Does Queenstown have an architectural character

What is Queenstown's personality when it comes to building designs?

Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron, who is visiting from the USA with a Sister City delegation, says Queenstown is lacking in architectural character.

Award-winning architect Michael Wyatt – who has designed many of Queenstown's most well-known buildings, including the new Eichardt's extension – acknowledged the resort was missing "local flavour" but said it also had diversity.

However, no styles should be enforced when designing Queenstown centre buildings, he said.

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"It does not have hell of a lot of unity. But does it have to?" 

Wyatt said he appreciated the architectural freedom he had when working on town projects.

"Obviously there has to be rules but I would hate for someone to write a book on how to design Queenstown. That would take away the creativity."

Architect Jackie Gillies, who specialises in heritage projects, said the resort's style was linked to its goldmining heritage.

"Queenstown is never going to be a pretty little village in the mountains. 

"No amount of stone is going to make a crap design nice but you do hope for quality architecture and it should not fake heritage, it should be a continued design rather than specific periods," she said.

She worked on the Queenstown Lakes District Council's town centre character guidelines in 2007, which became requirements when included in the latest District Plan.

"It was based on the historic heritage buildings that were still remaining. The intention was not to encourage fakery but to encourage creativity that was sympathetic to the history of Queenstown, which I think we managed," Gillies said.

For the town's character to remain, the buildings should be "human scale" – two or three levels in narrow sections. 

"I personally fear that the increase in densities and heights is actually going to compromise the heritage qualities of the town quite significantly in the future. 

Gillies said creating the town centre character guidelines was "extremely worthwhile".

However, she did not think they had been very successful when they were not mandatory.

Wyatt said the urban design panel was a good influence on the town design.

"They are stopping some things coming into the district that are completely inappropriate," he said. 

A lack of history was another reason why Queenstown did not have its own flavour, he said.

"It's not like we are in a context where in Europe the traditions go back hundreds and hundreds of years."

Wyatt designed Central Otago-style buildings at the start of his career in the district and felt "they belonged here".

People's taste had been influenced by magazines and TV programmes since 1976 though, he said.

"It opened their eyes to all these possibilities and they wanted to explore that."

For a young town, Queenstown had ambitious developments and continuous growth, Wyatt said.

"I have enjoyed the freedom in the last 20 years. It made more things possible."

His most recent project – a $6 million expansion of the Eichardt's Private Hotel with $10,000-a-night penthouse and restaurant downstairs – was completed a year ago.

A modern development next to the historical hotel in the heart of town, it had sparked discussion and raised some eyebrows.

"What people hate now is what they like in 25 years," Wyatt said.

The two buildings were a "nice fit" with similar texture and height, he said.

 - Stuff