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

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Graffiti wars

Stencil on the skatepark walls at Waitangi ParkToday's Dominion Post has a bit of an obsession with graffiti. There was a full-page article about whether graffiti is vandalism or art, and while a lot of those old chestnuts get very boring, there were some interesting points that deserve a considered response, especially in light of my recent post Walls without a musuem. I'll write about it soon, but in the meantime, I'll discuss the other article, which was about graffiti at Waitangi Park.

Most of the article took the predictable "shock horror" approach:
"The $23 million Waitangi Park is being smeared with graffiti, most of it destined to remain untouched ... The development is barely seven weeks old."
And this is despite the fact that much of it is on the plywood panels specifically intended to be covered with graffiti. They even quote Wellington Waterfront Ltd's far from panicked response "We accept the park is in an urban setting and graffiti art reflects that". To sum up: the designers built designated graffiti areas, and fully expected them and the surrounding areas to attract graffiti. Where's the story?!?

Having said that, most of it lacks the talent and inventiveness of the best street art around town, and certainly doesn't have the exuberant colours and accessibility of the graffiti walls that used to surround the site. I've added some photos to the Wellington street art group on ZoomIn to show what's there at the moment. I wondered for a while whether it would have been better to commission some of the local graffiti "stars" to decorate the graffiti walls, but of course, that would be missing the point. Once "graffiti art" is commissioned, it ceases to be graffiti and becomes public art; just another mural; a cheesy theme-park parody of street culture.

Perhaps the solution is in the hands and spray cans of Wellington's best street artists themselves. If you want this prominent site to express the imagination and style that we know you can produce, rather than the dull scrawlings of suburban teenagers, then get down there now with your stencils and aerosols and claim the best spots for yourselves. Of course, I'd never advocate the vandalism of public property, but don't you think the backs of the climbing walls look a little, well, blank?

Blank rear of a climbing wall at Waitangi Park


At 5:51 pm, April 15, 2006, Blogger Will de Cleene said...

Yeah, the article seemed like it was trying to get all high and mighty but no-one said the right soundbites ;-) After having a look at Waitangi Park this afternoon, I would hardly describe the place as smeared with graffiti. Sparsely garnished and garish would be more accurate.

At 11:28 am, April 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The article was crap, apart from the discussion about the materials they used which was quite interesting.

Park report (I have the fortune to overlook it):

Skateboard area used constantly in half-decent weather and light. On good days, they start arriving 6am and go till very, very late. It's great to see the courtesy they show each other. A massive hit.

Basketball hoop, starting to pick up traffic, and clearly part of the overall scene in that area of the park.

Graffiti - not an issue at the moment, although I would like to meet "Emma" at some point....

Toilets - a major issue, would be nice not to see the skaters using, er, alternative areas.

Kids play ground, same as the skate park, heaving most of the time.

Grass field, awesome to see a green lung this big in the city centre. Starting to get used by school groups at lunch-time (soccer, frisbee), and by odd groups over the weekends for kick-arounds, appears to be getting found by the locals and used accordingly. Will be huge next summer and, of course, great for events such as last weeks duathlon (or whatever it was called!).



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