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

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cowardly New World

A while ago we were speculating about what would happen when Wellington's worst building, Chaffers New World, undergoes what had been touted as a major overhaul. Would Foodstuffs take the opportunity to bring a bit of urbanity to a site that had been blighted by outdated suburban planning? Would the carpark be shielded from the street by small shops, as at Thorndon? Or even better, would it be sent completely underground? Would the value of the site (both financially and urbanistically) be realised by incorporating the supermarket into a mid-rise mixed-use complex. Or, hoping against hope, would it be rebuilt on the eastern half of the site where it should have been in the first place, thus freeing up the viewshaft down Cambridge Terrace to the Waitangi Precinct and the harbour?

Fat chance. Here are some renderings of the planned redevelopment (which I've taken the liberty of adapting from DeepRed's post to SkyscraperCity):

It looks like some of the arbitrary postmodern gimcrackery will be removed, replaced by steel and glass vaguely in the style of the railway station Metro store. Of all the supermarket chains, New World have shown the most encouraging glimpses of understanding the value of urbanism, which makes this superficial makeover all the more disappointing. The images suggest that the result might look ever so slightly better, but I guess Hitler would have looked better with a decent haircut, too.


At 11:09 pm, April 26, 2007, Blogger R Singers said...

Well I guess mentioning Hitler at the end of your post effectively Godwins any discussion :-)

At 11:13 pm, April 26, 2007, Blogger Will de Cleene said...

Jesus, Tom. You've got an eye for detail because I don't see a damned difference.

At 11:27 pm, April 26, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Zippy: the current supermarket has a bunch of pointless 80s arches and columns floating around the outside. The new one will have a bunch of pointless 90s sloping steel columns around the outside. See? Massive upgrade.

Glassboy: yep, that's a bit of outrageous rhetoric on my part :-) It does have a vague rationale in that there's no point changing the external appearances of something if the underlying intent and effects remain destructive, but I was feeling grumpy about having expectations dashed about a proper rethink of what the store should be. It's naughty of me, because you know who else compared New World to Hitler?

At 9:51 am, April 27, 2007, Blogger R Singers said...

"It's naughty of me, because you know who else compared New World to Hitler"

I was reading some of the Section 59 comments on DPF's kiwiblog so I could probably list several people in the NZ blogosphere ;-)

At 11:11 am, April 27, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't know - who?

At 11:14 am, April 27, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tell you what though - it's got about twice as many signs on it as before - not much chance we'll mistake it for a FoodTown now is there ?! although, y'know, what's in a name : New World, Food Town, Food World, New Town, Woolworths, Wooltown, Pac'n'Save, whatever, its all the same really. Its still just the place to go on the way home so they can stick their branding....

At 11:36 am, April 27, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

It's ages since I've been to any supermarket other than a New World, since they're the only ones within walking distance (unless you count Moore Wilson). Is there much difference? I always got the impression that New World had a slightly better range of products (their beer selection is certainly quite impressive), and while some people say it's more expensive I've never tried doing a comparison.

The reason that I had a little bit of faith in NW is that AFAIK they're the only supermarket chain to have "Metro" stores. That hints at an understanding that not all supermarket users have cars, so that supermarkets don't have to be big boxes in the middle of huge open carparks but can actually fit into a dense urban environment. I just wish they'd seen the bigger picture at Chaffers!

At 8:18 am, April 28, 2007, Blogger R Singers said...

There is a difference between them all.

Pak'n'slave is awful if you buy anything but bread, milk, cheap nappies and
chocolate products. But at least they have a decent vegetable section. The real
problem with P'n'S is you still have to go somewhere else to get all the
products that they don't stock.

Countdown is the only place I've been able to find a full selection of items for
preserving when I've been making jam. They seem to be much better than Pak'n'Sav
in stocking a decent range of products. It's always been further for me to drive
to get to a Countdown so I haven't shopped there a lot.

Foodtown at Queensgate used to be an excellent supermarket. Wide range, wide
isles, and shoppers who didn't leave their trolleys where they blocked other
shoppers. Unfortunately this hasn't been carried over into Westfield Woolworths.
It's badly designed and only good for popping down to get a Bundaberg when faced
with the vast array of chain coffee outlets in the mall itself.

Most of the time I shop at one of the Tardis like smaller New Worlds. Which I'm
completely happy with except when they run out of Tonic (which seems to happen a
lot), or when I want the newer Bundaberg range such as
Apple Ale or
Lemon Ale to
use in place of Tonic.  If I need anything else I head for a larger New

At 9:54 am, April 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consumer's latest nation-wide selected individual supermarket comparison has both the most expensive and the cheapest supermarkets in NZ both in Kilbirnie - actually accross the road from each other Pak'n'Save being the nation's cheapest, and Woolworth the most costly. It is true that Pak'n'Save's selection isn't the best, and I normally prefer to go to a fresh produce market as the P'n'S produce isn't always of the best quality (you should see the way it is handled in store...).

New World targets the same crowd as Woolworths, so they are up their in price as well, especially the metro stores (captive market with good disposable income I suppose!).

...but back to the main subject, I guess you have to ask what is in it for New World to come up with a more civic-minded urban response? They did cop out in the 10 Worst buildings comment with the statement that the WCC let them do it, and in some respects they have a point - there is no incentive to do otherwise, and in the absence of professional expertise in the NW design team (?) - someone should have stepped in and guided the outcome...

At 5:41 pm, April 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The council should compulsorily acquire the open-air carpark and realign Chaffers St. with Blair Street. This would allow New World some outdoor parking (and the underground is never full from my experience, I shopped there for something like ten years and always managed to get a park within one row of the underground entrance) and also allow a logical street from Courtenay Place to Oriental Bay, even if it angles slightly toward Oriental Parade, perhaps. Also, this would allow for mid-rise residential development (and a narrow pedestrian mall in front of the old A Mart - one which emerges, hopefully into a 'greened' quay and pedestrian access to Te Papa) in probably the most desirable residential area in the city. (look at the prices of those apartments in front of the Herd Street building.)

That's how I always thought it would go when they redesigned Chaffer's Park.

This is frustrating.

At 5:58 pm, April 28, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"The council should..."

Amen to all of that. A 1-2 storey supermarket and open car park is such as waste of that block, and the whole process of walking from Courtenay Place to Waitangi Park is so much more complicated than it needs to be.

"This is frustrating."

Oh yes. The design brief for the Waitangi Precinct buildings called for designers to take into account the viewshaft down Cambridge Tce if the New World was ever moved or demolished. This would seem the perfect opportunity to do just that, but now that they're spending money on the revamp, it seems less and less likely.

At 10:08 pm, April 30, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't really even figure out why they are bothering to do it, except for putting up lots of big signs with their brand on. They're installing a passenger lift down to the carpark, which is all fine and dandy, and long overdue, but then the rest just seems like a bad case of Scope Creep... ie

"well, while we're putting in a lift, we may as well tart the front up a little..."

"ooh, and while we're tarting up the front, may as well re-do the signage and put up a glass walkway..."

"ooh, and while we're putting up a glass walkway, we may as well re-do the staff room, and put some more signage up..."

"ooh, and did we mention signage...?"

At 2:58 am, March 05, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard that Chaffers NW or Foodstuffs own the old A-mart building across the road. They're gonna eventually tear it down, build apartments and open their bottle store on ground level, then bid for the other building on Chaffers after which they're gonna apply to WCC to have Chaffers st closed and expand the carpark. Hmmm


Post a Comment

<< Home