Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Further Futuna

Following up on my previous post, the Futuna topic on the Arch Centre forums has already attracted some heated posts. I've added this modest suggestion:


I lack the expertise to comment on the political or physical feasibility of the move, but there's another question: if it is moved, what uses would be acceptable, viable and relevant to this unique building?

The Waitangi Park design brief suggests the following ground-floor uses for new buildings:

Site 1: "Boutique delicatessen style stores", or "eat-in or take-away food outlets"

Site 2: "A variety of recreational activities such as kayak hire, rock climbing, mountain bike hire etc.", or "Recreation related retail. Retail/interactive activity outlets"

Site 3: "Creative café that is a coffee venue during the day and a restaurant/bar in the evening capable of hosting live performances, demonstrations or exhibitions. Outlets for hiring recreational equipment. Retail stores", or "Retail outlets. Gymnasium/health club"

Site 4: "Chinese tea house. Gallery space" or "Function centre"

There's no call for a Catholic chapel, but if we go beyond that narrowest definition of its function, Futuna is two things. Firstly, "a place of reflection and contemplation, of meditation and inspiration" (from http://www.johnscott.net.nz/pages/futuna.html), and secondly, an iconic work of New Zealand architecture that fuses modernism and Maori influences. Are any of the Waitangi uses compatible with these qualities? Few of us would like to see Futuna end up as a fish 'n' chip shop or bike rental outlet, but some of the other uses might be promising.

The gallery option seems most appropriate, perhaps doubling as a function centre and performance space, and this suggests Site 4 (the "transition building") as the best location. Furthermore, the brief states that this site will "provide an extension of the public exhibition space available to [Te Papa] ... . The concept ... is a focus on ‘the contemporary’ – primarily contemporary art and visual culture but with a breadth of view over contemporary ideas, popular culture, and including contemporary Maori and Pacific art, and extending to fashion and design.". Given Futuna's vital place in 20th Century NZ design and art, how about this for a concept:

- a semi-permanent exhibition on the history of NZ architecure
- space for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, craft and design
- a venue for evening lectures and performances
- the building itself as prize exhibit

Physically, Futuna could be located at the northern end of the site (appropriately, near the atea, waka landing beach and Pacific garden), with the rest of the Site 4 programme (Chinese tea house, galleries, offices and accommodation) in a separate building to the south. Futuna's powerful geometry could provide strong design cues for the new building without being too prescriptive. The purpose may not be as spiritual as a chapel, but it could certainly count as "contemplation" and "inspiration", as well as celebrating its architecture.

Does this sound desirable? Feasible?


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