The Eye of the Fish

July 7, 2010

Shed your coat / Coat your Shed

Poor old Auckland – even though I can’t stand the place, it is almost getting my vote of sympathy this week. First up, some good news: they’ve banned Vuvuzelas from Eden Park. Personally I think they should bring in a mandatory shoot-on-sight policy for anyone found wielding one, but that might be a little harsh for a $2 piece of plastic.

But secondly, time for some Brickbats. I heard on the radio this morning someone blaming “Wellington” for the latest stuff-up on the beleagured Queens Wharf debacle / shed wrangle / utter series of unmitigated cock-ups.

What, blame the whole city of Wellington? Surely not. I think they mean just one man, Murray McCully. And he’s an Aucklander, through and through. Voted in by Aucklanders, remember. “We” down here in Wellington take no responsibility for that man – you can have him back any time you want!

On a more serious note though, just what IS happening with Auckland and its sheds? A recap: you may remember that a couple of years ago, Labour Minister of Sport (who was it – Trevor Mallard?) suggested that Auckland have a waterfront stadium, but they had to make their minds up in one month, and all the red tape of Resource Consent would have to be ignored. That one was rejected, but then the next suggestion – this time by National (and Minister of the Rugby World Cup, Muzza McCully) was an edifice for “Party Central” to be built on Auckland’s Queens Wharf, which was duly purchased for about $80million, mostly off the people who already owned it.

Queue scene therefore for a terribly run competition being won by a consortium of NZIA presidents or ex-presidents or some such unholy cabal and resulting almighty clusterfuck (all Aucklanders, needless to say). Followed swiftly by massive kerfuffle scuffle of unseemly bitch-slapping amongst architects and public bodies, when the resulting best picks were snafued by an even more unholy cabal of McCully, John Banks, and Mike Lee (Aucklanders also, the lot of them).

photos courtesy of SkyscraperCity
– thanks!)

Straight after the statement that “there were no winners, and none of the schemes would be selected”, one of the schemes was duly selected, and worked up some more – which ended up looking almost exactly the same, and costing half as much – or was that twice as much? It hardly matters, because then it got chucked out to be followed by a new scheme – by who, or whom, or by whose go-ahead, it hardly matters, because it was widely agreed to look like an ugly, ungainly, wiggly worm, and demolished the old sheds that were there all along. But at least someone had made a decision. An Aucklander, no doubt.

Today however, it has all flared up again – a “group of Auckland architects” has objected to the proposed demolition of the 2 old sheds. Esteemed architect and NZ TV-folk-hero David Mitchell said:

“architects had a professional understanding of the planning and construction issues involved in preserving buildings, an appreciation of architectural quality and a love of Auckland as it was… ….There are noble structures beneath the battered tin sheathing of these sheds, and we now strongly urge Aucklanders to resist the current proposal to bowl them over and replace them with a new building. … The Queens Wharf sheds are among the few good examples of early industrial architecture left in Auckland”

Which may well be true – they are old (ish), they are / were industrial, and there is no reason to bowl them over and replace them with a worse building, for a party that lasts only 3 weeks. We’ve been saying that for ages – at last someone up there has some sense at last. They may, or may not be worth keeping long term, but they’re not worth bowling just for the (itself, much maligned) concept of “Party Central”.

However, sensible comments like that were not really helped by fellow Architect and pig-fancier Tony Watkins, writing on the Auckland Architect Association website, who said blokes, sheds and rugby were the right ingredients for a party on Queens Wharf. Which may well be right, but then he said:

“The sheds … have spent a lifetime getting ready for a party. No architect can create that magic.”

Gee, thanks a lot Tony, shoot your whole profession in the back why don’t you. Actually, any architect worth their salt in Wellington could easily create magic either with or without an existing shed – not sure about you lot up in Auckland. But now the whole scene is being laid into by a lecturer at AUT, one Paul Moon, who has come out fighting with knives aimed straight for the jugular of the dithery lot in AKL. And the AAA are fighting back. Moon first:

“…architects were artists first, and building designers second. The magnificent constructions conceived by the likes of Bernini and Michelangelo were marvels of creativity and originality, and achieved lasting appeal. Yet, both of these men, and scores of others like them before the 19th century, came to architecture after starting their careers in the fine arts. This is no longer the case. Increasingly, it seems that architecture has become dominated by the art of fashion-infused mimicry…. [and of the sheds, he said:] ….Their aesthetic value, even if they were restored to pristine condition, would be negligible, except for those with very fanciful imaginations. The sheds were constructed during a period when the Arts and Crafts movement was reaching its maturity, yet they show no influence of this. Neither are there any traces of modernism in the sheds, which was the emerging force in design at that time. Indeed, there is not even the residue of Gothic-Revival, which a few of the more conservative architects still indulged in at the beginning of the 20th century. So some architects have started to throw around words such as “heritage”, “rejuvenation” and “history” as an alternative justification for keeping these dour and decaying storage spaces.

The fact is that the sheds on the Wharf were designed purely for functional reasons, in an age where aesthetic appeal in industrial buildings was considered even less important than it is now. To elevate them to anything even resembling architectural merit is disingenuous. Realising this, the argument has again shifted – even more unconvincingly – to emphasising the fact that among the materials used in sheds’ construction is kauri and Australian hardwood (which could surely be recycled for better uses), and that there is some alleged intrinsically historical value in these morose buildings continuing to slouch on our waterfront.

Admittedly, historical value is subjective, but it is surely a fallacy that just because something is (relatively) old, it therefore deserves a protective case placed over it so that it can be preserved in perpetuity. And all the time that the space is being held hostage by these grim buildings, the opportunity for our present generation of architects to shine by designing something genuinely inspirational on Queen’s Wharf is kept out of reach. That, surely, is the bigger architectural offence.”

This extremely valid diatribe has been followed swiftly by Carl Douglas on the AAA website where he says:

“The idea that architecture springs in purity and force from some magical resource of creativity or inspiration, and must struggle to overcome the sniping of petty technicians is very Ayn-Randian, and completely out-of-touch with the way that design proceeds. Materials, stakeholders, constraints, context and – yes – history, are not wet blankets suffocating the creative life out of architecture. On the contrary, they are the raw materials out of which good design is formed. Moon might be nostalgic for a Howard Roark to sweep in and deposit his creativity all over the wharf, but this isn’t my idea of a good time. Architecture is not simply the production of great artworks. The lives and stories of which the sheds are a trace are common and everyday, but that doesn’t mean they should be erased from memory as unimportant. Again, as an historian, one might expect Moon to be more sensitive to minor histories….

…But demolition is permanent. We shouldn’t knock the sheds down unless there are concrete plans for something demonstrably better. At the moment, there exists no master-plan for the CBD waterfront, no clarity about whether the wharf is to be a cruise-ship terminal or not and no realistic timetable for new construction to be completed in time for the Rugby World Cup, and no consistency in the process of procuring a design. Demolition should not be a default stance. Inventive, memorable, and imaginative architecture doesn’t have to begin with a clean slate.”

Hear Hear ! Carl Douglas for Mayor of the Super-Village !

And lastly – breaking news

“The Auckland Regional Council has voted unanimously to keep one of the historic Queens Wharf sheds alongside the Government’s temporary structure that has been dubbed “the slug”. The ARC this afternoon endorsed the redevelopment of Shed 10 as a permanent cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf, alongside the Government’s temporary plastic shelter for a fan zone during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The Council had previously backed plans to demolish both historic cargo sheds, but has since consulted with the Historic Places Trust and decided to keep one of the sheds on site. It is proposing to demolish the second shed and move it to another site.”

8 - 07 - 10

“much maligned Party Central concept” ??
What do you mean by that?

8 - 07 - 10

Well, seems to me that there is going to be a pretty big inherent problem with having the Auckland Stadium in Eden Park, a residential zone some 5 ? km from the proposed Party zone. Emptying 30-40,000 lagered-up rugby fans out of a stadium and then expecting them to walk 5km before they continue to party is a bit of a hopeless case. There will be buses, of course, but they will be packed, and plenty of people will have to walk. Most will stop off in a bar somewhere along the way, and probably not make it to the Party Zone. There will be issues with narrow pavements and some of the busiest roads in Auckland to cross.

In Wellington, we have a car free waterfront walkway, and are getting bars all the way along. Our party zone is the waterfront – from Courtenay Place (only 2 street crossings from the waterfront party zones) right up to the Westpac Stadium. By comparison, Auckland is having to invent all sorts of diversions for the rugby patrons along the way – widening pavements temporarily, diverting traffic temporarily, putting in displays and teasers and cajoling patrons to keep on going. From what I understand, there are spotters at the World Cup now, looking at the different ways of crowd control and party planning.

And meanwhile, the current party zone of the Auckland waterfront – the Viaduct – is surrounded by snooty rich apartment dwellers who are fed up with the noise of the waterfront bars, and want it all off their doorstep – hence Auckland has invented this concept of “Party Central” to laager the patrons and fill them safely with lager. Maligned? Yes, I think so.

8 - 07 - 10

Drunk rugby fans at night time on top of a structure that drops in to the sea without a protective railing. In the middle of winter. Am I the only person who sees the flaw in this concept?

8 - 07 - 10

In all the debate about the sheds, at least Auckland hasn’t lost its key skill as New Zealand’s capital of PR …. “Party Central” sounds so much more attractive than “Binge Drinking Venue”. Or, in light of davidp’s comment, perhaps “Darwinian Selection Mechanism” might even be appropriate.

8 - 07 - 10

ouch. very sensitive subject down here too, given that our waterfront walkway skirts along the edge of a working wharf, with no handrails either. Of which I am very glad – the walkways are fine without handrails, but our fans will be just as lagered up and just as likely to jump / dive / throw / be thrown into the sea….

but one day some nanny-minded rule-box-ticking numpty is going to come along and tell Wellington to fence off the harbour edge, as it is dangerous….

8 - 07 - 10

“different ways of crowd control and party planning.” ?? If they’re in South Africa at present, then they can experience the whips / samboks for themselves. Pretty effective as crowd control. At least, they were under apartheid. Perhaps that’s all too non-PC nowadays, and they just use giant cotton buds instead.

8 - 07 - 10

“Drunk rugby fans at night time on top of a structure that drops in to the sea without a protective railing. In the middle of winter. Am I the only person who sees the flaw in this concept?”

Doesn’t sound like much of a flaw to me…

And I’d be pretty annoyed if I were a local hospitalier (given that Auckland ratepayers are stumping up for much of this cash), having big govt. step in and divert lucrative business to a purpose-built venue away from the usual entertainment venues.

8 - 07 - 10

m-d: “And I’d be pretty annoyed if I were a local hospitalier (given that Auckland ratepayers are stumping up for much of this cash), having big govt. step in and divert lucrative business to a purpose-built venue away from the usual entertainment venues.”

I thought one of the benefits of the Cup was having tourists spend money with local businesses. Does that only include businesses who buy a concession at special venues?

But I don’t see the point. Like, if you wanted to celebrate a Cup match in Welly, would you head down to Courtenay Place where there are a bunch of bars with a variety of themes and atmospheres? Or would you prefer to stand in a tent stuck out on the Outer T or some other bleak windswept location? And I’ll repeat the “in the middle of winter” bit.

9 - 07 - 10

reported in the DomPost today:

“You come to Auckland where there is this train wreck of a local government and frankly it’s very difficult to do business,” said Murray McCully, minister in charge of the World Cup.

“Nothing could be as bad as what we have at the moment… Auckland seems to have this terrible local government disease and the closer we got to local body elections here it’s getting worse.”

Mr McCully said there was no way the shed could be restored in time for the World Cup, but whatever happened there would be a party venue in the city.

“We have to provide a fan zone in downtown Auckland for those who can’t get to the games, that’s part of our contractual obligation to the IRB (International Rugby Board).”

9 - 07 - 10

re Davidp’s comment: “But I don’t see the point. Like, if you wanted to celebrate a Cup match in Welly, would you head down to Courtenay Place where there are a bunch of bars with a variety of themes and atmospheres? Or would you prefer to stand in a tent stuck out on the Outer T or some other bleak windswept location? And I’ll repeat the “in the middle of winter” bit.”

So….. I get it now – see McCully’s comment re contractual obligation. That’s the thing. The IRB have signed a contract with the NZ Government to produce a ‘clean’ venue with only officially sanctioned beers (probably some horrible boring pissy beer like Heineken) and only Nike or Adidas sponsorship. If they had the celebrations elsewhere like the Viaduct, they would have to ban names and sponsors and all sorts of things they couldn’t control.

There were some pretty terrible scenes like that in the Soccer World Cup in SA recently, where they banned and potentially jailed a whole bunch of Dutch women for the crime of wearing orange t-shirts. Goodness me – NZ might ban people from wearing white when they should be wearing black !

9 - 07 - 10

“We have to provide a fan zone in downtown Auckland for those who can’t get to the games, that’s part of our contractual obligation to the IRB (International Rugby Board).”

The “WE” should not include me as a taxpayer. I am already paying for such venues in Wellington via my rates. Let Auckland take care of its own issues. Central Government should not be involved at all – this is hardly core state business (where is Hyde when you need him). I’m getting increasingly fed up with this whole boondoggle – I say let the corporations pay for their own obligations, with the respective cities chipping in where they see fit. This makes public funding of private events more accountable.

For those who are blaming Wellington – we’re sorted. Why can’t Auckland get their own sh1t together, present an option that does not require taxpayer funding – that is, without ‘Wellington’s’ assistance…??

10 - 07 - 10

Across the road from Eden Park is Kingsland Station, so the Party Central Express can take pissed-up rugby fans straight to Britomart Station, a short walk to Party Central. It’s still not really walkable without public transport, though if you were happy to go just as far as K Road, that could work.

It occurs to me that part of this Party Central chaos may be due to the current government never actually having partied heartily before. I mean, real hard-as partying. Till the break of dawn. Losing shoes and all that. All they probably know in the way of parties is corporate functions, tables laid out with complimentary glasses of red wine, white wine, beer and orange juice for the taking. That’s what they’re imagining Party Central as – a marquis with refreshments and a covers band playing “Love Shack”.

60 MPa
10 - 07 - 10

Robyn, everybody knows it’s not a proper night out unless you end up with an orange road cone..

10 - 07 - 10

Nothing wrong with love shack – but you’re probably right…. meanwhile, I’m amazed to find out that all this curfuffle scuffle is for nothing. Apparently they (some one) is already building a Viaduct Event Centre for $30 million, just a stones throw away !

“The $32 million Viaduct Events Centre under construction on the Auckland waterfront is being put forward as an alternative “party central” for the Rugby World Cup.

It is understood Auckland City Mayor John Banks will suggest the Viaduct Events Centre in talks next week with Prime Minister John Key and Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully.

Mr Key said yesterday he was open to looking for another site in Auckland after a political impasse between the Government and the Auckland Regional Council over redevelopment plans for Queens Wharf.”

22 - 07 - 10

Some much needed clarification on the issue of whether or not we are ‘required’ to have a ‘party central’ (aka booze barn) at all:,

(The short answer is NO – there is no requirement. Anyone suggesting otherwise is being very mischievous…)