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

Friday, January 12, 2007

Waterfront tweaks: Taranaki St Wharf

As much as we Wellingtonians are happy to live in a "cold-yet-cultural" city, most of us would have to admit that this "summer" has been pretty gruelling. Which is why yesterday, with it's balmy temperatures and spectacular sunset, seemed to switch so many of us into outdoors mode for one delicious evening. Most of Waitangi Park was humming by about 5:30, but even though the lawn was relatively dry and looking sweetly bucolic with its lush grass and clover, it had attracted a grand total of eleven people, mostly on the berms around the edge.

At the same time, there must have been about five times that number on the relatively tiny patch of grass at Taranaki St Wharf. Some of them were just sitting and relaxing, or throwing around a frisbee, but the majority were patrons of St Johns bar, which was so popular that all the chairs were taken.

Patrons outside St Johns bar at Taranaki St Wharf, WellingtonAround the corner, the same had happened to the Brewery Bar (despite being in the shade), and drinkers were taking advantage of the lengths of wharf timber for informal seating. There was only one of these beside St Johns, and while many punters seemed happy enough to sprawl on the grass with a pint of Weissbier or a bottle of wine in an ice bucket, some more informal public seating wouldn't have gone amiss. I know the lawn is only temporary, and the final design will have more of a slope and some seating, but in the meantime how about dragging a few lumps of timber around the corner to create somewhere to sit? I'm not sure whether all this drinking on the grass is even legal, given licensing restrictions and liquor bans, but it's a most civilised way to drink, and showed the public and private realms blending together very nicely.

Incidentally, while it was definitely mojito weather, the barman was very apologetic about the state of their mint, so I tried a Moscow Mule instead and accepted his suggestion of a dollop of honey. Fantastic! St Johns may have a bit of noisy, suity reputation, but on a day like this its location and quality can't be beaten.


At 5:15 pm, January 12, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

walked thru that great weather to see m.ward at the SFBH.

if you missed it, tsk, tsk tsk.


wellingtown isn't so bad most days.

At 5:29 pm, January 12, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It wasn't legal, they had no license (or whatever for) for it. They were trying to curb it a little bit by keeping it within an imaginary line so it didn't get too out of hand but there was a phenomenal amount of people lounged out on the grass at one point. The best use I've ever seen of that patch of grass. (Though in fairness if it continues St John should pay a license for the upkeep.)

At 12:07 pm, January 13, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Anon: that's what I guessed. Our licensing laws don't generally allow for that sort of informal spilling-out, which is a pity: I always loved that aspect of summer in London, when the crowds spilled out of pubs onto the pavements as a (generally) good-natured summery mob.

On the other hand, it needs to be a bit more structured. Perhaps in addition to using the timbers to create seats, they could use some to define a clear zone for people trying to walk past: it was hard to find room for that the other night.

It certainly puts the lie to the argument that there's no demand for more bars or restaurants on the waterfront, and that it should all be grass: the majority of people using the grass that night were drinking at a bar!

At 4:34 pm, January 13, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"walked thru that great weather to see m.ward at the SFBH.

if you missed it, tsk, tsk tsk."

according to the review on Texture it was "just like story time at kindy... the cuddles, the wide eyed gaze, the clapping".

At 10:22 pm, January 16, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, sport needs regular access to use Waitangi Pk, the Golden Oldies seriously disrupted (for 6 weeks, or so), frisbee on Sat mornings, touch every lunch time...things are starting to pick up again now. Tonight, Tuesday, there was well over 100 people out there doing sport at 6.30pm (Touch & Soccer), followed by a whole other groups playing cricket & juggling. Give it time, and allow people to get organized to use it, and it will be used well. Roll on the new bars down there....

At 8:55 am, January 17, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

I must say I've never seen that many people using at once, except for organised events. I guess our unreliable weather, with the disruptions you mention, have combined to make it difficult to use for regular sports. While it will be good to see it used more regularly, I must say I don't think it was intended to be a "sports field" in the way that Kilbirnie park or Ian Galloway Park, nor would that be appropriate for an urban park. But as you say, roll on the new bars!

At 11:02 pm, January 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to disagree, Tom, NY Central Park, the Mall in DC, the Parks in Oxford, and the various London Parks are all fantastic urban parks for groups of mates and work colleagues to go and enjoy themseleves in a relaxed fashion.

Wellington seems to take the attitude that sport should be done in "your suburb", and that really reduces, IMHO, regional coherence..

At 9:09 am, January 18, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

I think the parks you mention, especially Central Park, are in very different contexts. Central Park is the only large green space in a very large, extremely dense urban area, and in addition to being an urban park it has to play the roles often played by regional parks, and as such it is appropriate for it to include sports fields.

Central Park is at least 6km from Wall St. Within the same radius of Lambton Quay, you've got access to all the sports fields, parks, beaches and town belt of Wellington south of Ngauranga! In inner-city park doesn't have to play the same sort of role here, because we're surrounded by greenery and nature.

Instead, an inner-city park should be compact and multi-functional with active edges and the ability to be used for special events. To expect an area the size of a rugby or football field to be set aside for a regular sporting league, as you seem to be implying, doesn't meet those criteria and isn't the best use of the space. That sort of use is more appropriate in the suburbs, where land is less difficult to come by and there's a greater proportion of children.


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