Willowbank Apartments

Client Brief

The Willowbank Apartments are a heritage building established to produce Whisky in Dunedin. In recent times the building became disused and damaged so required upgrading by viable redevelopment.

Stage 1 was to refurbish a former commercial office within half the building for a new tenant. The open plan office was to be refurbished with transparent meeting spaces added that did not detract from the existing lofty interior and workplace connectivity, whilst retaining industrial references to the former use of the building. Stage 2 was the creation of a residential use to provide an income from separate tenants in the other half of the building. An adaptive reuse solution was required to overcome planning requirements to provide an alternative to outdoor living amenity space and parking on site without removing part of the building.

All new work was to consider restoration of heritage features to enhance the building character and create interiors that allowed reversibility of work for future economic reuse and sustainability. The building was to be upgraded with seismic strengthening, disabled access and facilities. New architecture was to be distinguished from existing heritage architecture. Interior visible retention of timber floors, beams, posts, trusses and stone walls were to be considered together with a modern layout for residential use. Insulation, heating and ventilation were to be discretely integrated to meet building code requirements. Any interior and exterior intervention of the existing heritage fabric was to be approved by Council, Heritage New Zealand and the client who owned the property.

Creative Solution & Design Features

Our response was to rebrand the office tenancy featuring their corporate yellow colour, polish timber floors and add transparent meeting rooms with glazed walls to preserve a spacious interior.

We relined the general office ceiling with corrugated steel to respect the industrial character and former use of this heritage building and upgrade disabled facilities as Stage 1 work.

Stage 2 was to obtain notified resource consent for the other half of the building to create two residential apartments with an innovative shared indoor/outdoor amenity living space.

Cycle parking within the building in lieu of demolition for car parking and new roof windows minimised structural intervention to the building. Kauri flooring with whisky vat circular stains, timber and steel roof trusses and bluestone walls with brick detailing were restored to enhance heritage features to add rich colours and textures within the double height living space of the former distillery.

A neutral black and white colour scheme was used to distinguish new work from old. New timber windows and doors were inserted into stone walls to maintain the traditional rhythm and proportional balance of the building. New skylights were added to provide extra natural daylight and enhance the interior space of the kitchen/dining/living and bedrooms.

The layout was arranged to maintain the integrity of roof trusses and gain the best sun light and views from the northern aspect. The commercial and residential tenants are as delighted as the proud owner with the meld of old and new character within these interiors.

Project details

  • Completion:

  • Location:


Contact Us

Gary Todd Architecture


18 Estuary Crescent
Fairfield, Dunedin

Head Office: 03 488 4594

Central Otago

62 Lagoon Avenue
Albert Town, Wanaka

Gary Todd: 027 279 9306


53b Edward Avenue
Edgeware, Christchurch

Courtney Todd: 027 388 6504

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