Quake-risk portico: going, going, … (26 January 2015)
Civic Square portico. Photo credit: Chris Skelton, Fairfax NZ
In early November 2014, work began on “A tricky $1 million project to demolish Wellington’s 500-tonne Civic Square portico …” (see DominionPost story by Hank Schouten). The contract, awarded to Arrow International, was scheduled to be completed by 23 January, according to Wellington City Council building resilience manager Neville Brown. And it’s nearly done – as my photo (above) shows.
“The Portico was built in 1992 as part of the Civic Square redevelopment. The Council decided to remove it after an engineering assessment deemed it earthquake-prone and a quake hazard to the buildings it links” (see Wellington.Scoop story by Lindsay Shelton).
Dating from what Maximus, writing in The Eye of the Fish, described as “Athfield Architects more vigorously civic days”, the black concrete, steel and glass two-level span was designed to enclose Civic Square by linking the Civic Administration Building and Wellington Central Library.
Maximus continues: “The area we now know as Civic Square was once an ordinary street, with a lot of car parking for City Council workers. As part of the creation of a Civic precinct in the late 80s / early 90s, the road was closed, City to Sea bridge built, the old Library converted into the City Gallery, a new magnificent Library building built, and the Council’s civic chambers extended to wrap around the whole. A portico over the gateway entrance to the newly pedestrian used square proudly proclaimed to all who could read the urban signs, that ‘this be land of the people’ and cars were forevermore buried underground.”
Later in his piece, Maximus explains why the thing has had to come down: “… in the case of a decent sized earthquake, this portico would act like a giant battering ram, and pulverize the other buildings into dust, or something like that, involving calculations of structural resonance and adequacy of seismic movement joints. I dunno the exact reasons why – you’ll have to ask an engineer – but it means it has gone from being a useful thing to a very bad thing, and it must be destroyed.”