Article Photo

Revitalising history: A contemporary take on Art Deco at 191 Cuba Street

10 May 2024

You only have to wander down the streets Wellington to notice how much history the city has. Vibrant Cuba Street is home to some of these wonders, with one in particular heritage building to note – 191 Cuba Street.  

Formerly known as the Patrick’s Buildings, the existing building, a category 2 listed historic building, is one of two parts - a 1904 building on the Cuba Street frontage incorporated into a 1930 building wrapping around the corner onto Vivian Street. 

This iconic site, boasting a fusion of Art Deco charm and historic significance, recently underwent a remarkable transformation spearheaded by Sam Martin from Foundation Architects. The project involved seismic strengthening, facade refurbishment and a base build upgrade, culminating in the creation of a new ground-level hospitality space that breathes new life into the intersection of the two streets. 

With a base of ReseneHalf Concrete, an ode to the heritage site, detailing was painted in Resene Catskill White, Resene Spring Rain, ReseneHigh Noon and Resene Black Forest. 

Sam’s architectural vision aimed not only to restore the building to its former glory but also to infuse it with a contemporary vibrancy that resonates with the spirit of Art Deco. This vision found expression in a meticulously curated colour scheme, expertly crafted using Resene paints and products. 

Drawing inspiration from Art Deco buildings both locally and globally, the colour palette pays homage to the iconic style while embracing the demands of modernity. At the heart of the scheme lies Resene Half Concrete, a crisp body colour chosen to accentuate the building's fenestration and intricate detailing. This neutral backdrop serves as the canvas upon which the vibrant hues of the facade come to life. 

From muted pastels to bold accents, each colour was strategically chosen to highlight the building's distinctive features and create a sense of depth and vitality. 

In a nod to the colourful terrazzo tiles selected by Allistarcox for the shopfront façade, five complementary Resene colours were chosen. Sam explains the choice behind these, “The vertical accent colour Resene Catskill White complements the base colour and adds another layer of depth. Resene Spring Rain is the first accent, providing a gentle contrasting colour for the consistent ornamentation and smaller motifs that require less attention. Resene High Noon is the second accent, highlighting key decorative details of the buildings, and lastly the original steel joinery suite is painted in Resene Black Forest to make the windows recede into the façade, creating contrast against the main body of the building.” 

“The building’s Art Deco facade detailing is considered a contrasting presence in the historic Cuba Street streetscape and the site is both prominent and unique as it still has heritage buildings on each of the four corners of the intersection.” 

Vibrant terrazzo tiles inspired the shades that adorn the detailing on the building in colours Resene Catskill White, Resene Spring Rain, Resene High Noon and Resene Black Forest.

“The refurbishment of the original steel windows required a careful specification process of the correct Resene paint system along with close onsite monitoring and Resene's QA procedures to ensure the correct paint buildup was achieved for long term durability of this element,” Sam says. Through careful attention to detail this historic element was successfully restored to its former glory, contributing to the overall authenticity of the project. 

Central to the success of this project was the use of Resene X-200 weathertight membrane as the overall paint system, providing the integrity and durability necessary to withstand the test of time. This basecoat, applied across the entire facade, served as the foundation upon which the accent colours were layered using Resene Lumbersider Low Sheen, ensuring both longevity and ease of application. 

This project won the well-deserved Resene Total Colour Commercial Exterior Colour Maestro Award in the latest Resene Total Colour Awards. The judges said: "Each colour chosen is complex and demands closer attention to appreciate the care and detail in their placement. This painstaking colour work has come together beautifully. The palette is deliberately understated, with just the right touch of colours in just the right places to energise the building by highlighting the forms without overwhelming them. Colour celebrates and brings the heritage to the fore." 

191 Cuba Street is not only a beacon of architectural excellence but also a testament to the transformative power of colour and design. With its seamless blend of heritage charm and contemporary flair, this iconic landmark is poised to captivate and inspire for generations to come. 

design Sam Martin, Foundation Architects 

buildIronhorse Construction 

Published: 10 May 2024