A SENSE OF STRENGTH, CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION THROUGH EVOLUTIONARY CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES.
This 1600m² office building is located in the heart of central Gisborne. Built in 1981, The Lowe Street Buildings represented a new generation of Gisborne’s commercial properties designed to directly address the needs of contemporary office and retail tenants. DStevens was initially contracted to construct the shell of the building and later the team worked to complete an internal fitout for Chrisp & Chrisp Lawyers to the first floor and a number of smaller retail tenancies at ground level. The project in its entirety took only 1 year to complete. The well-proportioned two-storey design was built to respect the existing city context and hold the street edge, reinforcing Gisborne’s city grid. The building is separated into small retail units along Gladstone Road and Lowe Street at ground level, and a highly efficient office tenancy to the upper floor.
The practical issues of seismic structural performance and construction efficiencies formed an integral part of the architectural aesthetic. A simple concrete and steel frame construction is expressed on the facade to clearly communicate a, then-new, level of structural resilience and to permit ease of maintenance and repair. The Lowe Street Buildings’ strong rhythm of concrete columns, a clear grid of windows, the fluted concrete cladding, and ordered overall arrangement of its parts all contribute to the buildings sense of strength and permanence. This honest structural composition helped to juxtapose the Lowe Street Building within the context of its more-traditional neighbours on Gladstone Road.
The tightly orchestrated build was not without plenty of entertainment for the guys on site. Peter Stevens was the site manager of the Lowe Street Building project at the time and fondly remembers watching a group of HART protestors march past the building site at the beginning of the 1981 Springbok Tour (South African Rugby Union Tour). “The 13 guys on site shot off to Rugby Park to watch the test match at lunch time only to have the start of the game interrupted by protestors,” Peter recalls. Quick action by spectators and grounds security prevented the match from being abandoned and the game went on without further disruption.
At the pouring of the concrete foundations the team were approached by Ray Bianci, a Northern Labourers Union Delegate visiting Gisborne to organise labour strikes at Gisborne Hospital – also under construction at the time. “Ray wanted [DStevens] to have more labourers on site to support his cause in Gisborne,” says Peter. Following the lead of Derek Stevens, who called himself a ‘labourer’ for the day, the two apprentices on site also assumed the role of ‘labourer’. Bianci added a fourth man on the day to make up numbers and help his cause.
The arrival of a crane on site in late 1981 signalled the erection of the structural steel frame and truss-work for the Lowe Street Building. The large CR Taylor crane shutdown the intersection of Lowe Street and Gladstone Road to lift large sections of steel into place. Tragedy struck one afternoon when the crane was being loaded back onto the transport truck. The crane stalled and began rolling back down the ramp, in turn reversing the motor which put all the controls into reverse. The jib lifted high up and over the cab colliding with the overhead powerlines along Gladstone Road. “As the boom went back and hit the powerlines, the cables blew and the crane driver leapt out of the cab,” Peter remembers. Although power was out to most of the city, the driver was fortunate to safety just in time. Power was restored later in the day and the team continued construction on site.
Lasting many transformations in the construction industry, the Lowe Street Building marks DStevens’ commitment to the growth and modernisation of our central city and demonstrates a sense of strength, creativity and innovation through evolutionary construction techniques.