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©Paul McCredie/ACA

Tawa can be considered a valid local example of Colin Rowe’s Middle Landscape. That is, an area formed as a product of the new urban trail between city and suburb. According to Rowe, the evolution of this landscape was due in no small part to the mode of transport between the two places – the automobile. Setbacks from the street for parking eroded block edges and intersections, which were often snaffled up by petrochemical companies for their ‘visibility’ and ‘dual frontage access’.

One such site became available to our Client. A bereft, canopy-less service station kiosk sat at the rear of a bare site opposite the shopping mall on Main Road, Tawa. Eager to escape an introverted retail location nearby, a lease was signed on the kiosk and site. The interior was a standardised pharmacy franchise kitset. The exterior was heading the same way, except for several seemingly insurmountable received constraints of existing building typology and siting.

Our Client approached us with his predicament. A dialogue ensued in which each of the received constraints began to take the shape of elements of a critique of Rowe’s Middle Landscape. Our Client was mindful of the gravity of the problem, the importance of a quality design and the need for a commercially successful solution, while open to a result that may not necessarily be orthodox.

Of the many constraints, most consideration was given the disproportionate abundance of empty space that had been the service station forecourt, and on ways of ‘using it up’. A playful social benevolence reframed the area as radial car park, focussing on the received condition, and transforming it into a shared civic space consistent with its location.

The ‘kit of parts’ design concept for a Middle Landscape was conceived to increase visibility from the main street. Extensive negotiations were required to allow thematic ‘reinterpretation’ of the standard franchise livery. The central device of the scaled-up ‘pill card’ on stilts over the door performs a dual function as shelter from the weather and as visual identity. Lighting of the canopy extends visibility round the clock.

The completed project has resulted in an activation of the town centre, positive customer response and to our Client’s delight, financial returns far exceeding expectations, with retail sales up by 41% (nationally -4%). Our Client now views the project as a real and continuing investment in the community.

Urbis Issue 69 pg. 128 “Sugar The Pill”

Re-branding for the pharmacy was completed in 2014. The original design concept robustly accepted the new livery.

Unichem Tawa twilight_041.JPG

©Anthony Simon Photographer

 

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