Christopher Beer Architect Limited
Christopher Beer Architect_Empire_01.jpg


Empire, Cambridge, New Zealand. An architectural design for a mixed-use commercial building incorporating retail, office and residential spaces, designed by Christopher Beer Architect Limited.



An existing retail store and a series of associated lean-to structures are removed to allow for a more dense urban form to be created. This form consists of buildings which abut street frontages to the west and east, mediated by a central courtyard linking the two, which provides the dual role of occupant circulation, and air and light provision.

Cafe and restaurant spaces are provided on the ground floor, with glazed openings providing access and views to and from both the street and the courtyard. An existing early twentieth-century building on the southern-western corner of the site is retained, and its unadorned rear elevation provides the western edge of the courtyard. The most visible element of the removed retail store, its profiled steel elevation, is retained in order to give the new elevation familiarity. The interior spaces are formed around loosely-arranged fixed objects and fittings, with these objects forming walls, counters and bench seating, and the fittings consisting of windows, doors, handrails, loose seating and the like.

An open, central stair provides access to the spaces above, and allows users' movements through the building to be visible, promoting social interaction. The eastern building opens at both western and eastern ends, providing natural light and ventilation to the interior. The narrower western building has necessarily smaller openings at the ends, and internal lightwells are provided to bring natural light into the interior spaces from above.

Overall, the building provides retail, office and residential spaces, arranged with public spaces against the street, and private spaces above. This mix of uses ensures the building is occupied and active both day and night, reducing the tendency of the town centre towards daytime only occupation.


Empire, Cambridge, New Zealand