PhilipApril 25, 2008
Courtenay loses some parks; gains a Park
The Courtenay Place Park seems more-or-less finished now, having recently unveiled the second and final stage of it’s development. A very minimal and very urban park, it’s strengths lies in the quality of the finish and detailing, as well as the enhancement of pedestrian flow within this highly-traffic area.
The park creates two axes, each in parallel to the adjacent street or footpath, resulting a wedge-shaped open area. Although this central space is fairly large, its awkward shaping is perhaps too restrictive for the programmes of “markets, street performances, theatre crowds, festivals” that the council had envisioned.
Wellington’s ubiquitous terracotta tiling is out in full force, which more than anything seems to enable the pack as an extension of the footpath. While this is certainly in-line with the park’s goals – would a tiny bit of variety be too much to ask? Even a minor substitution of the secondary tan/gold bricking for something else would go a long way to creating more of a unique sense of place.
Seven light boxes line the Courtenay street-site, seemingly gigantic incarnations of the cycling advertisement boards found at many bus stops. Awaiting the installations of “graphic art,” the boxes appear to be a great way of providing some visual flair to the park, presuming that the pace of their rotation isn’t too gaudy. It would be great if art pieces could be linked to particular times – smooth and bright palettes by day, shifting into more vibrant and luminous pieces for the evening.
So far there is no sign of the (iconic?) Courtenay Place Clock, although Tom had it on good authority back in January that it would eventually be making an appearance. However there doesn’t seem to be any obvious areas that have been left ready for its re-attachment….
Just off from the Courtney/Taranaki corner, something of a graveyard scene is painted by the wizened trees, pointed iron fencing, random litter and the tomb-like mass of the heritage toilets and surrounds. Sombre and aged, it definitely stands out against the light and pristine tones of the new development. Although they certainly have an appeal, the toilets and surrounding shrubbery desperately need some form of maintenance and renewal – no doubt suffering due to the abandonment of a proposed wine bar conversion.
For me though, the real draw card of the new park is the seating. These things have fascinated me ever since a lone sample unexpectedly appeared at the Ghuznee bus stop late last year.
Sleek and simple in their elongated S-shape, the seat/bench hybrids echo the rustic materiality that has been populating the water front. Since their Ghuznee debut, the seats have gained a softer timber seat-cover, as well as some map-etchings and swiss-cheese punctures – adding a bit more character to the design. I have to admit though, my first reaction to the design was primarily: can I stand on it? Apparently quite a common thought, as evidenced by the multitude of footprints found on the seats during the first few days (the novelty seems to have worn off by now).
Perhaps it is just us that are less inclined towards maturity, but I really wonder how many people it was designed to handle. I’m sure that the Courtenay revellers will be putting things to the test soon enough.
In all seriousness though, the curiosity that these things inspire is impressive. I’ve seen kids run up and down from the edge of one to another, like some kind of downscaled half pipe. Similarly, they offer wide variety of seating options. The sizing and proximity of each seat seems perfectly able to cater to large and small groups alike, as well as the individual. Hopefully more of these will crop up throughout the city, along with some new variations in form or layout.
Meanwhile, at the 2008 NZ institute of Landscape Architects awards, Waitangi park has received the Sustainability Award of Excellence, a testament to the ongoing success of the parks ecological systems. In addition, the Supreme Award for Landscape Design/Urban Design was won by Isthmus+Studio Pacific for the Kumototo Wharf Development, further representing the strength of Wellington’s waterfront.
The other (old) news is that the Hilton has decided not to appeal against a court ruling that denied it resource consent – signalling the “end of the line” for the project. Nevertheless they “…are confident there will be opportunities for a Hilton hotel elsewhere in Wellington and we continue to look for such opportunities.” However, I can’t help but think that in reallocating the project to a less prominent site will in turn lessen the quality invested in the hotel.
In the meantime, I agree with Mrs Swann that a competition should be organised for the site. However, this would be quite a complex competition that would need to be handled with care. If competition entries were to be viable proposals, they would need to ensure that they can gain developer funding as well as impliment the structural reinforcement that is very much needed by the site – two conditions that are likely to be restrictive on the success of smaller, or international entrants.
Still, the competitions held so far for the waterfront have been quite successful, so here’s hoping.