2017 Inception Award | Fort Lane Bath House


Exploring the Nature of Mist in Forgotten Niche Spaces

Fort Lane Bath House considers the development of Auckland as a city through imaging, imagining and the apparatus of the cinema. Situated in “Fort Lane (a service lane parallel to Queen St) connecting Fort Street (original foreshore of Commercial Bay) and Custom Street East. Fort Lane curiously dips in the middle due to the reclaimed land sinking and has been recently reconnected through the Imperial Lane development” (Gallagher, 2017, pg. 2).

As a response to the original foreshore, this proposal offers a city bathhouse for workers and locals weaving pipes through the site to control water flow and the output of steam. Visitors are taken into the depths of a void and enveloped in mist. The scheme includes spaces for relaxing, dressing, swimming and bathing. Explorations with wax and resin offer a sense of transparency, challenging notions of public and private through a cinematic lens, these organic forms differed in thickness allowed play with magnification and manipulation. Concluding by blurring and distorting the wall opened a key narrative to the project and offers an interpretation of the space left open to the individual. Transparent mediums allow contrast to be created against existing and introduced solids, giving the opportunity for curation and definition.

“As Auckland transformed from early settlement town to an urban centre there was a proliferation of theatres, which provided social and shared fantasy space. The cinematic history on Fort Lane includes the ‘Roxy’ and ‘Everybody’s’ theatres, now a restaurant, nightclub and bar. The cutting of laneways through the existing heritage buildings reveals hidden and forgotten interiors and the recent Imperial Lane development, connecting Queen St and Fort Lane, has revealed two of the earliest cinemas on Queen Street” (Gallagher, 2017, pg. 2).

The notion of cinema viewings relates to the program as a bathhouse and luxury space, as the public is welcomed into a private sculpted environment in order to relax and enjoy. The blurring of the wall ensures the interior will not be forgotten and that a space for relaxation continues to accommodate for workers and locals. “Designing from the outside in, as well as the inside out, creates necessary tensions, which help make architecture. Since the inside is different from the outside, the wall – the point of change – becomes an architectural event (Venturi, 1966: 86). Venturi discusses the architecture of the wall as a dynamic event, in terms of a verb, as opposed to static objects, or noun. The wall is something that happens and occurs, as opposed to something that simply exists.

Emphasis on the pipes that run through Fort Lane are a symbol of the lane and its service to the lower part of Auckland city. A series of copper pipes branch throughout the scheme, delivering mist, warmth, and hot water, additionally acting as warm handrails for stairs and ramps. Steam and hot water will be pumped from underground generators, letting a subtle hint seep into the street.

A bath and steam house encouraging relaxation and imagination flow is a key link to the history of the site exhibiting the history of the foreshore through the reinstatement of water. A double skinned membrane form, inspired by R Sie N’s Mosquito Bottleneck, will capture and manipulate the steam. The introduction of steam captures the essence of mystery and film noir, as the lane lacks sunlight and is a shadow space activated mainly at night. Steam and the cinematics prove to be capturing devices that sculpt a minimalistic space for bathing into an experience of relaxation and settling of the mind. This offers a much needed space for the “nearly 80,000 commuters, students, shoppers and visitors travel to the city every weekday” (Auckland Council, n.d.).

Auckland Council. (2013). Auckland’s city centre in numbers. Retrieved from http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/planspoliciesprojects/CouncilProjects/citycentretransformation/Pages/centrecitystatistics.aspx

Gallagher, S. (2017). Urban itinerary: Surface. Cut. Script. Auckland, New Zealand: AUT.

Venturi, R. (1966). Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. New York, NY: Museum of Modern Art.