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

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The favoured OPTion?

Bates Smart proposal for OPT - southern entranceI was leafing through a design magazine the other day, and in an article about a design firm that specialises in architectural rendering, I saw an image that looked strangely familiar. The caption said "Overseas Passenger Terminal, Clyde Quay, Wellington. Bates Smart Architects", so I realised that this must be one of the proposals for the redevelopment of the OPT.

As far as is publicly known at the moment, a specific proposal has been chosen by Wellington Waterfront Ltd, and is currently going through the due diligence process. There has been no announcement of who the chosen developer is, or what it will look like, though rumour has it that the developer has a lot of local experience. But the fact that this image has appeared in a publication without any indication that it is a "proposal" or "competition entry" might hint that this indeed is the future of the OPT. So I dug through Bates Smart's cumbersome Flash site (go to Projects > Residential > Overseas Passenger Terminal, Clyde Quay) and found some more images.

The Design Guide for the redevelopment proposals said that much of the building would require significant structural work, so I was expecting a brand new building within the existing envelope. What I didn't expect was something so similar to the current building:

Bates Smart proposal for OPT - northern viewThe architect's statement refers to "adaptive reuse of the existing OPT", and I generally expect that to mean that most of the existing structure will be retained, something that I had thought would be more trouble than it was worth given the structural issues. If they are able to do so, then so much the better. But the exterior materials are very different, and it looks like there's at least one extra storey, so perhaps this is stretching the term to the limit.

Bates Smart proposal for OPT - quay levelNot that I mind that much. It keeps the long, low profile and the dashing "prow" at the northern end, adds shelter, and replaces the crumbling exterior with something much more attractive. The combination of timber and glass is very reminiscent of Architecture Workshop's competition entry for the Waitangi precinct Site 4 building (especially the southern elevation at the top of this post), but it should also nicely complement John Wardle's winning entries for the adjacent Sites 1-3. It's contextual and sensitive rather than bold and controversial (unlike Federation Square, which Bates Smart also worked on), so perhaps it's a missed opportunity in that sense, but details like the prow give it a bit more vigour. In many ways, I wish the Hilton proposal looked more like this.

While the architects classify this project as "residential" (there will be at least 120 apartments on the upper levels), I see it as a mixed-use building. The existing maritime businesses will be retained on the ground floor, and the design brief stipulates that the entire ground floor should be open to the public. I took part in an ideas workshop back in December 2004, and one of the concepts that got a lot of support was the idea of having artisans working and selling their wares. Perhaps "artisans" is the wrong term (too many connotations of dodgy little craft stalls), but the idea of having bakers, jewellers, fashion designers and the like in a location like this makes a lot of sense. It will always be a weather-dependent location for retail, so having people making products that can be sold through other outlets (e.g. Pandoro bread) helps maintain revenue when there's not much foot traffic. It also brings work to the mix of residential and retail, providing activity round the clock. My particular suggestion was a 42 Below distillery and bar, similar to the Shed 22 Brewery Bar, though I'm not sure how many people would want to live above a bubbling vat of feijoa vodka.

The OPT and Waitangi precinct from the airOur collective suggestions (well, the mundane ones, rather than roller coasters, underwater mini golf and brothels) had one thing in common: some sort of "attraction" at the northern end. It's a long, narrow building, and to encourage people all the way down requires something more special than just another restaurant. There were various suggestions as to what this might be: aquarium, museum, winter garden, brothel (some people kept suggesting this, but just to piss off Pauline Swann). I thought that a dance studio/ballroom/bar might work quite well: classes could attract a regular clientele, and just imagine dancing the night away with that view around you. But no-one could suggest any one thing that was so unique and unmissable that it would work as an "anchor attraction". The Wellingtonista has suggestions of things that Wellington wants, but I can't think of any of them that quite fits (except a tiki bar, of course). Suggestions?

Please bear in mind that I'm only speculating about the Bates Smart design being the selected proposal (update: I've since found out that it was not the chosen option after all, and the addition of two stories was regarded as too much. The selected proposal will be revealed in a couple of month's time). But the basic mix of uses (residential above hospitality/retail/"attractions") will go ahead.


At 4:50 pm, February 15, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

I used to think so too, until I read the detailed site selection report (1MB PDF), which indicated that for the particular type of centre they had in mind, a south coast location would be necessary. It's not a standard aquarium, since the tanks are connected to the open ocean rather than being hermetically sealed. An inner harbour location, though better in terms of access, would suffer from unreliable water quality, algal blooms and chemical contamination. If the Hutt Valley keeps dumping their crap in the harbour then they've got a point.

But yes, I once had some vague ideas about a "harbour pavillion", something the extends down into the water from the wharf. Instead of being about the natural environment or having tanks full of fish, it would have displays about a working harbour (tides, shipping, history and pollution, as well as flora and fauna). It's unlikely that anyone could turn this into a commercial attraction, though.

At 7:15 pm, February 15, 2006, Blogger Will de Cleene said...

It's a great place to put a casino. Not one of those Sky City crappers, but a proper James Bondish one like Casinos Austria were going to put in. OK, there's a bit of work to be done amending the new Gambling Act and all, but if it's good enough for Hamilton to have a roulette table or two, it's good enough for Wellington!

At 9:00 pm, February 15, 2006, Blogger Martha Craig said...

This doesn't come from my logical mind, but when I read "rollercoaster" my heart leapt for joy. Of course it would be noisy and attract youth. I think a tiki bar would be the go.

At 9:24 am, February 16, 2006, Blogger Hadyn said...

I have it on good authority (a certain shop we love) that there is a strong underground movement who are craving a tiki bar here in the harbour capital.

This could be the opening our revolution is looking for.

Vive la tiki!

Jo, how did you know about the dogging? The Princess Bay locals keep it pretty tight under their hats. We were shocked (SHOCKED!) when our neighbour explained what went on just down the road.

At 9:45 am, February 16, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Yep, the Eyeball Kicks people are exactly the sort of people I'd like to see running a tiki bar. In some ways the waterfront would seem like the ideal location (after all, the London Trader Vic's is in the Hilton there), but I like EK's punkier take on it, so perhaps somewhere around Cuba St would be better (the old April Sun bar?).

Jo seems to be a woman of the world, so I'm sure she's "down with the kids" when it comes to dogging. On the other hand, maybe she found out from your earlier comment?

At 2:35 pm, February 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add the city side of the overseas terminal to great Wellington streets :]

A big white wooden rollercoaster would be oh so cool but it would block the view of the monastery and there would be outcry and whining.


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