Imagine you have to transform a rustic wharf shed into an inviting eating establishment.

What’s more, you have to keep the character of the shed and do justice to one of Auckland’s best views.

Where do you start?

That was the challenge offered to Peter Parkin, owner-operator of the award-winning Jack Tar, in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter.

We talked to Peter about the architectural journey from shed to eatery.

Tell us about Jack Tar.

I’d just come back from overseas and a contact asked me to have a look at this wharf shed in Auckland – the last one. Opportunities like that don’t come along very often. I contacted Mike Davies (Architecture HDT) and we looked at the site together.  The Council wanted us to keep the integrity of the site – basically a tin shed. And come up with a viable business concept. We were both very excited.

How did you come up with the concept?

Well I’d been to a place in Perth. Same sort of location on a waterfront. We took inspiration from that and built on it. We put together an operational food and beverage concept for Council and they accepted it.

Did you have a particular market in mind?

Anyone with a mouth! We’re strongly food oriented. We do 300-400 breakfasts on the weekend. Then lunch and dinner till midnight. It’s a true seven day a week business.

In your view, how important is the design of a bar or eatery to your overall success?

Hugely! Hugely, important. The challenge was to take this tin shed and turn into a place that people wanted to visit. Sound was a big one. You have to think about that in the design.  And keeping the integrity of the original shed.  That was huge.  I’d worked with Mike before. We’ve done at least a dozen developments together. So I didn’t need to train him about how a bar works and what a kitchen needs. He knows that stuff.

What advice would you give to people planning a hospitality development about working with an architect?

Establish a budget! That the first thing.  And coming up with a shared vision. Having a shared understanding of what you want. There are so many features that make a place work, the services, the kitchens as well as what happens on the floor. Mike and I have a whole day sit down to work those things out. Compliance is becoming quite a major. It always has been. Your design has to comply with licensing, fire, health, safety. Mike deals with those kinds of things really well. You need to have a good relationship with regulatory people.

Did you have any worries about taking this project on?

I was sh*tting myself the whole time! But you know, we won an award.  That was great for Mike.

And if you’re curious – here’s a snippet from what the New Zealand Institute of Architects had to say about Jack Tar in 2012.

‘This is heritage architecture at its clearest and most effective.’

But you don’t have to believe the experts.

If you haven’t already been, go and see for yourself. Visit Jack Tar.



Thanks to Peter Parkin for sharing his thoughts for this article.


2012 NZIA award in the heritage category citation

This is heritage architecture at its clearest and most effective. The architects have converted a wharf shed into a waterfront bar without compromising the fabric of the existing building or betraying its robust simplicity. The respect accorded the old building is evident in the careful insertion of new elements, and the legibility of the structural strengthening.

Tags: New Zealand, architects, architecture, hospitality, bar, restaurant, design, Auckland, Jack Tar, Peter Parkin, Architecture HDT, Wynyard Quarter, Waterfront

About Architecture and Design NZ

Bringing expert insight and advice on commercial space and building design.  Architecture and Design NZ is co-edited by Mark Bates, Mike Davies and Geoff Glynan, directors at Architecture HDT, specialists in designing and building cafes, bars and restaurants in New Zealand.

Architecture HDT are based in Wellington and the Hawkes Bay.