Frank Kitts Option A
This is the option that was subtitled "Celebration of people - body & soul", which is a rather apple pie sort of feel-good statement, but it underlines the fact that it seems aimed at practicality and human-scale experience rather than grand formal gestures. That might account for its current lead in the Dominion Post poll, and while it might lack drama or theoretical interest, that may not be a problem for such a park.
One of the things I like about this entry is that it emphasises incremental improvements rather than a "big bang" approach. Elements such as the deck stepping down to the water, the "sea planter", canopy and cafe, toilet block/kiosk and a bridge link south of Shed 6 (a very sensible approach to eliminating the bottleneck there) are all labelled "optional". Given the budget constraints, this might be a realistic strategy.
The playground hardly moves, and most of the rip-rap and trees along the harbour edge are retained. The Willeston St viewshaft is reinstated, and the carpark appears to be untouched. One thing that sets this apart from the other entries is that the Chinese Garden goes on top of the carpark, which seems odd given that the technical difficulty of building such a garden above a carpark was given as one reason for relocating it from the Waitangi Precinct! The Chinese Garden design itself seems fairly traditional, with a tiny octagonal tea kiosk at the southwest corner and a second ("optional") cafe on the eastern edge. Breaking into the southern wall creates new steps down to the lagoon, improving access to the raised garden and plaza.
It's the central "harbour lawn" section that shows some subtly clever touches. While it's quite a large and exposed expanse of grass, there are several elements that break up the expanse into more intimate areas without reducing the total space. The "harbour walk" (aligned with Willeston St) is lined with raised platforms that double as seating or stages; the northwest corner combines a "native grove" with a slightly sloped lawn, the relocated memorial plaques and more benches; and the diagonal ramp on the harbour side helps to shape and guide the spaces.
Overall, it's a scheme that seems to tick all the boxes, and apart from the location of the Chinese Garden all of the design choices seem safe and uncontroversial. That it lacks the "wow" factor may not be a hindrance to its success as a park, though I'd still prefer to see a bit more boldness and flair.