WellUrban

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

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Misquoted?


Today's Capital Times has an article about Monday's talk by Stuart Niven, and a paragraph in their Wellyword column that I found a bit strange. Here it is:
While architects can usually be counted upon to support more buildings, the predominantly architectural crowd at an IntensCITY talk this week gave murmured approval to fewer buildings in a prominent city location. Visiting urban designer Stuart Niven asked why Civic Square, flanked by council-controlled buildings, could not be open on one side, drawing ripples of applause. But Wellyword wonders how many of the architects present would let the idea stand in the way of a contract to build on Jack Illott Green?
That certainly doesn't match my recollection: I got the impression that Niven was suggesting that the buildings should be open on one side, rather than the square. In other words, rather than the mostly blank walls that currently surround the space, the ground floors of the buildings should open up with caf├ęs, shops and other activities that engage the public and help to "establish informal use" of the square, which was something that Niven had earlier said he found hard to do when he was involved with the square.

Stuart, if you're reading this, can you confirm what you said the other day? Can anyone else who was there confirm either my interpretation or Capital Times' reporting of the event?

9 Comments:

At 10:23 AM, October 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having Civic Square Buildings "open to the inside" of the square requires that there are enough people in the area to make it profitable,

From Memory we used to have a cafe/Restaurant, on corner of the old the town hall,(nearest to the city to sea bridge),

There was also a toy shop in the now rather deserted ex-capital E space,

For this to happen again, more people need to be in the square, (perhaps this is why the council supports the music school and the students it would attract,

Although that said, with Nikau, Clarks, and the small cafe in the i-site already in buildings that front the Square, and Lido, Finc, Felix, Wishbone directly across the street, how many more are likely to be possible.

 
At 10:45 AM, October 03, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"From Memory we used to have a cafe/Restaurant, on corner of the old the town hall"

Yes, the Square Affair. I think that closed because the Town Hall wanted it as function space, but I've no idea whether it was profitable.

"There was also a toy shop in the now rather deserted ex-capital E space"

I didn't know the toy shop had closed (it's not exactly my demographic), but I'm pretty sure the "ex-capital E space" is still the very much alive Capital E.

"For this to happen again, more people need to be in the square, (perhaps this is why the council supports the music school and the students it would attract"

That's definitely part of the reasoning, and I agree.

"with Nikau, Clarks, and the small cafe in the i-site already in buildings that front the Square..."

It's just a pity that none of them are visible from the Square!

"...and Lido, Finc, Felix, Wishbone directly across the street, how many more are likely to be possible."

Plus Blend and Balti House. It looks like the hospitality market is still buoyant, with new cafes opening around town all the time (3 or 4 just within the last week), and there's also a trend to fill in the gaps between the Golden Mile and the waterfront. Civic Square is a wonderfully sunny, sheltered space, so it could be very attractive to cafe or restaurant operators, particularly on the south side.

One idea I heard floated a while ago was to turn the City Corporation building (the sort of Art Deco/Stripped Classical one next to the Town Hall) into a boutique hotel, with a bistro on the ground floor spilling out into the square. That would provide round-the-clock occupation of the square, and together with the School of Music (plus some rearrangement of i-site and perhaps a reinvigoration of the toy shop space), that could be enough to bring Civic Square to life.

 
At 12:04 PM, October 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was also unaware that Hocus Pocus toys had closed shop. As for more cafes at Civic Square, hopefully when that new College of Music gets built they can incorporate something in that.

 
At 2:35 PM, October 03, 2007, Anonymous Michael said...

It was "The Playground" when it shut up shop, and it's been gone for a while (over two years now, I think). I had a chat with the owner just before that (they had an outstanding closing-down sale), who seemed to suggest they'd sold the site/rights to it to somebody else, although whoever it is doesn't seem to have done anything with them.

Capital E really is a shadow of what it was originally, and The Playground was a step down from Hocus Pocus too, if my memories of what it was like as a tyke are accurate. I really don't see why, it seems like a good site.

 
At 3:22 PM, October 03, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

I popped in at lunchtime today, and "The Playground" seemed pretty lively. Though it's not a shop anymore: it seems as if it's exactly what it says: an indoor playground. There are signs on the door talking about a redevelopment, but I couldn't tell from a cursory glance what was going to happen to it.

"Capital E really is a shadow of what it was originally"

Do you mean the original Capital Discovery Place? Yes, I really liked that too, and while I wasn't exactly a tyke at the time, I loved the vertical slide (and the split pyramid seems a bit pointless without the view into that).

While I'm currently tykeless, in a previous incarnation I did indeed take kids to Capital E on occasion, and when they put together special installations and events (there was a great Christmas maze there one year), it went down a treat with the target audience.

"seemed to suggest they'd sold the site/rights to it to somebody else, although whoever it is doesn't seem to have done anything with them"

Perhaps something in preparation for the School of Music? I've seen preliminary plans for that which use parts of Capital E.

 
At 6:59 PM, October 03, 2007, Anonymous Simon said...

Tom I certainly recall hearing Stuart advocating an opening out of existing buildings into the square not the removal of them or not supporting the music school.

I would love to see City Housing and the rates area combined and rationalised to make space for new tenancies that could open out into the square

 
At 9:45 PM, October 03, 2007, Anonymous Michael said...

I haven't been by there recently, but there was a playground of some type next door (it was actually accessible from the shop, but I think it was Council-run). It seemed from my recollections to be in what was originally part of Hocus Pocus. Does it cover the entire area now? (the shop was on the park side only by the end). If the playground's expanded into it that'd be a good use of the space, temporarily at least. I'll pop by tomorrow and have a look.

Discovery Place was what I was thinking of, and also the early days after it became Capital E, back when it was really publicly-usable. It's largely a glorified exhibition space now, which is a shame - that's useful to have, it just doesn't seem like a good use of that location most of the time. The production studio was a great school trip, too, if they still have it.

It could make a good component for the NZSM as well, and that would explain the delay in developing anything there.

 
At 9:45 PM, October 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The playground in Capital E is a very well used space - try dropping past on a rainy Saturday afternoon. There's a definite circuit of parents with small children moving between the children's section of the library, to the cafe in the library (fluffy, 50c), to the playground in Capital E. My oldest daughter (3 1/2) loves it dearly, and often has to be pried out at 4pm.

 
At 11:11 AM, October 04, 2007, Anonymous Michael said...

I did pop past this morning, and it's good to see the space being used properly. The shop space was empty for quite a while after it closed.

 

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