PAUA Architects: Cambridge Connection

30 April 2019

The architecture and urban design practice that started life as Antanas Procuta Architects and has now become PAUA Architects was "born" in Cambridge, and has held the development of Cambridge and the local area close to its heart ever since starting out operating from Antanas' family home in Cambridge.

Over the past 24 years Antanas and his team have been making a positive impact on Cambridge, from upgrading and restoring heritage houses like Trecarne, and buildings like the Cambridge Town Hall; to designing contemporary urban homes like the award-winning ‘Southbank' townhouse, and a mix of traditional and modern rural homes for farmers and lifestylers alike; and the urban design of new residential developments Le Quesnoy Place and Cambridge Park.

The practice has also been a long-time member and sponsor of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

Antanas and David Pronger (then the practice's planner, since retired) worked closely with the Chamber on the Vision Cambridge project, which recognised the need to make the town an attractive lifestyle option for the families of business people and developers the town seeks to attract for longer term

Reviving Cambridge's historic buildings

Director Antanas Procuta has a particular passion for restoration and reuse of historic buildings, and as well as sharing his skills in this area through projects throughout Waikato he previously sat on the Waipaā District Council heritage panel.

PAUA Architects has been actively involved with the restoration and upgrade of Cambridge Town Hall since the early 2000s, when it began working with Waipaā District Council to develop a masterplan for restoration and sympathetic upgrade of the town landmark's internal spaces.

A number of these projects, starting with the bathrooms and entrance have been completed in keeping with the building's historic character, and the practice's relationship with council and the town hall has continued through assisting with a feasibility study to make this beautiful historic building a useful community facility into the future.

Cambridge is also a town with many historic homes, listed, protected and otherwise.

PAUA Architects has been fortunate to help the modern owners of several of these to restore and upgrade so they can continue to be useful and enjoyed well into the future.

Cambridge's heritage is much more than ‘old' buildings.

PAUA Architects' principal Antanas Procuta notes that Cambridge has had the advantage of strong planning from the beginning with the forethought of the original land surveyors for the area, who in 1863 created the Cambridge town layout that its residents still live with successfully today.

A feature of this is the towns green belt, which defined the urban realm within it's rural surroundings. Another value that Cambridge identifies strongly with is quality.

Antanas says: "Understanding the heritage nature of Cambridge and its historic architecture is important, but more important is recognising that when the town was originally built there was a focus on quality and creating good architecture for the time.

It's this ethos that should be continued as the town grows and develops.

It's not about copying the aesthetic style of the town's older buildings, but about focusing on good quality and great design as relevant for our current times and that will stand the test of time."

This focus on good design as a legacy of early Cambridge extends beyond buildings to urban design.

As the population grows and more residential properties are needed, developments like Le Quesnoy Place and Cambridge Park demonstrate the success of smaller neighbourhood clusters and walkable urban centres in creating a sense of community and a quality of life Cambridge is proud of.

The European village model is another strong aspect of Cambridge's heritage, and one that Highbridge Properties' owners Frank and Anne Overwater specifically had in mind when they approached PAUA Architects to design Le Quesnoy Place.

PAUA Architects designed interrelating concepts for each of the fourteen houses and with particular attention to the outdoor spaces.

In the design for Cambridge Park, the streets and sections are laid out with a central shared social space, the ‘village green', and includes easy and attractive walking/cycling paths, and openness between property boundaries.

The design prepared by PAUA (then Antanas Procuta Architects) allows for and encourages a variety of housing types including townhouses, duplexes, single, two, and three-storey dwellings within the same neighbourhood.

This in turn invites a diversity of residents across age, lifestyle, and household size, while also providing the higher density needed for expected population growth, in a subtle way that suits the nature of Cambridge.

Tricky CBD site demonstrates value of using architects

The ‘Southbank' townhouse perches cleverly on its oddly shaped, sloping corner site with double road frontage on the fringe of the Cambridge CBD.

It is projects like this, with a small and awkward section, where the skills of a trained and experienced architect are essential to resolve the difficulties of the site and maximise its potential.

This home won an New Zealand Institute of Architects Award in 2015. The judges' citation is as follows:

"This CBD-edge, Cambridge townhouse makes the most of a compact site. The textured, white-painted brick exterior has been arranged to offer privacy against the adjacent street to the north, while focusing instead on the glimpses of trees and magnificent distant views to the east.

The relaxed ambience and good connections to the landscape are a testament to a collaborative working relationship between architect, interior designer, and landscape designer."

Rural living solutions, whatever your style

A senior architect at PAUA Architects, Geoff Lentz says one of his most remarkable designs since joining the practice was for a very contemporary 250sqm ‘farm house' on a hilltop in Roto-o-Rangi.

Working with the client's love of art and colour, Geoff designed a stunning new home for the farm owners, using a series of concrete block structures to create a central, sheltered courtyard.

Also in need of new workers' accommodation elsewhere on the farm, the same clients commissioned PAUA to design a more modest farm manager's house.

Architect Geoff Lentz' award-winning design became known as ‘The Red Shed', for its distinctive red corrugated iron cladding, a choice which manages to look contemporary while referencing the traditional rural barns.

Using the footprint of the milking shed that stood there previously, the u-shaped design of the home wraps around a roofed deck to provide outdoor space sheltered from the prevailing winds.

The interior uses robust, easy care materials befitting the home's rural setting and nature, but the timber cladding on internal walls creates a homely warmth.

Providing good contemporary family living accommodation is one way farm owners can attract good farm managers and their families in an increasingly competitive market.

Future Cambridge

Being local, PAUA's founding director Antanas Procuta identifies plenty of scope for development yet in central Cambridge.

He says this coincides with the need for a lot of buildings to be seismically strengthened or otherwise rebuilt, which offers the potential for rebuilding to three or four-storeys, which would allow for increased residential density within the centre of town.

Antanas believes it is important to get more people living closer to the centre of Cambridge, because the density will allow shops and businesses to remain vital, and it can minimise vehicle use for getting to town, following the European model of walkable urban centres.

The PAUA Architects' team is currently working with several Cambridge clients on projects that will continue the legacy of quality and great design in the town.

Keep an eye out for a new townhouse on Hamilton Road, the Cambridge Museum, and there's even a potential co-housing project brewing.

- Waikato Business News

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