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

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Frank Kitts Option D

The fourth option is perhaps the cleanest and simplest of the lot. In fact, looking at the plan, it's hard to work out where they've put everything:

Frank Kitts Park redesign - Option DIn particular, where's the Chinese Garden? It took me a while to work out that it's the elongated, vaguely L-shaped arrangement of ponds and planting near the centre of the park. That doesn't look nearly big enough to provide the specified 3000 sq m, but it turns out that the row of pavilions along the Jervois Quay edge have generally Chinese themes (tea pavilion, Beijing and Xiamen sister city pavilions etc), so the Chinese "Garden" could be thought of as spanning the narrow stream and incorporating the whole reconstructed "historic wharf edge" linear space. That's either a very clever use of space for multiple purposes and meanings; or a sidestep that misses the whole point of a Chinese Garden. While I can appreciate a contemporary take on traditional principles, by omitting the sense of enclosure, framed views and twisting paths, many of the unique spatial properties of a Chinese Garden are lost.

Frank Kitts Park redesign - Option D - oblique viewWhat I do like about this scheme is the manipulation of the third dimension to create varied aspects and experiences while retaining a crisp, constructed aesthetic. The explanatory text claims that the "folding and creasing" is a reference to the ridgelines and faults of the Wellington landscape, and while that's an allusion that perhaps only other landscape architects will pick up, it makes a virtue out of the awkward topographical transition to the top of the carpark. By sloping down below grade at the northeast corner, it at least attempts to recreate some of the shelter lost in favour of open views, though I'm not sure that it will be enough to stop both the lawn and the promenade becoming quite bleak when the wind picks up. There's also no attempt to improve connection to the lagoon edge, and while I like the idea of building slides into a "playmound" that extend the topography, the relocated lighthouse slide seems to sit awkwardly in the new context.

I like the attempt to engage with Jervois Quay, but I wonder whether a string of separate pavilions would be enough to create the real activity, closure and sense of shelter that such an engagement would require. Their appeal as caf├ęs would also be limited by the distance from the harbour, while their proximity to both the busy road and the streams and pools of the Chinese Garden might compromise their child-friendliness. The other built element in this scheme is an attempt to improve the edge of the TSB Arena: but is a tiny box labelled simply as "potential active edge" really any more than an afterthought?

This scheme impresses with its clarity, conceptual strength and contemporary aesthetics, but I wonder whether some of the practical, urbanist and climatological factors have been overlooked. Or perhaps the tagline "a great place to fly your kite" is a tacit recognition of the contradiction between the brief's requirements for both shelter and improved views?


At 9:30 am, October 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks a bit like an urban wasteland to me, the street edge definition with the free standing pavilions is pretty awful, and the Chinese Garden seems to be marginalised, a historic entrenchment which, after all, this 'gift' is a part of the healing process to rectify...

I do like the 3 dimensional geometry though, but that is the only redeeming feature of this one, and not nearly enough to carry this design of such an important piece of real estate.

At 8:56 pm, October 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually really like this one, I presume that all schemes are to a certain extent conceptual and need to be designed in detail before they are built incorporating shelter, seating etc.

The 2 major things that have always annoyed me about frank kitts park are the fact it faces the wrong way and unless you go on top of the car park its very difficult to ignore the traffic that is zipping past and that divides the city from the waterfront. (wasn't the new bypass going to solve this?)

I think the lawns tipped towards the harbor and the pavilions acting as a divide between the traffic on Jervois Quay and the park are therefore both good ideas. I also agree the pavilions probably need to be bigger and have a real purpose if they are to help the city jump the Quay and create real activity along the 'back' of the park.


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