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

Monday, March 13, 2006

A walk in the park

The Dominion Post has finally twigged to the existence of Waitangi Park, and after two weeks of people enjoying the park, it has a front page story saying that the park "is now open". The story is accompanied by a photo of breathtakingly ugly dog, looking more like a drowned rat than a spaniel as it emerges from the wetlands. By the way: what is it with spaniels at the moment? First Spanky, and now this guy.

Petanque at Waitangi ParkThe promenades, playground and skate park have all been popular, as I mentioned, and I recently saw the petanque piste being used for the first time. I imagine this will become more popular once the kiosk is ready (based upon the not unreasonable assumption that it will hire out sets of boules). The NZ petanque community is getting excited too, with some nice photos and a map that looks vaguely familiar. The gravel beds in the background of my photo have now been planted with reeds, so this southeast corner of the park is gradually coming together.

A 'melon head' at Waitangi ParkIn the southwest corner is what's known as the "graving dock extension garden", which has a distinctly beachy feel with driftwood and shells among the boulders, reeds and assorted coastal plants. While it's obviously not a structured playground like other parts of the park, it has proved quite popular with kids. Someone also seems to have found an outlet for their creative urges here, combining gravel and driftwood with a discarded melon from the Sunday market (currently held just north of the Les Arts Sauts dome) to make this little head.

Spray from the Waitangi StreamAnd it turns out that the Water Whirler is not the only new kinetic aquatic sculpture on the waterfront. At the northwest corner, where the reborn Waitangi Stream empties into the little beach by Chaffers Marina, there's a small waterfall beneath the bridge. Normally this is quiet and unspectacular, but when there's a decent northerly blowing, the water has trouble making progress against the wind and gets blown back into the graving dock in furious plumes of spray. Every now and then there's a lull in the wind, allowing the backlog of water to pour out with a great splash. I'm not sure whether this was expected by the designers, but I think it gives a dramatic extra dimension to the park.

None of these little details and unexpected quirks would have been possible if the park had ended up the way that some in Waterfront Watch would have preferred: as a flat green paddock with a few flower beds. Sure, it would have been cheaper (and all the contaminated earth would have lain beneath it as a lovely surprise for later generations), but this park design not only works better in the grand gestures but gives much more scope for creativity and ongoing interest than a boring municipal sports field would have done. Photographers have certainly responded to the park, as a look at the Flickr tags "waitangipark" and "waitangi+park" indicates. If you're interested in more about how the park came to be and what's still to come, the park's designer Megan Wraight will be giving a guided tour around the park at 6pm this Wednesday (the 15th) as an Architecture Centre event.


Post a Comment

<< Home