The Eye of the Fish

Erentz
December 6, 2012

100,000 homes x 10 years = ??

Labour’s 100,000 homes in 10 years housing policy is certainly ambitious, and awesome, and downright scary. What could this mean for Wellington? Well, assuming Labour is elected in two years time and the policy hasn’t been thrown in the dustbin, it may mean something on the order of $2-3 billion of investment in Wellington. Christ on a cracker that’s a lot of money.

Of course, the scary part is that once you get the bureaucrats in, we could end up with terrible outcomes. More Canons Creeks and Newtown Park Flats spattered around haplessly by unhappy, demotivated people who have had all the creativity and sense of purpose beaten out of them by their incompetent masters. I believe it is possible to set up a new agency to invest this money that had the right structure and motivations, god forbid staffed with architects and urban planners, but boy am I skeptical. Anyway, Labour is likely to shoot itself in the head several times before the next election so this policy is still in the realm of fantasy.

What really interests me is thinking about what could be achieved with that much capital, spent over such a short time, and all by one agency. We know the Government will need to get creative in order to keep its land costs down. To some sprawl-enthusiasts this means opening up more land on the periphery of the city, but we know this won’t work, the land is still too expensive, and the cost of building out the services to these new exurbs is too high. But where else could they go? Well, up of course. And in Wellington I’d argue this means really going up. Unless you’re going to plow over and rebuild Naenae, the land costs in Wellington are realistically too great not to be building more than five stories.

With that said, the next aspect of this I find interesting is thinking about what kind of other benefits you can generate from a consolidated, well planned, $2 billion investment. Why should the outcome be limited to just building homes? This should also be the opportunity to set benchmarks by which other buildings in New Zealand will be judged. But could it also an opportunity to drive down the cost and drive up the quality of building materials used in New Zealand? And an opportunity to develop a better prefabrication and modular building industry?

But as for Wellington, and all cities who would be on the receiving end, the Sim City mayor in me can’t help but think that when such a large scale of development is on the table, such an agency could work with the city to identify urban design problem areas, purchase and agglomerate multiple sections, build missing connections through city blocks, add to our public space, and so on, all for the same cost of ad-hoc, scattershot development. But will we see this?

DeepRed
6 - 12 - 12

Up is pretty much the only way for Wellington, in spite of the Quarter Acre Cartel’s protestations. At the same time though, it’s vital to learn from the lessons of Auckland’s shoeboxes, and to a lesser extent the Soho apartments on Taranaki St. Personally a mixed-use development with a diversity of residents would be ideal – the Marina City towers in Chicago offer a useful template.

PBY
7 - 12 - 12

The Wellington region has a bunch of locations where the airspace over and adjacent to the railway stations could be used for medium and high density residential development.
Covering over Kaiwharawhara station and building up would give apartments close to the city and some with harbour views. Around Kenepuru there are some slivers of land that could take terraced housing within a few minutes walk of a train station. other locations are available, but I think the best ones are going to take some creativity.

m-d
9 - 12 - 12

GWW=Strathmore, looking over Miramar?

Maximus
10 - 12 - 12

Erentz, you know, the whole week that Shearer was trying to launch the Labour housing proposal, there was so much noise from the bullshit phoney leadership coup, that I never actually heard or read a thing about it in the press. Which is a great pity, as I think the country definitely needs some more houses. Well, probably not more shit suburbs, but yes, definitely some quality medium density housing. Like, ummm, trying to think of some good examples.

Erentz
10 - 12 - 12

m-d: yep. From 1960, constructing the state houses IIRC, from natlib, if you search for strathmore you’ll get the original which is quite a bit bigger.

Maximus: phony leadership coup is right. Was a policy that deserved a better degree of analysis than i could offer. Unfortunately about the only “serious” analysis was to quote national calling it absurd, first because they’d done some maths (they were quite prou of this) and you’d have to build a house every 2 hours, as we all know you can only build one thing at a time so this blew labours plan right out of the water. Second they cried land prices were far too high, 300,000 per home wouldn’t even by the land, because the only good house is one with a quarter acre.

Kent Duston
10 - 12 - 12

I had occasion to look through an available 2 bedroom apartment in Soho last week (long story: need temporary digs while we renovate) and the place was … simply stunning.

It was up on the top floor, but you’d never know it. The north (i.e. sunny and view-laden) side was consumed by a walkway that had previously done service as a gangway from a WWII tramp steamer, so naturally the outlook was to the south. The rooms were tiny, to the point that swinging a mouse was nigh-impossible, let alone a cat. Everything about the place was cheaply constructed and nastily designed – it isn’t so much an apartment block as a very large pile of congealed cynicism in the middle of the city. Calling the place an ugly shit-box would be an insult to perfectly respectable shit-boxes the world over.

But the best part was the 24×7 CCTV surveillance system, which was sold as a “benefit” – apparently installed in response to tenant behaviours. Joy.

So let’s see … ugly architecture, round-the-clock video cameras, tiny spaces crammed full of unhappy people – it almost sounds like the design and execution was the result of the architects recycling some plans they had left over from an earlier job for HM Prisons. Only the tenants actually have to pay to be there.

I think Soho should be mandatory viewing for all architecture and urban design students in this country – as an object lesson in how high density can go so horribly wrong.

Maximus
11 - 12 - 12

Kent, thank you for that – superb summary of what I suspected was an all time absolute shit building – glad to be proven right. You should, and I mean this most sincerely, write reviews for Architecture New Zealand.

And actually, on many of those comments, you are right. The architects DID have a box of left-over plans from an asian students scheme in Aucjlkand – largely identical here. The surveillance system – at least one person has jumped to their death / been thrown from the ramparts so far. Absorbidant rents (absorbent? like they soak up all your money?) as well. There is only one redeeming feature about the building – the larger than life supermodel crotch shots at ground level, advertising bikini waxing or something.Really takes your mind off the building above…

davidp
11 - 12 - 12

Talking about lots of building… There is a hell of a lot going on around town at the moment:
1. OPT, which looks a lot taller than I expected it to be.
2. Lower Taranaki St, ex strip club.
3. Opposite Macs Brew Bar.
4. Il Casino.
5. Behind Burrito Brothers.
6. And Taranki St between Vivian and the bypass, which was finished a few months ago.

I have decided that the recession is officially over.

60 MPa
12 - 12 - 12

Dear Santa
For Saturnalia please bring me some smartly spacious and generally well-thought-out duplex and/or courtyard style mid-rise apartments clustered along Adelaide Rd, Thorndon Quay and above suburban retail within 400m of train stations.
If this is not available could I please have gated communities sprawling over good market gardening land, motorways for fucking Africa and a permanent underclass?

Many thanks

starkive
12 - 12 - 12

Not to grinch it up or anything, but the construction behind the Burrito Bros, where an old Shell petrol station used to stand is all in aid of… a new Z petrol station.

davidp
12 - 12 - 12

Thanks Starkive… I hadn’t realised that and had assumed it’d be some apartments. Because apartments would make sense on the site, while another inner-city petrol station doesn’t.

60 MPa> mid-rise apartments clustered along Adelaide Rd, Thorndon Quay

Thorndon Quay is an ugly street full of furniture shops. There are no cafes and it’s a long walk to the nearest supermarket. It’s blighted by the vast wasteland of the rail yards, which also block access to the harbour. I have no idea why anyone would want to live there unless: 1. They buy carpet a lot. 2. They’re a train-spotter who’d live to watch the shunting out their window. Why not just intensify apartment development in a place that is fun to live, like Te Aro?

Seamonkey Madness
12 - 12 - 12

Yes, the Burrito Bros are getting a Z as a neighbour.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/7694163/After-five-years-petrol-station-returns

I had the good fortune to see the renderings for when it was going to be a new Shell and it looked very nice, but now it is a Z I’m wondering whether they (NZ Pension Fund and Infratil) have the pesos and cajones to follow through with it.

Also, EotF has covered this (sort of) before: http://eyeofthefish.org/dude-wheres-my-gas-station/
=)

Speaking of mid-town compact urban buildings, did anyone else see Grand Designs Australia last night?
http://www.lifestyle.com.au/granddesigns/series-1/episode-2-very-small-house.aspx

starkive
12 - 12 - 12

The best thing about the Vivian St dig has been the unearthing of some very 19th Century-looking brick sewers. A much more exciting underbelly to the city than I realised. No alligators or Mini Coopers, but enough scope for a bit of Harry Lime.

Flat_White
13 - 12 - 12

Not quite Adelaide Rd, but there are some mid-rise apartments (“Masina”) rising at the corner of Riddiford and Hall Sts in Newtown. Novak+Middleton are the architects – approx 70m2, 2 bedrooms – “Life Defining Space”. Apparantly.

Flat_White
13 - 12 - 12

Or even apparently.

Maximus
14 - 12 - 12

Starkive – yes, the brick culvert holding the remaining trickle of the Waimapihi stream apparently. Bloody hard to get any good photos of it. I think, just maybe, that what they have done, is put in a diversion of the stream, into concrete pipes, so they can install giant underground fuel tanks instead. The new route would certainly be big enough for Harry to get away in, but not sure if the original brick tube was big enough…?

Seamonkey Madness
14 - 12 - 12

Picture of sexy brick stormwater drain, coming right up:
http://twitter.com/badtom/status/253279659117133825/photo/1