WellUrban

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

Friday, September 28, 2007

Intense sunshine

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aBc competition winners at the IntensCITY exhibitionCongrats to Jesse Matthews and Matt Lee for their winning entry in the aBc competition, which, as the judges said, "offers a visionary plan for Wellington over a 30 year timeframe, which uses an investment in high frequency public transport to direct urban growth. It placed a strong emphasis on public space, and broadening the structure and density of the CBD to Te Aro and other important town centres." Advanced transit systems such as light rail (and occasionally monorails) featured in most of the entries, as far as I could tell. An amazing amount of effort went into many of the entries, and the exhibition is well worth checking out (in the State Insurance Building atrium until next Friday). The other winners have been posted here.

Capital Centre: Look AgainIf you're up the government end of town, one exhibition you can see while enjoying the sun is Capital Centre: Look Again. At the basic level, it's just a simple set of posters with images and historical descriptions of significant government buildings, but by closing off the corner of Aitken and Molesworth streets and setting the exhibition on a raised platform accessed via grassy slopes or steel stairs, the designers have given it a point of difference. Those thin Cor-Ten steel uprights could get a bit dramatic in a proper northerly, though!

But while it's both sunny and (relatively) calm, the space currently known as Wharf Plaza looks like the place to be. I popped down at lunchtime to eat a sandwich, and lots of other people had the same idea.

New public space at KumutotoThe new benches, while lacking in lumbar support, allow people to sit in a variety of configurations, and the parallel rows of lights and pohutukawa provide some linearity and definition to a space that might otherwise have rather vague proportions. This is one of the spaces that Waterfront Watch would have us believe to be "narrow, sunless alleys" (they must hate Melbourne!), whereas in reality it feels wide and spacious with a variety of harbour views. Now, if we could only do something about that ugly shed on the outer T...

9 Comments:

At 2:26 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Evad Rehtona said...

It is an interesting exhibition, though I was rather disappointed that the judges tended to go for entries that promoted time-worn impractical things like monorails* and cabin-taxis.

Practical and well-used (overseas)solutions such as light rail certainly featured in the entries and it was interesting seeing Tom and others putting their lines to the airport directly under the runway from Rongotai to the terminal, which of course is the route followed by the old tram routes to Seatoun and Miramar (there used to be a road that continued into the present Broadway, before work began on the runway circa 1958).

* If ever there was a solution looking for a problem it is the monorail. One hundred years and still looking. Cabin taxis have their place at Changi airport and such like, I suppose, but not as urban public transport.

But while it's both sunny and (relatively) calm, the space currently known as Wharf Plaza looks like the place to be. I popped down at lunchtime to eat a sandwich, and lots of other people had the same idea.

Smoker's Park was packed as I went past on the way to see the aBc entries. Certainly, it was sunny, but nine out of 10 people there chain smoke through their lunch breaks which long ago forced my wife and me to go elsewhere for our sunny lunches. Including the wharves... they are a hike from my office, and hard to get to over that awful motorway, but a joy to sit at in the sun. I rather like the developments that Waterfront Watch has opposed.

 
At 3:15 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"I was rather disappointed that the judges tended to go for entries that promoted time-worn impractical things like monorails* and cabin-taxis."

I should have posted the judges' comments as well:

"We were looking for ideas that would help the city to begin to restructure its transport planning network toward more sustainable principles, and to better knit together urban development and transport. The winner's ideas were truly bold and original. We also really liked aspects of the three runners-up work but not all. For example, we have reservations about the suggested use of elevated monorail systems that a number of entrants proposed. We were impressed by the breadth of ideas generated, and the exceptional amount of work that so many people put into their entries.." [my emphasis]

"it was interesting seeing Tom and others..."

I'll post my entry here soon, though I'll have to modify it for online use, since it adds up to about 100MB!

"nine out of 10 people there chain smoke through their lunch breaks which long ago forced my wife and me to go elsewhere for our sunny lunches"

I know the feeling! It looked like John McGrath was promoting "smoke free parks" in Wellington, but it turns out he's just talking about sports grounds, not city parks (at the moment).

"I rather like the developments that Waterfront Watch has opposed."

Given that Waterfront Watch has opposed just about everything, that's not surprising! Part of their opposition seems to be purely political; some due to poor understanding of the dynamics of urban life (such as the fact that the quality and structure of public space is much more important than the number of square metres); and some due to an antipathy to urbanism. All of which they back up with some outrageous hyperbole and misinformation.

I'm getting a really good feeling about the new spaces and buildings at Kumutoto. It wasn't that long ago that it was all surface parking; and some Waterfront Watchers are still going on about how we're "ruining the last precious jewel on the waterfront" or words to that effect. Sigh.

 
At 3:36 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Seamonkey Madness said...

Unfortunately I didn't get my entry in on time (not for lack of trying though!)

=(

Wandered through there at lunchtime and was thoroughly impressed. My ideas were more practicalist/realist-based (meh -I'm a civil engineer!), so judging them myself it was hard to see a lot of them being acheivable (financially and practically). Presentation styles were on the whole fantastic! (What was up with the guy who just scribbled all over the entry form though?!)

Have to agree with the judges on the monorail. =)

Maybe next time though.
Tom, could you still keep your ear to the ground for design competitions please?

 
At 3:48 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"Unfortunately I didn't get my entry in on time (not for lack of trying though!)"

I came pretty close to packing it in: it was eating up so much of my spare time that I thought I was going mad! In the end, I'm glad I persisted.

"My ideas were more practicalist/realist-based (meh -I'm a civil engineer!), so judging them myself it was hard to see a lot of them being acheivable (financially and practically)"

That was my position, too. My entry was based much more on achievability and compromise, though it did specify a range of enhancements over time. I guess I struggled to provide an overall vision or unifying theme to give it a point of difference, and it just loosely gathered together a bunch of otherwise unrelated urban improvements that I've been thinking about for a while.

"Tom, could you still keep your ear to the ground for design competitions please?"

Of course!

 
At 4:27 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Evad Rehtona said...

I should have posted the judges' comments as well

Is there a link to them? I can't find one through the council website's section on this. Thank you if there is, and thanks for alerting me to the event too!

 
At 8:04 PM, September 28, 2007, Blogger Will de Cleene said...

Ah well, it was no moneyspinner but it was a hell a lot of fun taking part. Among other things, I discovered the Throne of Wellington. There's a log of wood sticking out of the gorse way above the GG's House near the ridge. Sit on that during a good nor-wester and enjoy the ride.

 
At 7:50 AM, September 30, 2007, Anonymous Zofia said...

I am not living in Wellington at the moment and when I was last there that space on the waterfront was far from finished. Judging from your picture it looks like a great functional space to enjoy the outdoors especially during the lunch hour! Can't wait to come home and see it for myself.

 
At 9:04 PM, October 01, 2007, Blogger Gordon said...

Hi Tom:

Here's what "Capital Centre: Look Again" looks like in a halfway-decent northerly:

Link

And here's two guys pounding in an improvised gate at the entrance an hour later:

Link

Exhibition closed?

Gordon

 
At 8:58 AM, October 02, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Thanks Gordon: I heard about the (temporary?) closure of the exhibition from the organisers, but it's good to see the photos. That's the problem with kinetic sculpture in Wellington: sometimes things can get too damned kinetic for their own good!

 

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