The winner of the Frank Kitts Park design competition has been announced (on page A4 of today's Dominion Post and in the latest issue of On the Waterfront), and it was the one labelled Option B. As I speculated at the time but couldn't say for sure, it's by Wraight and Associates, who were part of the Waitangi Park design team. Interestingly, the announcement includes a perspective drawing that makes it much easier to grasp the overall layout than the entry itself did.
In my summary of the options, I said of this one that it has "Nice clean geometry, with a good tight cluster of buildings, but too much bleakly flat lawn." I think I still stand by that, but that's partly based on my own personal aversion to big open paddocks, and people who want a big flat space for chucking around a ball or frisbee should be very pleased with this. In fact, for all the talk in some quarters of the redesign "destroying open space", it looks like this plan actually has more open green space than the current park:
The most important thing is to compare the new design to the current park. On the plus side, this will finally be a waterfront park from which you can actually see the water. It will be an opportunity to update the physical and design qualities of a park that is looking rather tired and dated. The Chinese Garden, which I think is handled better than in any of the rival designs, should provide a lot of spatial variety, visual interest, shelter and cultural value. The upper lawn will have better access from the promenade and lagoon, and in general movement into and through the park should be easier. Best of all, from my perspective, the cluster of pavilions in and adjacent to the Chinese Garden has the potential to create a node of activity part way along a stretch that can be quite deserted at times.
Apart from the exposed nature of the lawn space, there are a few other aspects I'm less happy with. I don't see the need to relocate the Albatross sculpture to the upper lawn: it's very popular where it is, and the current combination of lagoon, fountain and Kaffee Eis works very well. The larger flat green area comes at the expense of the amphitheatre, so while it will be better for some sorts of events it will be less suited to others. There's no attempt to create new connections between the promenade and the water, though the brief suggested that this might be left until later stages for financial reasons. Finally, the improved visual connection between the lawn and the harbour comes at the expense of shelter and seating along the promenade: while the loss of shelter may be an unavoidable trade-off, I hope that some sort of informal or moveable seating could be included without too much effort.
The article emphasised that this is not a final, detailed design, and that more development of the design will occur over the next six months. There's a lot to like about this proposal, and I hope that between now and the eventual reconstruction of the park (which is unlikely to start before 2009), there are opportunities to work through any shortcomings and create the best possible space.
Update: the agenda for this Wednesday's Council meeting has just been released, and there is an overview report on the park decision, together with detailed reports from the jury, Chinese Garden committee and Technical Advisory Group.