Warren and Mahoney celebrates opening of transformational Commercial Bay Precinct

June 11, 2020
On Thursday 11th June the retail and hospitality precinct at Commercial Bay, Auckland officially opened its doors to the public.

Designed by Warren and Mahoney in association with Woods Bagot and NH Architecture, Commercial Bay brings together the best of retail, workplace, food and fashion in one iconic Auckland location.

“Very few projects unlock as many transformative opportunities as Commercial Bay. It reimagines the traditional ‘inwardly focussed’ shopping centre model as an open, connected and integrated part of the city experience. It’s essentially the suburban ‘Shopping Mall’ turned inside out.” says Blair Johnston, Warren and Mahoney principal, and the lead architect on Commercial Bay.

Johnston says Commercial Bay is more than just a building precinct, it was an opportunity to set a new standard of design at the core of our biggest city.

“It’s easy to talk about architecture as an object, but when you look at what we have achieved here, it’s not about creating an individual, stand-alone building, but rather the creation of new public lanes, the reinvention of existing streets and the framing of new public spaces. This is fundamentally an urban regeneration project. We had a rare chance to re-imagine a whole city block in the heart of the CBD of a growing city. It’s far more powerful than a single building, and has the capacity to influence Auckland far beyond the boundaries of its actual site.

“The precinct was designed around one central principle; it should provide experiences that are authentic to Auckland, resulting in a place that is open and inclusive for all Aucklanders to experience and enjoy.

“Commercial Bay draws inspiration from the best of urban regeneration projects in Melbourne, London, and Munich – but combines these influences with local narratives to deliver an outcome which is distinctively of and for Auckland. It is intentionally urban and textured, rather than the slick and sanitised experience of the contemporary shopping mall.”

Urban precincts are increasingly blended combinations of transport, workplace, retail and entertainment uses. Commercial Bay responds to this global shift toward mixed-use development while supporting the extension of the city centre experience to include the night-time and weekend economy.

Commercial Bay’s 18,000sqm of retail space creates a new type of retail experience based around a series of open, public lanes building upon and strengthening Auckland’s identity as a laneway city. The three retail levels can be explored by shoppers who will catch unexpected glimpses of the natural landscape, dramatic harbour views and city connections.

Johnston says the development also supports the transformation of Auckland’s city centre into a pedestrian prioritised environment.

“The project creates two entirely new pedestrian routes through the city block, enhancing the pedestrian experience. It also enables effective public transport connectivity – connecting bus, ferry and rail infrastructure and incorporating the construction of the City Rail Link tunnels which sit beneath the retail space.”

Through its architecture, Commercial Bay responds to Auckland's natural landscape, incorporating forms, materials, planting, and patterns that reference the familiar cliffs and headlands of the Waitemata Harbour.

Johnston says that they were fortunate to work within such a privileged location where the city centre meets the Waitemata – with some of the best scenery and vibrant urban experiences Auckland has to offer.

“Commercial Bay seamlessly links the length of Auckland’s waterfront into a continuous boulevard from Wynyard Quarter in the West to Britomart in the East creating a connected waterfront experience which will come to define the city.”.

After leading the design from masterplan to the opening this week, the team at Warren and Mahoney believes Commercial Bay will bring a much-needed boost to the retail and hospitality industry after a tough few months and most importantly, bring people together to enjoy Auckland’s world-class centre for food, fashion and lifestyle culture in New Zealand.