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

Monday, October 31, 2005

The age of Aquarium

Normally my posts don't stray too far out of the central city, but the proposed Wellington Marine Education Centre at Te Raekaihau point is undergoing a resource consent process, and the Wellington Marine Conservation Trust are calling for supporters of the project to make a submission in support.

It took me a while to decide what I thought about this. Of course it would be a great asset for the city, but I wondered about the location. A central city waterfront location would be much more convenient for those of us who are car free, and one of the reasons that I support denser inner city development is to reduce the need for development on unspoiled natural sites.

Then I checked their detailed site assessment, and it became clear that a south coast location would be essential for this unique facility. It's not a standard aquarium, with closed tanks that could be anywhere, but something that's integrated into the surrounding ecosystems. I also walked to the site a couple of times, and it's far from unspoiled: it's been mined for gravel and used as a carpark for so long that there's very little on the site that could be called "natural".

I was also a little underwhelmed by the architecture at first, thinking that the drama of the site called for something striking enough to match it (something by Santiago Calatrava could have been truly wonderful). But the understated approach is also a valid one, and the building has been designed so that most of it burrows into the earth. I wrote earlier about the proposed nacre cladding (scroll down to near the end of the post) of the east elevation, and this, combined with its environmental features (planted roofs, stormwater wetlands, vertical wind turbines and solar power), should lift it out of the ordinary.

By all means look at what the opposition is saying about the project, and come to your own conclusions. I have, and I'll be putting in a submission in support. If you'd like to do likewise, download a form, fill it in, and get it in by 4pm on Wednesday.


At 10:32 am, November 02, 2005, Blogger Hadyn said...

There was a protest about this on the site a few weekends ago.

In the middle of a gravelly carpark (which is apparently a Wellington hotspot for "dogging") the signs urged to keep the environment as it was. I have always wanted to see the wildlife in the water around that point, but I don't dive and I'm WAY too wussy to be tempted into the freezing water of the strait. I thought the aquarium would be a great idea. It would also be more condusive to the marine reserve proposed for the southern coast. A 200m underwater "walkway" out to the F62 wreck would be the coolest thing, if it could be done.

At 3:28 pm, November 02, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

"Dogging", eh? Maybe that's what's really motivating the objectors: they're afarid to lose their favourite dogging spot. Yes, that would be a serious loss of a valuable community amenity, though perhaps the aquarium could include a dogfish tank to make up for it!

And yes, a walkway to F69 would be cool. A year or so ago, there was talk of running mini-subs from the cutout at Taranaki Wharf. They got as far as dropping "reef balls" (hollow perforated spheres) to attract marine life, but I haven't heard anything since.


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