On the City Campus, the old Social Sciences building used to be a dark rabbit warren that was the butt of many jokes. Now the refurbished building is barely recognisable and a shining example of 6 Green Star Design.

The plaque of the B201 building in its 2023 reincarnation

The University of Auckland has transformed the learning environment for the faculties of Education and Social Work (EDSW), Arts, and Creative Arts and Industries (CAI).

The 50-year-old former Social Sciences Building (B201) on Symonds Street has been refurbished in a sustainable, adaptive reuse project and was officially opened on 19 September. The design was described as ‘world-leading’ by the New Zealand Green Building Council. Comprehensive planning and three years of intense construction, assisted by shovel-ready funding from the government in 2020, led to the grand opening by Prime Minister the Rt Hon Chris Hipkins and Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater, with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, University staff and community, and those at the coalface of the refurbishment in attendance.

The Vice-Chancellor said the finished building, providing state-of-the-art teaching, learning, research and administration space for the three faculties, exceeded expectations.

“This is a stunning purpose-renovated and sustainable building to welcome the Faculty of Education and Social Work to the centre of Waipapa Taumata Rau and to better connect the University precinct.”

The refurbishment has been completed in preparation for the arrival of EDSW moving from the University’s Epsom campus in time for the 2024 academic year. The nine-storey building includes a soaring glass atrium, capped by a vaulted timber roof and solar photovoltaic panels.

Among many other notable features, B201 includes dance and drama studios, a flexible lecture theatre (try not to be distracted by the views), archaeology labs and, with teacher education in mind, specialist areas for cooking, timber work, craft, painting and music.

This project highlights how we can avoid knocking down our existing spaces and instead adaptively re-use them, slashing our carbon emissions while creating a space fit for the future.

Simon Neale, Chief Property Officer Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland

As well as EDSW, B201 will host the School of Social Sciences in the Faculty of Arts. Professor Robert Greenberg, Dean of Arts, said, “It is wonderful that the University has made a commitment to our disciplines with these amazing new spaces that in themselves will bring new vitality to our respective faculties.”

The building features staff and postgraduate research offices opening onto attractive shared spaces with impressive views across the city, and green roofs with native plants.

B201 was designed by Jasmax, in collaboration with Māori design agency Haumi, engineered by Beca and built by Hawkins. The building cut its carbon emissions in half by reusing and strengthening the existing structure rather than starting from scratch. Simon Neale, Waipapa Taumata Rau Chief Property Officer, says a 6 Green Star certification was a priority from the outset.

“This project highlights how we can avoid knocking down our existing spaces and instead adaptively re-use them, slashing our carbon emissions while creating a space fit for the future. This is a truly world-leading innovative building.”

He said by reusing the existing concrete frame, there was a major saving in embodied carbon and significant reduction in construction time.

Another important part of the brief was to create a link between Symonds and Wynyard streets. A new feature staircase and lifts drop down onto Wynyard and a new entry there which, together with the planned landscaping, will transform the area and pull it into the campus.

The new connection also traces a historic one; the area called Waipapa that once sat adjacent to the foreshore below the University and was an important point of trade for Ngāti Whātua and the fledging city of Auckland.

Jasmax project lead and senior architect Chris Scott said: “We wanted to incorporate that story into the façade and the atrium roof with the tukutuku language, so the exchange of produce has now become an exchange of knowledge. You can follow this horizontal zigzagging pattern, called Aramoana, onto Wynyard Street to recreate that journey.”

The move into the new building will be staggered over a few months, with most expected to be in place by Semester One 2024.

There are other exciting buildings set to impress including the refurbishment of the historic Old Choral Hall and the University’s new Recreation and Wellness Centre, scheduled to open in 2024.

Dean of EDSW, Professor Mark Barrow, said colleagues were looking forward to being part of the City Campus.

“Education faculties are almost always on the periphery of a university. But at Waipapa Taumata Rau, we’ll be very much part and parcel of the heart of the University.

“We’re just a stone’s throw from the ClockTower and across the road from the new Recreation Centre. This is very exciting for our faculty, particularly our students.”

This article is from UniNews October 2023.