Company’s development manager Sam Hooper: “Massey House is an iconic landmark and a historically significant building that showcases the rich architectural heritage of New Zealand,”. Today, Massey House is 126LQ - representing 7000sqm of premium commercial office and retail space set over nine levels and featuring a stunning outdoor rooftop garden terrace overlooking Lambton Quay. The Wellington Company have curated an expert team of specialist skillsets including Architecture +, Ian Bowman Conservation Architect, and Silvester Clark Consulting Engineers to preserve the original design elements of Massey House, whilst also creating an environment that meets or exceeds modern A-Grade office standards with 126LQ.
“The history of the building, who designed it, and how it influenced Wellington’s built form and culture created a somewhat daunting prospect for the design team but seeing the respectful attention to detail for such an architectural icon, combined with the sustainability focus has been very special. We are targeting the highest NABERSNZ star rating possible for a refurbished heritage building. That, combined with two very wide street frontages onto both Lambton Quay/The Terrace, the central lightwell which enables plentiful natural light, plus the locked in carbon benefits through the significant re-use of existing materials is proving very attractive to commercial tenants. People just get it, and it is our privilege to make it happen”.
The base build has been fully refurbished incorporating all new sustainable building systems and services, with a focus on providing a truly cost-effective accommodation solution while reducing the building’s impact on the environment. All key heritage elements, including the glazed curtain wall, lobbies, and unique detailing specific to the design detailing of Massey House designers Plischke and Firth, have been fully refurbished in keeping with the building's Category 1 Heritage Classification.
The Wellington Company continues to shape the future of the city one heritage building at a time. Through its innovative and sustainable approach to urban development, it has revitalised neglected spaces, preserved heritage buildings, and created thriving communities. Its contribution to Wellington’s cultural, social, and architectural landscape will be seen for generations to come.