To be quite Frank
The council recently announced that the Frank Kitts Park design brief is open for public submission. The brief itself is light in detail, but of course that's exactly as it should be: it's not a design yet, but a brief to the designers to specify the elements and qualities required of the park. Some of these are:
- including a Chinese Garden
- retaining successful features of the existing park (such as the playground, performance space and the various plaques)
- reduction in pedestrian/vehicle conflicts at the northern end of the park (the Hilton tunnel should help with that)
- doing something about the relationship with the TSB Arena (otherwise known as the Events Centre, or "that big piece of crap")
- improving relationships to the water (the brief specifies that "This might include exploring the character of the park as a unique 'green' edge to the waterfront promenade")
- considering a connection to the corner of Jervois Quay and Willeston St
- possibly improving the viewshaft down Willeston St (currently blocked by raised stairs and a ramp)
The Chinese Garden might reduce some of the flat space available for the Dragon Boat Festival and other events, but removing the big concrete bunker walls should provide a much more flexible space in combination with the promenade, making it a non-issue. And of course, the Chinese Garden isn't taking away from the public space but providing a new type of public space, one that should be more pleasant and interesting than the tired, left-over bits of space that make up much of the park.
The one concern I have is that there's no mention of a public or invited competition for the design. There are rumours that specific design solutions are already being considered, and while some of the elements sound intriguing (volleyball spaces, beer gardens), I'd prefer to see a range of designers provide their ideas for such a tricky brief. In the past, I've seen student projects have a go at redesigning the park, and some fun suggestions have resulted (canals, blowholes, breakwaters), so I think it's worth having a more open and imaginative approach to developing a design.
Anyway, here are some of the things that I think should be priorities for the redesign. If you have any of your own, go ahead and post them here or make a submission.
- Bring life after dark (perhaps the Chinese Garden "teahouse" should open out into the public spaces as well as into the enclosed garden)
- Break down the linearity of the seawall (for example, by extending a short breakwater or jetty along the line of Willeston St)
- Provide flexibility and adaptability, so that there are plenty of edges and intimate spaces most of the time, but the spaces can join together to host large events
- Retain or relocate mature trees where possible: Waitangi Park shows how sad brand-new little trees can look before they're established
- Provide "playful landscapes" that children can play on, but that aren't traditional "play equipment"
- Improve connections with the lagoon as well as with the harbour (after all, what's a lagoon without a Tiki Bar?)