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

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Creating the centre?

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The Wellington Arts Centre in Abel Smith St is now open and apparently fully tenanted. On Saturday there will be an open day from 1pm to 5pm, which should present an interesting opportunity to look around the studios and rehearsal spaces as well as the public gallery.

Wellington Arts Centre
Of course this is a vital facility and a positive gesture by the council, but I do have some reservations. There are obvious aesthetic issues: the older building is handsome enough in a stolid stripped-classical way, but the 70s wing desperately needs a makeover, since stained concrete, blank ground floor windows and faux-domestic brown weatherboards hardly say "vital creative community". Getting it ready for occupation was obviously the first priority, but I hope that some effort is made soon to make it more inviting and help it reflect the imagination of the tenants.

More importantly, I hope the council doesn't think "right, that's the artists sorted, then". 3000 sq m sounds generous, but how far does it go towards providing affordable space for all the artists being pushed out of the central city by demolition and rising rents? The very concept of an Arts "Centre" is questionable, since it smacks of a centralised facility for officially authorised artistic activity. Instead, a truly creative city requires a multitude of cheap, informal spaces for artists and artisans to live and create in. This centre is a worthy effort, but we still need a much more "creative" approach to urban planning to ensure the continued viability of artistic creation throughout the city.


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