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

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Frank Kitts Option E

The last of the schemes is one that didn't appeal to me at first: it seemed too busy, too arbitrary with its jagged lines and deconstructivist forms. But after going through each of the schemes in detail, this one began to stand out for its liveliness and invention.

Frank Kitts Park redesign - Option EIt's very simply divided into thirds: from north to south they are the Chinese Garden, open "activity lawn", and raised garden. The last area contains the playground and an arrangement of small lawns, and is made much more accessible than at present by wide steps on three sides. The northern steps act as an amphitheatre for the lawn, which is big and flat enough for events but has some of its expanse broken up by paths at the eastern edge. The Chinese Garden is subtly different from the other entries in that it is neither completely traditional nor contemporary; and while not a walled garden it plays with enclosure in interesting ways.

It's based on the concept of a net, woven from intersecting paths. Overlaid on this is an array of parallel screens and bamboo, strategically pierced to create sightlines and outdoor "rooms": just enough to give a hint of seclusion without creating dangerously isolated pockets. Together with the water features they set the Chinese Garden apart from the rest of the park, but by breaking out in places across the promenade and towards Jervois Quay it engages the garden with its surroundings, and the bright red paths highlight passages and viewshafts to the city and sea.

Frank Kitts Park redesign - Option E - from the northThat bright red theme has been a bit of a talking point, and while I can see how it could be a bit over the top, it visually complements the predominant green tones, has cultural significance, and gives a burst of cheerful colour that could lift the spirits on a grey day. Both the colour and the geometries of these paths are echoed by the four small built structures. While these would presumably be kiosks of some kind, their purpose isn't spelled out. Even if they're not inhabited, they could have a valuable visual function; though the similarity to Parc de la Vilette and its follies is rather too obvious. But if they do become centres of activity, then they could be vital waypoints along the promenades, especially lit up at night. Two of them actually extend into the harbour, which I find refreshing: no-one else has had the courage to suggest this.

There are a couple of flaws, but they're not fundamental. There's a linear wetland right at the bottom of the steps between the raised area and the activity lawn, cutting off what should be a natural flow between them, but this could either be relocated or spanned by a series of boardwalks. The harbourside kiosks create unnecessary bottlenecks in the promenade, which really needs the width on a busy day, but either the promenade could be widened here or the kiosks could be shifted further seawards.

These quibbles aside, I've come to like the layout and use of space. The "shipyard play environment" is a promising change from predictable playground design, and it seems to be in the most sensible location. The monotony of the promenade is broken up just enough, without obscuring its essentially linear nature. But it's the use of sharp angles and vivid colour that really enlivens the space and could entice people into and through the park rather than just around it.


At 9:15 pm, October 27, 2007, Blogger Aron said...

I'll second the 'acquired taste' comment. At first when I saw all the red slashing through it, I thought I was looking at a conceptual diagram of flow through the park rather than an actual render, but then I realized, no, it's really that red.

But the more I look, the more I like, and now I think it's my favorite option.

At 9:15 pm, October 28, 2007, Blogger Gregory said...

I tend to agree - it agrees with me. It's a great blend of functional space and interesting views.

My one problem with this proposal, and what I put on my comment form, was that the freestanding elements along the harbourside pathway leave a lot of blind spots. Since traffic through here is mixed speed, especially if there are children or photographers in the mix, there's bound to be some toes stepped on or run over.

I'm also a bit concerned about the final implementation of the wooden surfaces. I think the non-slip material that is used along the lagoon to be the most slippery stuff they could find to put in there. It's horrible to skate over - damn near dangerous. I could do without the new wooden surfaces being treated with that junk. But that is long in the future and not a problem with the design.

At 9:41 am, October 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to have taken the visual language of the Parc de la vilette concept and applied them materially in a way that overlooks the essential brilliance of that park - a seduction of the drawings I suspect, from someone who has never been there.

Nevertheless, I do like this scheme also, and once you get past the graphic stylism, you can see some interesting things happening.

The red paths however - you know they are never going to be that red, and if the graphic spectacularity depends on that aspect, the reality will be somewhat different. You can expect something between brick-maroon or a faded out crimson - replace the blood red with either of these on your fancy drawings and see what happens...

Has the hallmarks of a good student project about it.

At 5:18 pm, October 29, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"The red paths however - you know they are never going to be that red"

I wonder: aren't there techniques to embed recycled glass into ground surfaces? Some sort of bright red terrazzo could be amazing: or perhaps just amazingly tacky, it's hard to tell.


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