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

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fear and Loathing

The Dominion Post have followed up their lists of the best and worst buildings in Wellington (selected by the Architectural Centre) by telling us what "we" like and "loathe". It's not clear from the article exactly who "we" are: it seems to be a combination of reader's letters in response to the other lists, random vox pops, pupils from Upper Hutt College, and Russell Walden. I'd thus wager that the sample is not exactly scientific or representative of "us". Part of the article is online, but not the lists, so here they are:

"You" like:
Futuna Chapel
Freyberg Pool
Westpac Stadium
Te Puni KĊkiri
Public Library and Civic Square
St Francis de Sales Church, Island Bay
Old St Paul's
Government wooden buildings
Wellington railway station
Berhampore State Flats

"You" don't:
Te Papa
Car Park, Boulcott St
Chinese Embassy
Museum Hotel
QBA apartments, Webb St
Apartments at 318 Oriental Parade
Southern Plumbing, Brooklyn
Ruins on the corner of Kent Tce and Dufferin St
Gateway Apartments above Pt Jerningham
Wakefield St apartments

Most of the "liked" list is uncontroversial, though they've gone beyond the age limit set by the Architectural Centre in their original list, and I don't know St Francis de Sales Church well enough to comment. There are many among the loathed that I agree with, though I don't mind Te Papa as much as some do and I quite like the QBA apartments. It's interesting to see that the Wakefield apartments were the only ones from the architects' list to be hated by "the public", though I wonder how many people would mention them unprompted.

I scratched my head over 318 Oriental Parade, since it didn't stand out in my memory. As far as I can work out, it's the one highlighted in this photo.

318 Oriental ParadeIt's a fairly typical example of the sort of cheesy "upmarket" postmodernism that ruled through the 80s and 90s, but there are plenty of worse examples around. It's certainly nowhere near as loathsome as its neighbour to the south, which stomps up the hill in a series of galumphingly heavy and poorly detailed terraces, so I wonder whether someone got them mixed up. Then again, the article mentions that "readers also hated the Oriental Parade high-rise in which mayor Kerry Prendergast lives with her husband, developer Rex Nicholls", so maybe this is the one they're referring to, and it's just a convenient chance to get in a dig at Rex & Kerry.

I was interested to see that Walden picked out the new Audi-Porsche dealership in Cambridge Tce as one of his favourites. I quite like it as a building, with its high-tech detailing almost reminiscent of Nicholas Grimshaw, but to me it's exactly the wrong sort of typology to be encouraging in the inner city. Instead of low-rise, single use car yards surrounded by vast areas of asphalt, we need to make the most of the space and put such retail outlets at the base of multi-storey apartment of office buildings. There are so many better buildings to be highlighting at the moment.


At 8:29 pm, June 05, 2007, Blogger Will de Cleene said...

Agree about the Audi-Porshe design. It throws the old Mitsi dealership near the Basin into even starker relief. BTW, are they ever going to do anything with the disused land on the corner of the Basin Reserve or the vacant lot on the corner leading up to Mt Vic tunnel?

The least they could do is reinstate the witty pithy weekly billboard pisstake they used to have in the late 80/ early 90s. Dagg knows, we could all do with a laugh while waiting at the lights.

At 9:27 am, June 06, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"BTW, are they ever going to do anything with the disused land on the corner of the Basin Reserve or the vacant lot on the corner leading up to Mt Vic tunnel?"

That land has been set aside for a future flyover.

At 10:21 am, June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RW's definition of architecture is an extremely narrow one, centred on the actual architectural object (and I guess its relationship with the 'spirit of the time'). It does not take into account the wider concerns which I guess we would call urbanism... such a new-fangled concept and all...

At 3:49 pm, June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am consistently amazed at people's liking for the Westpac Stadium. The good things are, I'm guessing, the site, accessibility to the railway station and buses, and possibly also the long walkway which gives a decent sense of being part of an event (let's leave aside the fact it is horribly open to the elements). And I can probably agree with those. But....

It simply isn't fit for purpose. It is primarily a rugby stadium, but one single subsidiary use, one day cricket, was completely allowed to dominate the design to the utter detriment of its primary use. It's an oval, not a rectangle, which means that when you're on the sides you're miles from the action, and this problem is even worse at the ends. The viewing angles are all skewiff, particularly if you're in a corner.

Furthermore, it holds about 8,000 too few people which means that prices have been able to steeple for popular events, and in my view that makes it both less democratic and also means that it does not create the kind of noise that it ought to because the stands are neither high enough nor close enough to the ground. It is also undevelopable in its current form, so we're stuck with the bloody thing.

In my view, the only reason wellingtonians like it is that Athletic Park was so rundown by the end, and that the facilities at Westpac are pretty good. As a place to actually watch sport, I am utterly gutted that we had such a good opportunity site-wise and did not put up a 45,000 or even bigger rectangular stadium (or at least, one with a rectangular playing surface) and boost the Basin's capacity to close to 20K, which is all that cricket really needs anyway. The whole stadium debate in Auckland could have been moot, because the final would automatically have been given to Wellington.


At 6:39 pm, June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, i'm not 100% sure but i don't think that Kerry / Rex (Wellington's nuclear family..) live in either of those 2 you pictured. They are, i think, much closer, ie in or near the Point which is 166 or thereabouts? Which is almost as ugly....

But those two in your photo - the one 'galumphing' up the hill is by the infamous "Doctor" Donald, and, while hideously ugly, is nonetheless reasoned in its architectural logic. The other one - yee gods - the columns coming down to the super wide garage? and the gaping void beneath? The mock-classical columns alone, let alone twinned with black smoky glass. The mock-pediment on top? All too hideous. If our Mayor was to actually live there, all hope would be lost.

I believe she has slightly better taste than that.

At 6:46 pm, June 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re the Porsche showroom - its by Archaus i believe - their best building yet? Or is it all dictated to them by the Germans? Is the answer to the commission all in their name?

Whatever the reasons for Walden nominating it, i think its a pity that the building is not flipped - the Holy Shrine of 911 nearer the road, a round chapel, like the St Jo's church on the road to Mt Vic tunnel.

The alter of Porsche is quite lovely right at the back, but so hard to see unless you truly worship the car and pay homage down the back street.

But that's truly enough ecclesiastical cliches for now....

At 2:38 am, June 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree about 'the spirit of the time'.

Where exactly will the flyover go? I can't seem to make the necessry links in my brain, unless Buckle becomes two way or you can turn right onto Buckle from Kent. However, that'd cause all sorts of dramas with the Basin Reserve <---> Chaffer's New World viewshaft.

I was a bit skeptical about that whole dompost article insofar as it felt like a hack job and the journalist just had a list of ten buildings he wanted people to comment on.

I get the feeling that my top five and bottom five buildings in Wellington are on Wakefield/Mercer Street. There's just broad spectrum of the best and worst.


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