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

Friday, February 03, 2006

Better late than never

As I mentioned yesterday, and suspected a while ago, it's just been announced that Area One of Waitangi Park won't be quite complete in time for the Arts Festival as planned. There was an article in the Dominion Post, and a more detailed one in The Wellingtonian, which unfortunately isn't online.

At least "not completed in time for the festival" isn't the same as "not ready for the festival". The contractors have switched priorities so that the areas required to host the festival events will be ready, while leaving other sections until the festival's over. The only incomplete sections will be the wind garden, the graving dock gravel terrace, and a section of the promenade next to this. According to The Wellingtonian, Les Arts Sauts will be setting up their tent near the corner of Cable and Barnett streets, in Area Two of the park that will eventually be the site of the Chinese Garden and UN Studio's museum extension, and hence wasn't expected to be complete for the festival anyway.

Waitangi Park aerial view, with incomplete areas highlightedThe Field looks like it should be good and ready: the areas that were seeded a few weeks ago look nicely lush, the more recent seeding is starting to grow, and trees and longer grass around the berms have been planted recently. This is just as well, given that the festival opening ceremony will be held here, as well as a series of picnic concerts during the festival itself. I'm not sure exactly where the Festival Club is going, but I think that somewhere in Area Three would be good (east of the Herd St building and south of the Overseas Passenger Terminal), as that might give some impression of what it will be like to have a building there.

Waitangi Park - testing the playgroundSo if everything's running late, what an earth have the workers been up to? This exclusive photo shows the evidence: they've all been too busy mucking around on the playground!

Actually, that's not fair: there are apparently 75 workers slaving 60 hours a week to get things done, and while I haven't been counting, there are an awful lot of guys in hi-vi vests out there looking very busy. The playground photo is actually a good sign: they were finally installing the footboards on the "Miram skate" equipment (part of the playground furniture that I criticised earlier), and together with the fact that the planting looks complete there, must mean that the playground is just about ready to open. The petanque piste looks complete, the kiosk is taking shape, the wetlands are largely planted and the skate park is looking tantalisingly close to completion. It's a pity that the park won't have quite the triumphant opening that had been hoped for, and being surrounded by construction sites won't be the ideal atmosphere for the festival. For the rest we'll have to wait until the end of April, but there'll be an awful lot of park to explore in three weeks' time when the festival starts.


At 4:31 pm, February 03, 2006, Blogger Rich said...

I'm probably totally wrong, but wouldn't it have been better to have started with a simple park (e.g. just cover the area with topsoil and plant some grass) - then put all the skateparks and wetlands etc. in gradually afterwards?

At 4:11 pm, February 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given how far behind the first effort slipped, especially with the toxic metals being found, it's a pretty good attempt at catching up.

At 11:37 am, February 07, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Hi Rich,

As bushwhacker says, there's quite a long story behind the park. Here's just a few quick reasons why it wouldn't have been easy to just plant some grass to get it started:

- The previous uses of the site (graving dock, incinerator, bus terminal etc) meant that there was a lot of crap to get rid of first: not just contaminated soil, but asphalt, concrete, fill, cobblestones, sheds and old services such as pipes.

- There were also come artefacts of archaeological significance to be carefully excavated and conserved.

- A modern park isn't just topsoil and grass. There's also a lot of drainage work to do, and electrical and data cabling to provide for the various events (concerts etc) that it will host.

- The wetlands, skatepark etc require truck access for construction, which would have taken over a lot of the grass area, ruining the grass and making it inaccessible for a long time anyway.

- The wetlands and activity zones provide the structural, visual and conceptual backbone for the park as a whole. The basic structural foundations for this needed to be laid first.

- There already is a process of phased development. All of this is just Area 1, and Areas 2 & 3 waiting until final designs are done for the buildings and public space there. Even within Area 1, they have intented to launch the sub-areas as they are completed, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the playground open to the public within a week.

- Some will disagree, but (apart from the skate park) there hasn't been an urgent need for the park. Frank Kitts Park has continued to host events and casual recreation as usual, and the only real disruption caused by the park construction has been the temporary (but irritating) closures of the promenades around the outside.


Post a Comment

<< Home