The publicly-displayed entries in the Kumutoto sites 8-10 competition are, as I said yesterday, now on show upstairs at the Waterfront Project Information Centre. Most of the entries really pull out all the architectural stops, and there's very little in the way of "variations on a cube" to be seen amid all the swoops, bubbles, facets, folded planes and hovering mushroomy forms. Actually, the most cubical of the lot is one of the most striking: a huge wooden grid with plug-in fluorescent containers and cascading green walls, evoking Archigram doing Musée du quai Branly in a lumber yard. Even the more sedate designs would stand out from the run of the developers' mill, and among the most daring there's some dynamism and excitement going on that we so rarely get in Wellington architecture.
I'll try to get hold of some images to post here, so that I can discuss them in depth, but in the meantime you owe it to yourself to get down there and get your head around these complex and sometimes bewildering designs.
There is one caveat, though: you may have noticed that I didn't say "shortlisted entries" or "finalists" but "publicly-displayed entries". That's because not all of these are being considered further by the judges, and it's not made clear which ones are actually in the running. There still seems to be some confusion surrounding this, but as I understand it, the panel is considering each site separately and has chosen two options for each of the three sites from among the schemes on display. Even then, I gather that at least one of the entries here is definitely not going any further: I'm glad that the public will get to see it, since it's deeply thought-through and definitely iconic, but it seems strange to have it here if there's no chance that any element of it will be built.
I'd like to think otherwise, but I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the more pedestrian buildings will get the nod, and that the more extravagant designs are just there to give the impression of unbounded creativity. If that is the strategy, it might backfire, since it seems to me that most of the buildings are at the very least inventive and attractive, and would make fine additions to the waterfront; but in this company they look safe and conventional. Even so, all of the schemes seem to have played fast and loose with the brief, and the height limits in particular: what might become known as "the conniptions building" is only the most extreme (at about 20 storeys). I don't necessarily mind that, since going over-height in one area has usually been countered by opening up views or intriguing public spaces in others. What is somewhat disheartening is that none seem to have room for indoor sports on the ground floor.
But you do have the chance to give your feedback, and I encourage you to do so. If a particular building captures your heart or turns your stomach, say so! If you think a particular aspect or problem hasn't been addressed, let them know. This is not a public vote for your favourite scheme, but a chance to give reasoned and thoughtful feedback: if you just say "I like option X" or "Option Y sucks" or "I'm appalled and outraged! Give us a paddock", then you're much less likely to be taken seriously than if you say "I like the way that X engages with the existing buildings, but the pedestrian access is poorly resolved", or "Y is spectacular, but I wish there was a way to combine it with the winter garden idea from scheme Z". I already have some gut favourites, but I will take some time to work through all the pros and cons before coming to any decisions, and so should you.