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

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Urban Eye: Front Page

The café as staff canteen.

Urbanism +3
This is an example of how a simple idea can make a positive contribution to the city. Many large businesses provide a canteen for their staff, which encourages workers to spend their entire working day in the office, never getting out into the city or seeing anyone from outside the company. Instead of this closed approach, the Dominion Post created a publicly accessible café.
Boulcott Street had previously lacked a café, so the Front Page quickly became an informal extra meeting room for other businesses on the street. By choosing sociability over corporate insularity, the Dominion Post has added life to the area.

It could have scored higher here if it were open in the evening as well, but Boulcott Street is not exactly a nightlife hotspot, so this may not be viable until there are a few more apartments nearby. It could also be improved by opening up to the street more, but with just a narrow pavement between it and a dark, often gridlocked street, you can see why this was not an attractive option.

Aesthetics 0
Inside, it's a pleasant and modern (if generic) café, given some individuality by the display of historic newspaper front pages. But this criterion refers to the effect on the streetscape, rather than the interior, and the façade is so bland as to be almost invisible.

Environment 0
There appear to be no specific environmental measures.

Social +1
The café was created by shutting off a colonnade, so it could be accused of alienating the public realm. However, this colonnade was little used, and there's still some protection from the rain, so this is outweighed by the positive effects of the new social space.


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