Zeal Youth Trust has become a key voice and cultural hub for Wellington teenagers. Zeal sees over 200 young people every week through their venue, however the limited space in their previous music and hangout venue meant that there was limited room to grow. The new premises in Ghuznee Street (above Bar Bodega), is twice the size of the old space, but the organisation needed help with the planning and consents for new custom fitout as a performance venue. The original 1930s building was purpose built as a clubroom for the Returned Servicemen’s Association and has a heritage listing status, making it difficult to alter the exterior, and completely non-accessible to its upper level. So apart from the obvious budget constraints working with a charitable trust, the practicalities of upgrading the amenities, fire and egress, and the challenges of accommodating a new internal lift into the heritage lobby, all needed surmounting. Further to this the brief was also demanding requiring multi-use spaces with a high level of acoustic separation.
Generally the existing floor areas suited their space requirements, but they needed practice and recording spaces, a dedicated performance area, and cafe/ gaming spaces, along with four offices and youth worker staff. As well the venue fitout needed to appeal to the Wellington youth target audience. We therefore drew inspiration from the surrounding Cuba Street scene, studying the local graffiti, cafes and music venues in Wellington’s latin quarter.
The space was then designed to incorporate the informal relaxed nature of such nemeses, along with an equally informal architectural language. Utilising a stripped-back and exposed structural shell we divided the space using inserted elements for cafe and practice rooms, using an aesthetic of playful surfaces like astro-turf and blackboard paint, decorated with suspended stolen shopping trolleys, car parts, and graffiti art panels painted by local Wellington youth. The final result is a resounding success, both in design, use and meeting the tight budget. A small office area is situated at the arrival area as that means that functions here can be separated from the performance spaces, where the new lift arrives from the lobby below. After this a 20 seat cafe with gaming spaces doubles as a welcoming space, office overflow and training space during the week. The new cafe space requires coffee and snack food sales and seating for 20, while gaming facilities are nedeed for 10 along with a foosball machine and lounge seating. Beyond this is a performance space for 350-400 in an auditorium-style venue, adjacent with the recording/practice spaces (shared with the local School of Rock) that required acoustic privacy between each of them and also distinct to the main performance space.