The 61-unit apartment building was finished in 2017. Replete with pool, jacuzzi, and shared courtyard, it has become part of a transformation connecting upper Symonds Street with Newmarket by introducing residential apartments to the area. The University of Auckland’s newly established Newmarket campus, just down Khyber Pass, makes the naming of Hypatia after a 4th century Greek mathematician especially apt.
Architecturally, the building speaks multiple languages. This is fitting, as it needs to talk to St Peter’s College opposite, the revived Grafton Train Station alongside, as well as the low-rise housing down Huntly Ave. The façade of Hypatia is pastiche of styles, merging red and cream brickwork and clear green fibre glass panels with precast patterned concrete panels carved with Māori designs.
These panels – the building’s most striking feature – were crafted by artist Reuben Kirkwood, the kaiwhakairo (head carver) for Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki. Extending to the interior walls of the lobby, the panels are cut with haehae and raumoa, (parallel grooves and ridges). The resulting designs refer to niho taniwha (the teeth of the taniwha), unaunahi (fishscales), manaia (bird heads), rauponga (the growth of a tree fern), and whakarare (distortion, like that caused by seismic activity). These panels connect Hypatia to the area’s profound history. The immediate area, sloping toward the volcanic field that now forms the Domain, is referred to as Pukekawa, the Hill of Bitter Memories, as it was the site of significant battles between iwi.
The idea of looking towards and extending to the sky influenced Hypatia’s design, starting with the strong vertical precast elements on the Khyber Pass street frontage. The shape of the building forms two wings, with an internal courtyard that opens out to the sky on the fourth level. The spandrels create clean horizontal lines around the building, which is softened on the corner with a gentle curve.