11 reasons to visit Dunedin if you’re into architecture and art

25 September 2019

As its heritage is restored and celebrated, a youthful new energy brews in Dunedin. Here are 11 places to visit if you enjoy good food, fabulous art and interesting architecture

The Waterfront Industry Commission building near the port.

1. Vogel Street warehouse precinct

A decade ago, the 19th-century warehouses that were built to house wool for export were virtually derelict. In the past few years, they’ve been restored and now house cafes (Vogel St Kitchen, Heritage Coffee and Precinct) and the new burger joint, Good Good. For a walking tour of the area, book in with Athol Parks of City Walks, who explains the boom, bust and rebirth of this regenerated precinct.

The tessellated concrete facade of the Archway Building by Ted McCoy bears big, blue graphic numbers.

2. Architecture

As well as neo-Gothic and brick heavyweights, there’s modernism, too. Moana Pool (60 Littlebourne Road, Roslyn) was designed in the 1950s by city architect Bill Hesson. Go early in the morning to see light spill through its wall of windows. At the port, you’ll find the Seafarers Building (2 Birch Street) designed in the 1960s with brick and Mondrian-inspired panels. The former hostel is now occupied by Plato – go for the excellent seafood.

The heritage-listed Dental School (at the University of Otago) is a Corbusian building by Ian Reynolds and government architect Gordon Wilson, with a pioneering glass-curtain facade and brilliant use of colour (undergoing redevelopment by Jasmax, its classic features preserved).

Beside Leith River, the Brutalist Richardson Building by the legendary Ted McCoy has a facade of tessellated concrete and spectacular in-situ concrete staircase. But the best of the lot is McCoy’s Archway Building (1973). Its rake of theatres is clearly articulated in the hovering, suspended form, pillars holding up angled concrete panels with super-graphic blue numbers.

The Chamberson, a former warehouse built in 1910, is now a boutique hotel.

3. Chamberson Hotel

The Chamberson is an exercise in careful layering – its heritage elements laid bare with clever modern insertions designed by Nikki Wilson. The city location makes for easy walking to key areas.

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery has a fine line-up of exhibitions.

4. Dunedin Public Art Gallery

The postmodern building hosts an excellent exhibition programme, with shows by Tony De Lautour and Shannon Novak on until late this year, plus a large-scale work by John Reynolds exploring Colin McCahon’s famous lost hours in Sydney.

5. Blue Oyster and Brett McDowell Gallery

Facing each other on Dowling Street, Blue Oyster Art Project Space is an experimental gallery dedicated to emerging artists; McDowell shows contemporary New Zealand artists in a charming heritage gallery.

‘Giant Moa’ by British street artist, Phlegm, at 85 Moray Place.

6. Mazagran

Stop in for a perfect short black at Mazagran, just off the Octagon. Cash only. 36 Moray Place

7. Dead Souls Bookshop

Maybe it’s all the students, but Dunedin does a good line in second-hand book stores. The best for friendly service and an excellent range of books is Dead Souls.

Dunedin City.

8. Duty Bound

Dunedin once had a thriving printing industry. That’s almost all gone, except for David Stedman, who repairs rare books and binds new ones with vintage machinery. 57 Crawford St.

9. New New New

Dunedin’s newest craft brewery is located in a restored 1870s tram building and has a retro sci-fi feel. Try a chilli pilsner or peach and nectarine sour. A beer garden opens this summer.

Moeity is located in the Queens Gardens warehouse precinct.

10. Moiety

Moiety serves five courses for a very reasonable $65. The restaurant’s warm interiors within a restored warehouse make it an inviting place to be.

Esplanade restaurant on the beach at St Clair.

11. No 7 Balmac

Katrina Toovey’s neighbourhood restaurant (no7balmac.co.nz) on Maori Hill recently re-opened after a post-fire hiatus. Take II by Cheshire Architects has dark blue walls, warm timber and a red marble bar – a polished neighbourhood dining room. Esplanade is the sister restaurant – also conceived by Cheshire – on the waterfront at St Clair. Pasta and pizza made on-site daily.

Words by: Simon Farrell-Green. Photography by: David Straight, Simon Devitt, Simon Farrell-Green.

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