Shortland Flats

93 Shortland Street And Bankside Street, Auckland

  • Shortland Flats. Image courtesy of -
    Copyright: geoff-inOz. Taken By: geoff-inOz. Date: 17/11/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4599 Date Entered 10th September 1987


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allot 15 Sec 4 City of Auckland DP 16596 (CT NA370/217), North Auckland Land District, and the building known as Shortland Flats thereon.

City/District Council

Auckland Council (Auckland City Council)


Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Allot 15 Sec 4 City of Auckland DP 16596 (CT NA370/217), North Auckland Land District


Built in 1923-4 to a design by Auckland architects McDonald, Mullions and Smith, the six-storey inner-city Shortland Flats of reinforced concrete-frame construction with concrete-block infill are a rare Auckland example of an apartment building of neo-Gothic style. The flats are architecturally significant as one of three surviving 1920s modernist buildings with neo-Gothic exterior styling designed by the practice for sites in the locality, and reflect the influence of the Inter-war Skyscraper Gothic style of Smith’s former North American homeland. The Shortland Flats have historical significance as one of number of fashionable inner-city apartment blocks built in the inter-war period on sites on or near the north end of Auckland’s prestigious Symonds Street ridge, and are notable for their distinctive ownership model established in 1922 and which remains in effect.

Prior to European arrival, the site was part of a significant Maori landscape that incorporated a pa known as Te Rerengaoraiti. Shortly after creation of the colonial capital in 1840, Allotment 15 was subdivided and buildings erected. Three two-storey timber buildings occupied by small-business owners appear on 1866 and 1882 maps of Auckland. The site, vacant as early as 1895, changed hands in 1920 with reports in July 1921 of a projected block of flats designed by Auckland architects McDonald, Mullions and Smith.

The Shortland was one of number of fashionable inner-city apartment blocks built in the inter-war period close to Albert Park, Old Government House, and the Northern Club. The concrete-framed structure with concrete floors, concrete block walls and moulded plastered exterior detailing was the second of three neo-Gothic-style high-rise developments designed by the practice with structural engineer Joseph Stanleigh McAven. The Waitemata County Offices were completed 1922 in the same block; and the Chancery Chambers in 1925 in nearby O’Connell Street. As former engineer for the Ferro-concrete Company of Australasia Limited, McAven was involved in construction of Grafton Bridge (1907-1910); and C. Fleming McDonald (d.1922) founder of the architectural practice, was the contractor for the New Zealand Express Company Building, Dunedin, a project using concrete construction techniques new to New Zealand in 1908-10.

In February 1923, work began on the six-storey block notable for its balconies and large window openings promoting good air circulation. The landmark visible from the Waitemata Harbour had four residential flats on each floor, an electric lift, and basement with laundry and a caretaker’s flat. Under a novel scheme that may have been a first in New Zealand, tenants were shareholders in a company established by Mullions and Smith to own the land and building. Each shareholder had exclusive right of occupancy to a flat, but flats were not individually owned. Shareholders included individuals involved in the project: Sholto Smith, Joseph McAven, building contractor Noel Cole, steel-window maker Arthur Woolnough, and John King a merchant plumber. Early occupiers included married and single women, and male white-collar workers and professionals. Tourists from as far afield as Britain, North America and Australia took apartments for short periods. Notwithstanding the convenient location, drawbacks included smoke blowing in the windows from the nearby Grand Hotel and Bycroft’s mill, a nuisance that may have hastened infilling of service porches on the east and west elevations. In addition to internal alterations to individual apartments over the years, the rails of the three, north-facing canted balconies on the upper floor were removed prior to the 1960s; metal windows were replaced over time with timber-framed windows, which were in turn replaced with aluminium windows of a different pattern. Some internal walls in the entrance foyer were removed in the early 1980s.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Cole, N.

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

McDonald, Mullions and Smith

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Joseph McAven

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1923 -

Timber-framed windows replaced steel

Aluminium-framed windows throughout

Completion Date

16th May 2015

Report Written By

Joan McKenzie

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Northern Region Office of Heritage New Zealand