WellUrban

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

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.

Frank Kitts Park redesign - option AOne 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.

10 Comments:

At 9:57 AM, October 25, 2007, Anonymous m-d said...

For some reason I find it hard to get excited by this place - possibly because it is a dog of a scheme at the moment that anything would be an improvement.

What I would like to see is a design that somehow makes the arse-end of the TSB Arena contribute in a meaningful way to the urban environment - the current amphitheatre is a rather unsuccessful attempt at this, but the thought was there.

The illustrated scheme stops right at this important point, and the amount of consideration that they have given is indicated by the amount of detail with which they have represented that building...

Apart from that, it does have a nice feel about it, and would provide (I think - having only seen the plan) a nice complement to the other types of open space along the waterfront promenade.

 
At 10:16 AM, October 25, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

I have to agree all round. Some of the schemes make a bit of an effort to improve the Arena, but not this one. It's hard to imagine anything making much of a difference, though, especially with that bloody great loading dock getting in the way.

 
At 1:18 PM, October 25, 2007, Blogger Seamonkey Madness said...

Tom,

Have you heard that there is a tender out for EOI for (re)designing Cobblestone Park?

Stuck between a bit of a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, there is the architecture school and on the other there are strip clubs/"massage parlours" surrounding the rest of it (and of course one of your favourite bug bears, the City-Lodge apartments).

 
At 1:34 PM, October 25, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

I'd heard it was on the cards, but I didn't know it had got to that stage. Something to watch for!

"Stuck between a bit of a rock and a hard place."

Yes, it's a tricky location all right. One thing I'd do would be to build a new, narrow building on the eastern edge: 3-4 storeys of offices or apartments, with a cafe or similar below. It would screen the park from City Lodge, redefine Knigges Ave as a street and provide an active edge to the park. It would only take up about 10% of the park area, but it could help make the rest of the park a much better place.

 
At 3:29 PM, October 25, 2007, Anonymous m-d said...

Re Cobblestone Park: I'm sure that I've heard somewhere that RexN is having a hand in the finance and design of this (along with the ArchSchool and WCC) as a key stakeholder. If this is what it takes to get some action on a site that has long been awful - then good on him - maybe this private/public partnership approach is the way forward on some of our left-over sites... depending on the actual built outcome (and I'm trying not to be unfairly cynical), it could well be a win-win...

As for your proposed building along Knigges Ave, i'd resist anything that dilutes the integrity of the SoA building, although I would love to see it open up to the park with a much more active edge there.

 
At 3:40 PM, October 25, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"Re Cobblestone Park: I'm sure that I've heard somewhere that RexN is having a hand in the finance and design of this"

Very interesting: do you think he's intending it as an amenity for The Wellington hotel? I don't have quite the same ideological allergy to the relationship of private and public space that some do, but we should watch this very carefully.

"As for your proposed building along Knigges Ave, i'd resist anything that dilutes the integrity of the SoA building, although I would love to see it open up to the park with a much more active edge there."

I do love the SoA, but it badly needs active edges, and the "integrity" of the design is only a couple of years old, having radically changed the existing building. I'm sure that something could be designed that complemented the existing architecture; and while we're at it, something needs to be done with that aggressive stone wall.

 
At 4:21 PM, October 25, 2007, Anonymous m-d said...

I'd love to see the stone wall obscured by a bank of steps spilling down into the park from an opened-up ground floor of the school... this allows the school to be still on its pedestal, but provides an edge that, while not exactly active, is at least able to be occupied, and acknoledges the park before it...

Turn Knigges Av into largely a pedestrian mall (allowing cars to get to the hotel/apartment carpark) complete with open access into Wigan street, replace the SoA carpark (academics need to walk the walk in terms of sustainability anyway - both literally and figuratively...) with the suggested cafe, and I think we're on to a winner...

 
At 7:13 PM, October 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the arse end of the TSB arena will apparently be addressed as a separate project so the competitors were not asked to look at this.

Also the budget allocated to the FKP is insufficient to do any work on either the TSB arena or the promenade and rip rap

 
At 9:33 AM, October 29, 2007, Anonymous m-d said...

That's a shame that it will be a separate project - it seems ill-fated again, before it has begun. I would have thought the point would be to integrate rather than separate, and autonomous projects just seem the wrong way to go about it...

 
At 5:36 PM, October 29, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Anon: "the arse end of the TSB arena will apparently be addressed as a separate project so the competitors were not asked to look at this."

I'm glad to know that there is still some sort of effort going into it, but I was sure that the brief required contestants to at least consider the possibilities (I haven't had the chance to read the brief for a while). Just trying to slap a little cafe or berm on the edge of it won't do anything, though: it'll require an actual multi-storey building attached to the southern elevation to fight the blankness.

"Also the budget allocated to the FKP is insufficient to do any work on either the TSB arena or the promenade and rip rap"

The budget certainly seemed tiny, and many of these schemes look far too ambitious. Maybe that's where the staged nature of this option will win out.

 

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