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

Friday, August 03, 2007

It's a competitive world

Here's a quick round-up of some recent and upcoming architectural competitions.

The Road Works winners were announced last night, and it was interesting to note that my entry was not the only one to ignore the MCH-sanctioned plan to move Buckle St closer to Mt Cook School: in fact, everyone rejected that in favour of a bridge, trench or simply leaving the road where it is. I didn't get a chance to note down the names of the winning team (I hope to rectify that soon), but here's some blurry photos of their scheme, which was one of the most subtle and sensible ones on offer.

Winning entry in the Road Works competitionThis scheme follows the history of excavation of Mt Cook, forming a crater-like amphitheatre between the Carillion and the school. The one really controversial aspect of this is that the road enters this gentle dip and goes through a 10kph "shared zone" for both cars and pedestrians. For major events, State Highway 1 would have to be closed, which is an intentional aspect of the scheme's investigation of the concept of "interference" between stillness and movement. But can you imagine Transit's reaction?

Following up from this, on August 10th the brief will be announced for another, much more wide-ranging competition. This one will be called ABC - Connection Through to the City, and is intended to "raise the level of debate about transport movements and the relationship between transport and urban spaces". Buckle St will once again be part of the focus, since it examines the vital connections from the airport to the city and beyond. The entries will be displayed during IntensCITY Week, of which I will say much more later.

The winner of the Kumutoto public toilets competition has also been decided, and while I've been told what it is, it's not supposed to be public knowledge until Wellington Waterfront Ltd have had a chance to assess its physical and financial viability. What I can say is that the winning scheme looks damned good, and as far as I'm aware there's really nothing quite like it in New Zealand architecture.

And speaking of Kumutoto, at the moment half of the city's architects will be furiously putting the finishing touches on their entries for sites 8, 9 and 10. This is the next area of the waterfront set for some big, and with any luck, exciting changes, and while it should all be in line with the long-standing masterplan and design brief for the area, I'm looking forward to seeing the specific designs for the buildings and public space. Not all of the final uses for those buildings will have been determined yet, and with the Draft Waterfront Development Plan currently undergoing consultation, now might be a good time to push for specific ground floor uses, such as an indoor sports centre. I'll be writing more on the subject soon.


At 12:49 am, August 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A 10kmh speed limit on SH1 the most important road in the wellington region I think not. They have to be out of their minds. Trench/Tunnel it.

At 12:54 am, August 04, 2007, Blogger Erentz said...

That's really cool, I like the "crater-like amphitheater". (Okay, yeah 10kh is unrealistic but its still a nice idea landscape wise. Just move SH1.)

I got bored tonight so I sketched up my own idea around the memorial park. Is based around the cool fact that Parliament, the Cenotaph, the squares, and the memorial all line up perfectly on a north-south axis, which just seems too cool not to exploit as a theme.
The Memorial Axis

At 2:22 am, August 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course Transit could always impose it's Christchurch solution and save itself a lot of money and agro. The solution: terminate SH1 at the end of the motorway. Or be even bolder, terminate SH1 at the ferry terminal and restart it at Picton. Let the ratepayers pay for improvements to ALL the major arterials then Transit can reinstate its highway designation and just pay for maintenance of the works constructed at the ratepayers expense. Works in Christchurch...ok you'll end up with chronic congestion but think of the joy and satisfaction of knowing that a third of you petrol taxes are being spent on other peoples roads.

At 3:04 pm, August 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmm... rather a regrettable decision by the judges i fear. Yes, it is beautifully presented, but also oh so naive-beyond-belief. Have the (presumably students) actually been to the site, which is just out their doorstep, and seen the sheer volume of traffic? Only an idiot would propose a gentle 10kph intermingling of cars and people in that zone, being as it is a short interlude betweeen 2 sections of effective motorway.

At 9:28 am, August 06, 2007, Blogger Erentz said...

Just to defend whoever it was quickly, it is really unfair to call him/her/them an idiot.

I'm sure they knew full well what they were proposing was unfeasible, but it's a design concept, meant for sparking ideas, discussion, etc. it's not meant as a reality.

Although that said there is no reason why it is unfeasible, who is to say it couldn't be modified, and SH1 moved north to be an extended Abel Smith St, or buried under the site, leaving the design largely intact, but with greatly reduced traffic.

At 9:55 am, August 06, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Anons: I think I should have been clearer in my description of the "Road Works" competition. It's not the official (invited) competition to choose a design to be built, but an informal competition run by people interested in architecture and urbanism in order to stimulate a wider debate about the role of memorials, transport and urban space, rather than just designing a pretty park.

As Erentz said, "they knew full well what they were proposing was unfeasible", but the competition explicitly invited contestants to go beyond the limits of the "feasible", with all of the conventional thinking that that implies. For instance, if it's so important to remember and show respect to those who died in the wars, why shouldn't traffic be forced to slow down and pay some respect as well? The winning entry is worthwhile because it shows how a beautiful and dignified space can result when the overriding principle of urban design is not "Traffic Uber Alles".

And for the record, I don't think that SH1 is necessarily "the most important road in the wellington region". I don't have figures with me, but it's quite possible that the Golden Mile carries more people at peak times than SH1 does.


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