GOVERNMENT LIFE - TOWER BUILDING

PROJECT TYPE: HERITAGE

USE: OFFICE

LOCATION: CUSTOMHOUSE QUAY

CLIENT: GOVERNMENT LIFE

ARCHITECTS: WORKS CONSULTANCY

PROJECT TIMEFRAME: 1985 - 1987

In 1985 Government Life, then one of the country’s financial giants, called for tenders for a $5 million refurbishment of their Customhouse Quay headquarters. It was one of the biggest refurbishments Wellington had seen and LT McGuinness’s biggest job to date.

Constructed in 1936, the building was an art-deco classic: strong, hot-steel riveted and encased in concrete. Computers were just coming into vogue and the building became Wellington’s first to have raised timber floors so that ‘the spaghetti’ – the computer, power and telephone cabling – could run underneath. The total flooring area was 150,000 square feet. Each floor had to be demolished and re-built while staff kept normal operations running. It was a tight timeframe with 12 weeks allocated for each floor.

Many original fittings and furnishings were restored, such as the rimu doors with their brass plates and screws, and the staircases, main entrance foyer and exterior stonework.

The refurbishment ran during the 1980s’ share market boom when the Stock Exchange occupied the bottom floor. Work often took place at weekends and nights so as not to disrupt trading.

The job was completed ahead of schedule in April 1987. LT McGuinness went on to complete a high-class re-fit of the top floor occupied by law firm Phillips Shayle George, now Phillips Fox. Government Life itself was later re-named Tower Corporation.