24 Nov 105 Queen Street – Guardian Trust Building
105 Queen Street, Auckland “Guardian Trust”
“PLEASE NOTE; WE ARE NOT RENTAL AGENTS OR HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE BODY CORPORATE FOR THIS BUILDING”
This steel-framed structure was one of Auckland’s first ‘high-rise’ office blocks and marks an important transition between Victorian commercial structures and modern office buildings. It was built during the First World War as the headquarters of the New Zealand Insurance Company (NZI), which had been founded by local businessmen in 1859.
NZI specialised in marine and fire insurance, and had branches throughout the British Empire, America and the Far East. By the early 1900s most of the firm’s profits came from its overseas operations, and it began to rebuild many of its offices from 1909, initially in Australia and then in New Zealand.
The eight-storey structure housed head and branch office accommodation, as well a further 137 offices for let to other firms. It replaced a three-storey NZI building on the site, which had itself been considered an imposing Queen Street landmark. Designed by William Gummer, the new structure was modelled on turn-of-the-century commercial buildings in America and elsewhere, and was of Stripped Classical style. Stripped Classical adapted nineteenth-century classical architecture to the requirements of twentieth-century office blocks, which included a need for height and a large amount of natural light.
The size of the new headquarters dramatically exceeded most other office structures in the city, enabling the company to project an image of solidity and wealth while generating a long-term income from rent. The building, which incorporates a clock from the earlier NZI structure on the site, was refurbished in the 1960s. After the NZI merged with the South British Insurance Company in 1982, it was renamed the New Zealand Guardian Trust Building and extended with an additional storey.
In 2003, it was remodeled as an apartment building with commercial units on the lower floors. It was upgraded to building code earthquake standards, and its units were made freehold within a Body Corporate ownership of the commons. With its high ceilings, the small apartments become a valuable, affordable yet delightful foot in the city. With the nearby upgrades of Britomart, the Viaduct, Tank Farm, the waterfront (including The Cloud at the bottom of Queen Street, and the up-scaling of the several blocks surrounding the Guardian building, the apartments find themselves in the middle of the most vibrant urban core in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Guardian Trust Building is significant as the earliest remaining high-rise office block in Auckland, reflecting important changes in commercial design and the organisation of business in early twentieth-century New Zealand. It is important for its associations with the NZI, which was one of the first public companies in the country to be floated using local finance. The structure is an early example of a Stripped Classical design, and the earliest major building by William Gummer, one of the most influential architects in early twentieth-century New Zealand. It has important landmark qualities and makes a significant contribution to the Queen Street streetscape.
It is valuable as one of a group of historic buildings in the Queen Street and Shortland Street area that show successive changes in commercial design and organisation from the nineteenth to the early twentieth century.