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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Queen's Wharf design competition [UPDATED - review]

After entering the competition to design the Britomart transport centre (in 2000) I learnt a few things about these things:

1. The details of the brief are irrelevant as they are only after general ideas and concepts despite what they say - indeed, the schmucks like me who kept within the brief actually handicapped themselves because the other designs that did not had more latitude to do something impressive and were rewarded for things that were contrary to the brief.

2. The big guys get all the breaks (incl. being able to submit after deadline) and are preferred regardless of how appalling their work is (esp. the awful Warren & Mahony).

3. The municipal authorities (via their appointed judges) will go with a conservative overall concept, but the costs will be liberal because it is totally over-spec'ed for what it is and the changes all add up.

4. There will be little "future-proofing" taken into consideration (eg. where the future tracks are supposed to go - that's where they put all the access points that will inevitably have to be moved at great expense).

5. The project will have plenty of jargon about connecting and integration and heritage, but it will be essentially an ad hoc piece of a mismatching row in a mismatching patchwork quilt (eg. the idea of having the Vector arena where those 12 floor office blocks are going up now on the site was so obvious - and yet they went and built it about half a kilometre away where there are no buses or train station).

6. Crucial elements upon which the winning design is based will be reversed, or altered significantly, during the process rendering much of the advantages of the scheme void.

On the last point I was particularly offended by the decision to turn the pedestrian area of QEII Square into a bus depot. It was emphasised in the initial brief that it should be kept as a public space - and that was the only real option... but they changed that around. Instead of having the buses out the back (where they used to be), or down the sides of the block, they decided to whore that space out for office buildings, created a mess of a taxi stand sort of thing (in between two large ugly exhaust fume vents that look like toilet blocks) and put all the buses out front and destroyed the only large pedestrian open space downtown. Everyone that used to enjoy the square are supposed to eat their lunch in the vicinity of the grey and concrete of the toilet block-type vents out in the service area behind, or in the small, windswept, unsheltered, antiseptic forecourt in front of the Downtown shopping mall.

It is disgusting what they have done. The buses have to go somewhere - but anywhere, ANYWHERE, else - please. The Queen's Wharf development - I pray - will be the excuse to get rid of the bus depot and restore it to a public space.

I can't see the Queen's Wharf project differing in nature from the assertions in the points above despite being a central and local government consortium. For example - on the ad hoc point - the undeveloped wharves to the East will become passenger/recreation in the future, but that is beyond the brief and cannot be included.. meaning another ad hoc competition in another ten or twenty years for the next wharf, and then another, and another... rather than developing a total concept.

What I've suggested here is a waka whose prow/stern sits atop the wharf and will tower over the passenger ships destined to dock on the Eastern side (and in the future perhaps also the Western side). When these gigantic ships come to rest in the Waitemata it should be under a Maori waka - it should dwarf them.

These cruise ships are used to being the largest vessels at the wharves at which they berth and for once on the trip around the world they should have the spectacle and experience of being made tiny. The waka starts in QEII Square (repedestrianised) in the form of walkways along the edge of the waka which form two ramps over Quay Street - creating a gateway that breaks up the monotony and bleakness of the road. I would suggest making the structure out of iron in a lattice form with Maori motifs and painted a stark colour like black or red. There ought to be large sections as holes to match the opening of the Quay Street gateway - this will reduce the viewing obstruction to the old Ferry Building. At the top is an observation deck, below is the passenger terminal (which could be physically separate) and ramps feeding out from there to the walkway will take passengers straight down onto Queen Street. The view lines down the centre of Queen Street right through to the sea (and Devonport) should be retained. The Tainui proveb "Te kei o te Waka Tainui" that says the stern of the Tainui waka is at Tamaki Makaurau (ie. the Northern extent of their territorial domain) was the inspiration, but that is not what the design is - it is a generic waka and may be a prow rather than a stern. In the drawing the top observation deck is just higher than No.1 Queen St (the old Air NZ building) opposite the old Ferry Building, so as to give a proper panorama.But I couldn't be arsed jumping through the hoops to put in an official submission this time around knowing how the system works. There is a lot of documentation and a lot of superfluous and repetitive council wank about stupid things like respecting the shitty sheds that will be demolished anyway after the Rugby World Cup in any event. And there are rules about sight lines and so on that make you wonder how the whoredom of 10 floor hotels on the neighbouring Prince's Wharf ever happened. Whatever. My scribblings from last month out of my diary should suffice to give the flavour of the radical sort of thinking that I would like to see from the real architects who made the effort to put in something official.

There will be initial public viewings of the submissions at the Union Fish Co. building at 116 Quay Street (Designs online here).

There will also be public access to the usually sealed off wharf (it is still a functioning part of the Ports of Auckland and a customs area) from 1pm - 4pm today.

[UPDATE-- 12:30PM: Of the 233 designs the ones catching my eye, though not necessarily my approval:—
- Age of aquarium.

- Koru club

- A white elephant, ha, ha, ha... *groan*.

- Waka Tauihu (bowsprit).

- 037 is so boring and practical and modest, yet it does enough with the wave contours to attract attention - this is the sort of obviously within budget option I could see the judges going for. 039 is another example, but I must be sparing as there are almost 200 to go, but you get the drift:

- 048. This is the awful sort of Warren & Mahony school of brutalist monstrosity I was talking about. Girders and 90 degree angles, sharp, harsh edges, like a container terminal for robots rather than for humans. UGLY.
- 063 is indicative of the dozens of entries that use a Maori whare design - either as decorations for the two sheds, or in this case, as new structures.- It's been pointed out and no doubt - being not even half way through - it will be pointed out a few more times. An actual marae - a real marae - is incompatible with the space and the purposes, but the gateway and the forecourt and the motifs and the welcoming and entry vibe can be used.
- This is an example of the many curve designs - but if you are going to use it you might as well max it out like 084 does and take it all the way from the tip, right into QEII Square and make the structures curves and waves too.
- You see where this one is going.
- The steps to the water at the end is something similar to what I have next to the diving platforms, but in 124 there are jetties for small craft, so this is not a swimming scenario and resembles the tiers of paving around the Sydney Opera House. There should be a swimming deck with outdoor showers. In my concept there is a cordon of buoys at the end to give some sense of safety to the divers and bathers and to keep small craft out. I don't think there is that much pollution at the end of the wharf as it is deep and quite a way into the channel that is swept by tides (similar to Donkey Beach at the foot of the Devonport Wharf on the other side of the straight that is reputedly very clean). I think it is important that people be given the opportunity to actually dip their feet in the Waitemata - a series of steps or a low pontoon could achieve this.
- The big kina!
- Legoland!
- Yes it's a rip-off of London (which is a rip-off of Vienna), but it is practical, bold and remarkable. Lack of originality aside, this is the type of large-scale option I would favour for the site.
- It's waka-a-go-go. 153 has a boat ramp at the end. The ramp option is a bit dicey at the tip given it goes into very deep water, but hovercrafts could use a ramp if it were put on the Western side where the future ferry berths will be. I like the idea of being able to walk down Queen Street and then keep going all the way into the harbour.
- These ramp link things may look silly, but since the future passenger terminals will be on the wharves to the East it is exactly the sort of concourses that may need to be built... and I love the scale. The issue will be to make them as low impact as possible so as not to impose any more obstructions between land and sea.
- Another, depressing, bleak, cold, hideous contender for the Warren & Mahony wooden spoon of East German throw-back, draftsmen's banality. How many times did they enter?
- More waka-a-go-go.
- More wakarage. This is one of the closest designs to my own, but I did not see many in the pile that incorporated QEII Square as a vital part, and nor did I see any entry suggesting a ramp over Quay St. --UPDATE ENDS]



At 13/9/09 8:05 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Number 29, the elephant, wins by far for its elegance and simplicity.

At 13/9/09 7:28 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great selection of designs..

Wish you'd posted your "things you learnt" essay before the closing date. Very funny and knowledgable!

Keep fighting the brutalists..


At 14/9/09 11:26 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I vote for the elephant.

The spare ribs ('meeting place of our future') is clever... but will it puncture cruise ships that moor near it? Imagine the carnage.

But then again, a cheap way to reclaim more land...


At 14/9/09 12:07 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your idea bears a uncany resemblance to the Waka Stadium idea that was bought up duing the great stadium debate of 2006:

I think it's got merit. I can already hear the wailing though...
"how many [insert schools/operations/teachers/doctors/miscellaneous jobs] could you fund using the cash from constructing that [insert abomination/monstrosity]".

The reality is that no truely global landmark is going to be constructed on any site during these uncertain times.

At 14/9/09 7:48 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

google Rewi Thompson, you'll see your idea done years ago by one of this countries most talented and respected architects. And btw, your Rodney District reasoning above is as amateur as your QW entry is plagiarised.

At 14/9/09 11:34 p.m., Blogger Tim Selwyn said...

Anon 7:48PM: I had no knowledge of the waka stadium or Rewi Thompson - the Tainui proverb was what gave me the idea, so your plagiarism allegation is unfounded. There were several designs that incorporate some sort of waka prow - and that did not surprise me and it would not surprise me either if some of those entries had no idea that a waka theme had been mooted for the port area in the past. But if you have mistaken my simple idea with a talented and respected architect's previous work then ... thanks.

At 25/9/09 1:08 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice designs sneaking in at the last minute?

Or after the last minute (as Tim warned)?

I'm sure there were only 233 when the comp entries were placed, somehow 4 more snuck in last week...


At 25/9/09 4:17 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. There were 233 when I looked at them on Monday the 15th.
I did notice there were also missing numbers in the squence. E.G. Entry number 12 wasn't there previously. Did anyone else pick this up?

At 25/9/09 7:18 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't spot that, I remember it started at number 2 though. Number 1 has since then sprouted miraculously. Must have been a coding problem or something, as for everything post 233...

I wonder if they are going to actually release finalists today, office hours are now well behind us.

At 27/9/09 2:50 p.m., Blogger Tim Selwyn said...

Yes - a little dickie bird tells me the first entry they received was the one of the white elephant, but they didn't want to put that as No.1 because it was a bad look so they shifted it down the list once a few more had come in. That is understandable and it doesn't really alter anything of substance - unlike 233...

At 27/9/09 8:43 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...



oh, tuesday, according to the queens wharf twittery thing

At 28/9/09 10:27 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or wednesday now if you read their updated timeline...

What's that thing about the speed of light getting further away as you get closer to it?

At 29/9/09 9:19 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, they've definitely avoided the iconic building idea..

"The designs selected to go forward to Stage 2 of the competition are as follows:

Design number 024 - Andrius Gedgaudas, Architect, Shanghai China.
Design number 046 - Den Aitken, Pete Griffins and Hamish Foote, Field Landscape Architecture, Auckland.
Design number 170 - David Gibbs and Aaron Sills, Construkt / SVB, Auckland.
Design number 195 - John Coop, Tasman Studio, Auckland.
Design number 216 - Simon Williams, Williams Architects Ltd, Auckland."

At 29/9/09 9:24 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

And a little something for the Brutalists...

The teams are summarised below.

E001 'Tasman Studio'

Companies: Warren and Mahoney, Moller Architects, Boffa Miskell, Beca, BEA Architects, Miami

Key People: Gordon Moller, Blair Johnston, John Coop (key contact), Andrew Collow (key contact), Rachel de Lambert, John Mackay, Mark Spenser, Andrew Barclay, Tere Insley, Terry St George, Craig Moller, Bruno-Elias Ramos, Alan Barbour, Bren Morrision, John Potter

E014 'Jasmax | Architectus'

Companies: Jasmax, Architectus, RCP, Aurecon, Opus, Marshall Day Acoustics

Key People: Severin Soder, Patrick Clifford, Matthew Grub (key contact), Kelly Burke, Greg Boyden, Alex Teoh, Shaun Barrett, Henry Crothers, Sara Zwart, Dave Fullbrook, Malcolm Bowes, Waren Warfield, Rob Walsham, Alistair Ray, Sarah McGowan

E021 'Water-shed'

Companies: Stevens Lawson Architects, Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, Taylor Cullity Lethlean, Homes Consulting, eCubed Building Workshop

Key People: Nicholas Stevens (key Contact), Gary Lawson (key contact)


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