The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
August 2, 2008

Banalitecture

I’ve just spotted this blank wall being constructed beside the main route into the city from the airport. Facing north, providing a beautiful backdrop for shadow play of pohutukawa, as well as a future venue for no doubt countless mindless scribblings, is a blank wall. Courtesy of the ArcHaus architectural team.

 blank_wall.jpg

Is this really what we want to be seen from the main road? Is a blank wall the best we can do for a frontage onto the beautiful waters of Evans Bay? Or should we be striving for better for our city? Is there going to be some great and beautiful structure on top, or have we already had the masterstroke on this work of architecture already?  

morgue
2 - 08 - 08

That is suck.

temporary
2 - 08 - 08

isn’t that the future site of a sports centre: “The centre at Cobham Park is now estimated to cost $46 million…It is likely it would be completed by February 2010” – http://www.wellington.govt.nz/news/display-item.php?id=2950
my guess is that the barriers are temporary while they’re doing the construction. anyone seen the building designs?

mobsta
2 - 08 - 08

Nope.
Not a temporary wall.

The sports stadium is further down towards the roundabout.

This is an Archaus special…
nice.

davidp
2 - 08 - 08

It’s not a prison? It looks like the sort of wall designed to stop people escaping from whatever is inside.

DeepRed
2 - 08 - 08

It appears to be the new Cobham Drive Retail Centre. (http://www.cobhamdrive.co.nz/secure/) If the promotional pic is anything to go by, the wall is hopefully just a temporary setup.

Jason
2 - 08 - 08

Well, we wanted Wellington to be a truly international city. This lack of sensitivity is a common feature throughout the world.

I grew up in Hataitai, overlooking this waterfront, and I’ve always had big plans. None of them involved large, cheap graffiti-traps like these.

The problem with this area is that there are two conflicting scales: Airport industrial vs. smallish residential (due to the hills and the nature of residential population of Kilbirnie.) This is why we have the strange, and interesting, collision at Bay/Onepu road of big bus depot/pak n sav vs. small scale one and two story shops/offices and hillside housing/apartments/terraced roads etc. The Cobham Drive motorway fits in comfortably with the Airport Industrial area, but doesn’t work well with the bay frontage (cyclers, walkers, boat users etc.) and the residential/shopping area where people from Hataitai/Newtown need to cross one of the busier roads in town to get to the supermarket.

The E.B.I.S. grounds and Cobham drive frontage of St. Patrick’s would be a logical location for the central business district for the Eastern Suburbs. The expansive concrete of the Yacht Club car parking and the mostly unattractive old houses on Evan’s Bay Parade could be turned into a boutique Mission Bay/Parnell hybrid type area. Apartments in that area wouldn’t be blocking views or sunlight – there’s already a hill for that – and would be on an existing public transport corridor.

I have a scrappy picture too :) * ** *** ****

This is probably completely unfeasible even to bounce around as an idea, but it’s just an example of the type of thinking that doesn’t seem to go on in the Council or in developer’s minds. We should be developing communities collectively, not simply laying down non-specific height and zoning rules and trusting that developers have the same goals as council urban planners.

*Wanted to have a road crossing Kilbirnie Park and climbing to Newtown so as to split the traffic at the Cobham Park roundabout.

**also meant to have a road from the corner at the airport hotel that linked up to the new section

***Would think this would allow for an interesting bus terminus loop too :)

****I know I’m a dreamer

Jason
2 - 08 - 08

Let’s try that again:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3163/2724646876_14dceb165c_o.jpg

Jason
2 - 08 - 08

whoa, missed that post, deepred
yeah, this: http://www.cobhamdrive.co.nz/secure/commercial/index.php suggests that the wall will be gone. Will Tacy street remain a dead end, or will that meld into the parking facility for the indoor sprots centre?

Flat White
2 - 08 - 08

I thought this was the location of the new Bunnings store? The wall doesn’t look particularly temporary……..

DeepRed
3 - 08 - 08

If I’m not much mistaken, the blue warehouse building in the background of the original pic is the existing Placemakers store. As far as the renders on the Archaus web site are concerned, the wall is temporary.

mobsta
3 - 08 - 08

Really?
That’s what you get from that render?

I can’t see this tilt slab wall being temporary.
Developers who build mass retail centres don’t do expensive things like put up temporary tilt slab walls.

I think the render on the website shows tilt slab walls with some bands of colour and a couple of glazed pods floating over the top.

I suspect it’s wishful thinking that the walls are temporary….

Maximus
3 - 08 - 08

I knew I’d be able to rely on you guys to unearth some info on this – thanks. I’d agree that an expensive concrete tilt slab wall is unlikely to be temporary – in fact its probably one of the more expensive parts of this development. But coupled with that, Cobham Drive is not a place that people would be encouraged to stop – and so i suspect that the wall is there for a purpose.

Looks like the office elements of the big box retailing are going to be allowed to peek over the top. But also looks like there is a view shaft through, out to Evans Bay, in the middle, as shown on the second pic on the Archaus web site. However i can’t believe that anyone would be allowed to walk through there – can you imagine people trying to cross the road there, getting slaughtered by the cars speeding past? Or the traffic pileups if they put a pedestrian crossing in the middle of an effective motorway?

Andy
3 - 08 - 08

About the only thing apart from ripping it down that I can think of to mitigate the visual abuse it represents would be to get an artist to paint the entire thing with something. Which is a tactic I’d like to see used more often wherever there are large concrete walls and such. A good example of the sort of thing I’m thinking of is on the Terrace, opposite Ghuznee st. I think such things are likely to discourage taggers as well.

Flat White
3 - 08 - 08

The render is, as always, artistic interpretation as opposed to design detail. I’ll wager the stark concrete wall is as good as it gets for this ‘development’.

jayseatee
3 - 08 - 08

There was an interesting ad link that i clicked through earlier today or yesterday (unfortunately can’t find it in my history) but it was website basically arguing that conservative voters should vote for ACT instead of national, and then put a multi-point plan of how their proposed policies would result in $500/week in increased wages for the average NZer.

The whole reason I’m brining this up is that two of the multiple categories where Resource Management Act and housing affordability/urban growth. On both they held up the model of Houston Texas as what New Zealand should aspire to. Clearly no one from ACT has every been to Houston.

jayseatee
3 - 08 - 08

found the link for anyone else curious
http://www.act.org.nz/files/pledge/20pointplan.pdf

Maximus
3 - 08 - 08

The ACT party members are hilariously ill-informed about many things, especially housing, and no one should take them too seriously. Although, its fair to say, that Rodney has done a lot for the cause of ballroom dancing over the last couple of years.

The rest of them will lose their jobs in the forth-coming election.

DeepRed
4 - 08 - 08

Jay: “On both they held up the model of Houston Texas as what New Zealand should aspire to. Clearly no one from ACT has every been to Houston.”

They’re assuming that crude oil will never run dry. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not interested in affordable housing, but rather lining the pockets of McMansion developers.

“and then put a multi-point plan of how their proposed policies would result in $500/week in increased wages for the average NZer.”

I’m not against tax cuts per se, and wouldn’t mind a few myself. But under ACT’s policy, how much of their tax cuts will be eaten up by barbed wire fences, bulletproof windows, Kevlar jackets, bodyguards, and submachine guns? They don’t seem to have budgeted for any water cannons either.

Philip
4 - 08 - 08

Those would be the facebook ads, right jayseatee?

I believe it was announced today that the nats also want to heavily modify the RMA – anyone know the exact details? It was part of their infrastructure-building agenda I believe.

Maximus
4 - 08 - 08

Well, there’s no doubt that the RMA could, and arguably should be reformed – the question is, in which direction? While ACT et al believe that the RMA is too much of an obstacle for things (and there is no doubt that for some things, it is a ridiculously large obstacle), for others the RMA is a ridiculously lax regime which lets you get any piece of crap through the system.

Arguably, this development is in that second camp. I’d be saying: sorry guys, this is not good enough. Back to the drawing board and try again. The whole of Wellington has to look at the sorry arse of your building for the next 50 years.

ACT, of course, would be saying – its your land – you build what you like – no one else matters.

jayseatee
4 - 08 - 08

“They’re assuming that crude oil will never run dry. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not interested in affordable housing, but rather lining the pockets of McMansion developers.”

That’s absolutely right, and what I found absolutely ridiculous about the claim. Houston exists because of cheap oil. It is a morphology that cannot be maintained with current oil and gas prices. (except for the wealthiest who secluded in their gated compounds that they’ve made off of the oil wealth)

If ACT think massive sprawl is the way to give kiwis 500/month they are deluded.

Alex
4 - 08 - 08

they don’t have vehicle access from Cobham drive accoriding to those renders ???? Wow, what’s the point of locating it on Cobham Drive then ….

rondo
4 - 08 - 08

No way would they be allowed access from Cobham, that’s like a motorway / major dragstrip. I think council would restrict both cars and presumably people to only come in from Tacy St to the south. A once nice little residential street… currently only with access from the Kilbirnie end – you can’t get to it from the big Rongotai roundabout.

They’ll have the same issues with the monster sports stadium they’re planning on the green paddocks by the roundabout – no car access from Cobham Drive, or the roundabout either presumably – or else they’ll gridlock the whole area every time there’s a big netball practice. All those mums in their 4WDs and people movers….

Nathan
4 - 08 - 08

Rondo,

You were nearly there. It’s not ‘like’ a motorway. It IS a motorway – SH1.
And there are particular rules about entrances onto State Highways that may have been too complex for them to work out/get around.

rondo
4 - 08 - 08

Nathan, you’re right – but then why is there an opening on the arcHaus perspective halfway along? is that for casual shoppers to look across the state highway to the sea, and nip across for a quick dip? As maximus says, they’re gonna get slaughtered crossing the road. Better to keep the wall up and keep those hungry shoppers locked inside their concrete corral.

M-D
5 - 08 - 08

Fantastic isn’t it – WCC identify Kilbirnie as a spinal growth node (a tumor some might say). This means densification of the existing town centre in terms of business and residence. …And then we get shit-box retail centres like this proposed one and the existing one at the airport, which provide little in the way of urban amenity, and less in terms of any ideas of civic ‘beauty’.

My plan includes light rail to the airport, via Kilbirnie, whose mainstreet is developed in such a way that would accommodate all of the retailers who seem so badly to want to get into the area. Apartments above, and some much needed nightlife, and hey presto – an urban village just as the Growth Strategy promises (it seems that WCC can at least talk the talk…).

Sadly, developers seem to get away with acts that not only defy commonsense, but also the intentions and probable realisation of the Council’s own policy direction. Stupid, stupid, stupid. How many retail centres (including kilbirnie itself) can the Kilbirnie/Rongotai/Lyall Bay area support – I can certainly guess which centre will be the loser…

Slab
6 - 08 - 08

This would have been granted before Plan Change 52, which requires any building over 500 sq m in a site zoned Suburban Centre to be subject to design controls about response to context, avoiding blank walls, mitigating bulk etc. Before that, pretty much anything up to 12m in those zones was a permitted activity, and there was little the coucnil could do legally to force improvements.

The Suburban Centre zoning is a bit of an anomaly, and perhaps surprisingly it covers everything from dinky local shops in Kelburn or Hataitai to big-box retail to industrial warehousing sites in Ngauranga or Takapu. While there’s good reason to allow big blank sheds to go up quickly and easily in the latter cases, the same lack of control is totally inappropriate in the earlier situations. Eventually, the Suburban Centre zone will be revised to make it more fine-grained and responsive to different situations, but at the moment PC52 at least gives the sort of urban design discretion that would make this sort of thing highly unlikely to be consented on this site today.

Operational port and airport zones, on the other hand…

rondo
6 - 08 - 08

Slab: yes i was glad to hear that the Suburban Centres wording was getting revised – although a lot of people in the press seem to have got the completely wrong end of the stick, as usual. Why they leap into print at the Dominion Post before checking what the situation really is, i don’t know.

I mean, isn’t that the purpose of a blog? To release information somewhat surreptitiously, or to test out mad theories on a slightly biased select part of the public? Some poor muppet was in the Dom complaining that the Welly Council was planning to shut down the J’ville Mall or some such nonsense.

No, they just want to have some control over its ugly looks and sprawling extent….

Slab
6 - 08 - 08

Actually, there were two different plan changes: PC52 (notified late last year) to enable some design controls on all Suburban Centre developments over 500 sq m, and PC66 (on which submissions closed this July) to require really large retail developments (over 10,000 sq m for a single retailer, or over 20,000 for a mall) to be assessed for their impact on the sustainability of existing shopping areas and the transport network.

It’s the latter that’s been getting the mall-loving public all up in arms, and the DomPost wailing about a “Golden Mile protection racket”. It’s not that the council wants to stop retail growth in Jville etc: just that it shouldn’t be in the form of sudden mega-mall developments that cannibalise existing town centres. It’s based on the radical idea that retail can actually relate to the public realm, and that town centres should be more than shopping centres.

Maximus
6 - 08 - 08

There were a number of ‘mega-mall’ shopping centres mentioned at the time in the press, including Rongotai/Kilbirnie, J’Ville, etc and other large ones rumoured. I thought the Rongotai one was the are near the airport, but perhaps it is the development in this picture.

What other unknown / discretely hidden from public meg malls are there on the cards?

And for those of you interested in the nearby Cobham Drive Indoor Sports Centre, it goes in for Resource COnsent in a couple of weeks, and will, apparently be fully public notified. Hooray for public input!

guy
6 - 08 - 08

Well there was one mentioned as the ‘Tory St’ retail development. Not sure what or where that is, but all i can presume is that it is the area with a carpark, the Warehouse’s new home, Exodus gym, and one of those forgetable big chains selling toasters and electronic gismos.

But there’s a rumour that they may be planning to redevelop it with a few thousand more metres of shopping, numerous carparks, and a skimming of apartments on top. Any news on that?

Maximus
6 - 08 - 08

“one of those forgetable big chains selling toasters and electronic gismos.”

You mean the Noel Leeming store? They spend millions of dollars on advertising and you can’t even remember the name of the store? Sheesh…

mobsta
6 - 08 - 08

Guy,
you are right – it is the area with the carpark, the Warehouse’s new home, Exodus gym and Noel Leemings.

In fact it is the whole freaking block from Exodus (which backs onto Francis Place)all the way down to Vivian Street.

All owned (apart from a couple of small pieces) by the Chow Brothers who (apparently on the advice of planners) cut down the Kowhai tree on the site a couple of years ago and were pinged by the Council.

So it is indeed a retail megasite with apartments on top.

Ignite (of Courtenay Place Reading Cinemas infamy)have teamed up with Stuart Gardyne of Architecture+ as architects.

rondo
6 - 08 - 08

Bugger.

Aren’t ‘developers’ who deliberately cut down heritage listed trees barred from doing further work on the same site? They should be. From memory they destroyed the tree, removed the plaque that said in big letters that it was a listed tree and could not be touched, lied to the police that they had permission to do so, got fined a paltry $14,000 – which to the owners of the biggest brothel in town must be like a slap on the back of the hand with a wet bus ticket given that their hard-working hookers would clear that in a night or two, avoided the possible 3 month jail term and possible $200,000 fine because… …. i don’t know why or how.

The whole thing stinks. Politics in this town are dodgy as hell. Probably bribing the council. I smell the stench of flagrant corruption at work.

Concrete
10 - 08 - 08

After reading the responses from most of these people, not to mention the people who operate this site, it is clear that they have;

a) no idea
b) limited, if not zero understanding of the Wellington town planning scheme
c) nothing better to do other than slag off other companies work.

The material of this boundary wall is a requirement for;

a) durability, given its proximity to the sea
b) protection against vandalism
c) securty for the tenants

Show me a wall in Wellington that isn’t a blank canvas for graffiti artists?

Maybe instead of slagging of the unfinished work of Arcitects commissioned to do a specific job, you should get a respectable profession yourselves?

Andy
10 - 08 - 08

“a) durability, given its proximity to the sea”

Ah. That must be why all of the buildings along the Wellington waterfront – like the Meridian energy building, or the building by Waitangi Park, and the planned upgrade of the Overseas Passenger Terminal are all surrounded by protective concrete walls.

Slab
10 - 08 - 08

“Show me a wall in Wellington that isn’t a blank canvas for graffiti artists?”

Any one that isn’t blank. That is, any one that has windows, doors and otherwise provides a sense of human habitation, engagement with the street, and an awareness that the public realm deserves better than to be faced with such sullen blankness. Granted, Cobham Drive isn’t exactly a shopping street, but it’s a hugely visible and scenic roadway with a walking and cycling path on the other side, and it’s part of Wellington’s “front door” for thousands of visitors. It shouldn’t be treated like a grotty service alley.

electric
10 - 08 - 08

A north-facing site with sea views and they build a solid wall, what a travesty! Why not design the building around the spectacular view, not to mention the sun and light.

Maybe it can get turned into a detention centre or a heavy industrial facility given the proximity to the airport.

This reminds me of the Events centre fiasco- a building on a prime location with the opportunity for a spectacular building that involves the surroundings, and we got a shed with no windows.

mobsta
10 - 08 - 08

hmmm… concrete – a touch defensive aren’t we?

perhaps you would like to own up to being the author of this work, because your post certainly intimates it (or maybe you’re sleeping with the author….whatever…)

I’m not sure you do your argument any good by resorting to personal attacks. It makes you lack credibility…
There actually hasn’t been much slagging going on during this post, just a few comments on the appropriateness of the design and the concrete wall to the (sub)urban condition.

rondo
11 - 08 - 08

actually, ‘Concrete’, i think you might be a little off track there mate. I suspect that most of the commentators on this website are quite experienced in architecture and very familiar with the District Plan etc. Not all, but certainly quite a few. So any comments advanced here should be viewed as, shall we say, a peer review? Even leading architectural practices like ArcHaus need to listen to a review now and then…

Obviously, yes, its a difficult site, with no access allowed onto Cobham Drive, and a budget driven developer. But there’s more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, a bulk retail outlet. Its a big blank facade – that could have been treated so many different ways.

If you were the designer – and if you had your chance to do it again – what would you do differently?

m
11 - 08 - 08

“…leading architectural practices like Archaus….”

I hope that was said with tongue firmly in cheek….

and yes, I agree, peer reviews are a good thing. too often people get caught in their little worlds without putting their heads up. they need to hear what people have to say every now and again.

rondo
11 - 08 - 08

re “…leading architectural practices like Archaus….” – no, said seriously. It says so in the latest Scope magazine – apparently ArcHaus are great. Why – have you heard otherwise?

M-D
11 - 08 - 08

Concrete – you don’t have to look far to see better ways of handling the location – how ’bout next door even. The Placemakers building might be fairly banal itself, but it provides rhythm, proportional modulation, robustness, all while being low-cost, and streets ahead of the above example in terms of street appeal. Yes, right next door – an award winning building in its day, designed as a warehouse – yes, a warehouse with a tonne more style than this proposed retail centre…

Methinks the retail centre architects do need a few prods in the right direction if they cannot even see beyond their own site boundaries….

G-R-I-M indeed…

Mind you, Concrete implies this is unfinished, so perhaps someone could set the rabble straight with the drawings for the final design…

Slab
11 - 08 - 08

“Mind you, Concrete implies this is unfinished, so perhaps someone could set the rabble straight with the drawings for the final design…”

The first image at http://archaus.co.nz/projects/project.php?pid=20 shows that the upper floor will have some actual windows (for restaurant and offices, according to the sales site), but it looks like apart from some surface treatments the ground floor will remain blank. The Tacy St side looks bad in a different way: the typical big box set behind a sea of car parking. It’s not the architecture that’s the chief problem, it’s the approach to urban design: I hear that another of Welly’s “leading architectural practices” is working on just the same typology down the road at the airport. But then again, I hear that “Big is Good”.

M-D
11 - 08 - 08

Thanks Slab, I saw those images also, and was less than impressed – I was hoping for something a little more ‘concrete’ to go on… Mind you, it is the trend for retail centres to come out as devoid of architectural design quality as their concept renderings are…

Incidentally, I checked out the ‘leading’ claim, which is in fact a little misleading – I can’t find Archaus being referred to as leading architects in the cited article
( http://www.metalroofing.org.nz/SCOPE%20Magazine%20PDF/Scope%2017.pdf )
– in fact, it appears that the client wrote the piece, as it is all glowing about Audi rather than the actual architects of the building…

As it so happens, JasMax take the ‘leading’ mantle in that particular publication, with a quasi-John Scott rip-off, with what appears to be a cringe-inducing interior if the images are anything to go by…

rondo
12 - 08 - 08

M-D : not issue 17, it’s in issue 18 (not on the website yet), where it says:
“The practice has matured to become one of New Zealand’s leading architectural firms with offices in Wellington and Auckland with projects throughout the country. Offering expertise in unique, specialised buildings and innovative solutions to site or brief specific problems, our team of 32 staff are experts in creating buildings and spaces that bring life and vitality to difficult planning exercises… …We are passionate about working together with our clients to create inspirational design.”

Hmmm. You’re right. I’ve been had. “Our staff” and “We are passionate” do certainly seem to say that ArcHaus write their own articles – which is a pity, because the Audi / Porsche building is a lovely building, and I’m sure they could have found someone else to write an article about that building. But I would challenge them to find someone to write some nice words about other projects of theirs, like this one on Cobham Drive.

On the other hand, I’m very excited to hear that they are passionate architects and keen to create inspirational design. ‘Concrete’ – you listening? Inspire us mate!

Maximus
26 - 09 - 08

Its been purpose designed as a new retail outlet for Big Save Furniture – twas in the DomPost, but i can’t find the reference.

temporary
4 - 01 - 10

isn't that the future site of a sports centre: “The centre at Cobham Park is now estimated to cost $46 million…It is likely it would be completed by February 2010” – http://www.wellington.govt.nz/news/display-item
my guess is that the barriers are temporary while they're doing the construction. anyone seen the building designs?