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

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Waiting for Waitangi

It's now just one month until Waitangi Park is due to be complete, and it should open with a bang: A Capital Celebration on the 25th of February opens the Arts Festival with the somewhat eclectic combination of The Phoenix Foundation, The Warratahs, and the Vector Wellington Orchestra. While the main lawn looks like it should certainly be ready to host this and other events, some other aspects of the park look like a lot more work is required, and the contractors seem to be going all out to get everything ready in time. The overall shape of the park is now much clearer to casual observers, but it looks like there may be a few little surprises on the way when it comes to details.

Waitangi Park playground - the manuka tunnelI've criticised the playground before for its generic play equipment, but apart from that there are some great creative touches. In this photo, the earth in the middle runs between two stands of manuka that will eventually grow together to form a "manuka tunnel" for children to run through. This illustrates one of the unique difficulties of landscape architecture: even when a park is "finished" it will still take time for the plants to mature. I'm no expert on tree growth rates, but I imagine it will take at least a decade for the two-metre pohutukawa that have just been planted around the promenade to mature into the stately specimens shown on the model and renderings. Those who imagine a PC conspiracy to plant only native flora need not be worried here: there's a range of exotic trees as well as the native varieties.

Waitangi Park kiosk under constructionBetween the playground and the petanque piste the kiosk is taking shape. This will have public toilets and a small shop or café, which should give parents something to do while keeping an eye on the little monsters, and with any luck there'll be some sort of verandah or screen to provide some shade and shelter. But the big question is: will the café be licensed? A game of petanque isn't quite the same unless you're holding a glass of Côtes du Rhône or pastis (there's a good reason why it's called a "piste").

Waitangi Park rain gardenThe outer promenade widens at the corner of Cable St and Oriental Pde, and until the trees grow this is going to look quite barren and dominated by asphalt. The only relief is this little "rain garden", which when I saw it on the masterplans I envisaged to be some sort of mini-rainforest with mist generator, but it turns out to be just another name for a bioretention swale (as used at Harbour Quays). I hope that there is some taller foliage planned for here, as it looks a little bit lost at the moment. On the other hand, some of the plans refer to "shoreline markers" here, so perhaps we can expect some artwork to appear soon.

The graving dock gravel terrace is looking like the bleakest part at the moment, but I imagine that it will be transformed quite rapidly once planting begins. This is one part of the park that will be dominated by native plants: specifically, low coastal shrubs of the sort that naturally grow around the Wellington rocky coastal zone. I envision lots of hebes, succulents and grasses, so don't expect this to look luxuriant, but it will be a true reflection of local ecology.

F69 funnelsOn some of the plans for this area, there is reference to an archaelogical interpretive trail along this terrace. An interview with Megan Wraight a few weeks back revealed that various items (wagon wheels, shoes, crockery) have been unearthed during excavations, and that these will be displayed in glass-covered trenched, so perhaps this is where they will be placed. Also, the propellor from F69 will be displayed somewhere in the park, so perhaps this is the place. That made me think: why are these funnels from the frigate sitting around the corner in front of Te Papa? Is there a plan to place these in the park as well?

Finally, the wind garden (between the graving dock and the Herd St building) might have some pleasant surprises in store. As well as using foliage to dissipate the wind, there will be screens to provide further shelter. I had imagined these to be like the double panels of perforated steel that work so well between the two halves of the lagoon bridge, but a look at the website of Catherine Griffiths (who designed the Writers Walk) reveals something much more interesting.

For more photographs of Waitangi Park in progress, have a look at Flickr, or read some of my copious posts on the subject.


At 1:23 pm, January 25, 2006, Blogger Hadyn said...

Maybe they could (for want of a better word) bung the F69 funnels in the play area? I remember when I was a kid...[pause for reflection]...that those types of things were brilliant to play on.

At 2:27 pm, January 25, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

That's something else that I was thinking, and when I wrote about more creative alternatives to off-the-shelf play equipment, I had something like that in mind. Using one of these as the base for a slide seems like an obvious and simple option, but I'm sure there are plenty of other ways you could use them.

BTW, exactly what sort of childhood did you have if you were clambering around on hte funnels of frigates?!?


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