The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
August 9, 2008

Te Karo Park

Following fast on the footsteps of the previous post on Courtenay Park, which some are labeling as ‘grim’, I’d like to put forward another contender for the title of ‘grim urban park’: yes, that of the SLOAP that is the ‘park’ of the Bypass. I’m not sure that Transit, the designers of mighty roading projects, have really got the hang of designing places for people yet. Seen here, on the edge of the aptly homonymous Karo Park, is an effort at doing some landscaping, with carefully placed traffic, facing into the bypass. 

te_karo_park.jpg

Far be it for me to deride the abilities of other landscape designers, but I have a feeling that these seats are not going to get much use. Has anyone ever been seen using it? The saddest thing is: the one on the other side of the crossing is even worse. It made me so depressed that I couldn’t even bear to take its picture. At least this has a small shrubbery behind it.

It’s a firm argument that landscape design should be left up to landscape architects, and not tackled by roading engineers. So here is the latest park designed by (arguably) Wellington’s best landscape architecture practice, Wraight and Associates, as reported in the Dominion Post this week:

cobblestone.jpg

The Dom Post report noted that the ‘Urban Archipelago’ as it is named, could also include a ‘small transparent cafe with exhibition space’ but that already this could face cuts – it seems a shame to announce a possible cut on the same day to announce the actual scheme. Why not just build the scheme in total? We’ll post more on this scheme as it comes to hand.

Will de Cleene
9 - 08 - 08

The re-designed Glover Park is pretty grim too.

starkive
10 - 08 - 08

The whole slash of Karo Drive is littered with these shards of unused land – little triangles like this one or long slivers like the stretch behind the synagogue. I doubt that they were actually inevitable, but having created them, surely Transit has not just an obligation, but an opportunity to get a return on our funding.

Many of them could provide sites for innovative, urban building. Small scale, eccentric shapes fitting into the armpits and elbows of the streetscape are amongst the quiet pleasures of real cities. It can’t make any more sense financially than it does aesthetically to leave behind these bleak patches of weed and gravel and “landscaping” offering nothing more than broken saplings and a garnish of KFC packaging.

Philip
10 - 08 - 08

Te Aro park is also getting something of a facelift, though I forget the details and the source.

The archipelago looks interesting – but does anyone else think that the width of the park is quite exaggerated in that render? I don’t see how a combined cafe and exhibition space is viable given the dimensions allocated

Monday
10 - 08 - 08

Erg. I couldn’t agree more re: Karo Drive. I seem to recall that these strange triangular sites were promised as ‘green’ space, in a vain attempt at compromise. (Can’t back that up with sources, though.) What we are left with makes the bypass arguably fulfill the criticism that it is a scar in the city. I like starkdive’s proposition to use the sites for interesting urban buildings–a way of healing the wound if you like, incorporating the bypass into our urban landscape rather than desperately trying to ignore it.

Philip: Are you referring to the length along Vivian st, or the depth between Vivian and the A+D School? Lengthwise I reckon this image is a bit skewed, but hey–the wide-angle lens makes the zany angular forms look exhilarating and full of vitality. *yawn*

Ah, I shouldn’t be so snide. The angular lines do solve the circulation problems of the site. And I’ll wait for more info before judging it in it’s entirety.

rondo
11 - 08 - 08

The second picture you show is Cobblestone Park – in front of the Architecture and Design School building, and in the Dominion story it mentions that while the cafe could be done away with, it could also be incorporated into the School itself. Which is a nice thought, because having a cafe and exhibition space in the park sort of eats up the park itself, and there’s not much park to start with.

But my question would be: have they asked the Schools themselves yet? Cos isn’t there a library and offices in there, which might not want to vacate so that someone could build a cafe there?

And where do the dero’s and hookers go that use the park at present? Isn’t it their home?

Philip
11 - 08 - 08

Monday, I was referring to the depth – the distance between the foreground of the park and the building itself seems too wide, and maybe the overall scale somewhat small.

I am looking forward to having an almost-direct pathway from lower vivian to the school steps, shaving precious seconds of my daily commute.

Rondo, I believe the proposed cafe would be halfway in, halfway out – operating as some sort of threshold in the lower right of the building, occupying both the interior and small outdoor terrace. At least that’s how I remember it being proposed.

Monday
11 - 08 - 08

Philip: Yes, the circulation ‘problem’ is insignificant when speaking of commute time. What I was referring to is the removal of the muddy, slippery informal trail that is formed by the hundreds of people who choose not to use the current meandering path. I even remember cutting straight across the unfilled pond on days of extra special defiance.

Robyn
11 - 08 - 08

Perhaps it helps to see Trasit NZ’s glorious vision for the “pocket parks”. People sitting around under shady trees, intellectuals stopping to talk in the street (as traffic silently glides by).

Put down the opium pipe.

Maximus
11 - 08 - 08

Robyn – that’s a wonderful find! Another Stan visual – perhaps even he would agree that his optimism on this occasion has gone too far – i think we should offer a prize to the first person that can offer photographic proof of people having a picnic on the verges of Te Karo park….. in fact, i think the ‘intellectuals stopping to talk’ look suspiciously as though they may have been having a drink – and of course, being intellectuals, they have realised that there is an inner-city alcohol ban, and hidden their glasses while the sketch was being drawn.

I shouldn’t laugh. Probably the whole industry is guilty of over-enthusiastic renderings of people having a good time in the buildings and landscapes of the schemes we all produce. Still: can anyone out-do this one?

M-D
11 - 08 - 08

Yep, I’d have to agree that the Karo ‘parks’ out-grim Courtenay by a long-shot (but at least we can blame the former on Transit…).

I reckon that the School of Architecture and Design carparks should be the location of a cafe that spills out onto the footpath. Not because a cafe is actually needed, but because the SoAD have made much of achieving carbon neutrality recently, which largely consists of getting free carbon credits from an energy supplier… Discouraging driving would be one way of beginning to walk the walk (so to speak)…

Cobblestone Park is very popular during summer, with students (and staff) enjoying the grass, and the shade provided by trees. With the School atrium hosting exhibitions, and the plethora of cafes around Cuba Street, do we really need to build on the park – especially when there are so few spaces like this in this part of the city. My response would be to open the SoAD building out onto the park, but to leave the park clear of new building.

There is also something quaint about the ‘naturalistic’ design of the current park, which is an intriguing contrast against the hard edged architectonic lines of current urban park design – it sits there like a little lost piece of 19th century Romantic Landscape design, and provides a nice foil to the brutal base of the School building. Now I like my hard edges as much as the next architect, and the Picturesque is definitely not my thing, but I reckon its kind of cool to have some variety…

Something needs doing about the ‘pond’ of course…

rondo
11 - 08 - 08

doing something about the pond? Well they could always fill it with water for a start ! its been empty for the last 3 years! how long does it take for the person from the council to get a hose… mutter mutter…

M-D
11 - 08 - 08

It should be pointed out also that redoing the park was supposed (at one point at least) to be a joint project between WCC, VUW, and the owner of the Comfort/Quality Hotels. Some might have been able to pick this up from the image provided…

M-D
11 - 08 - 08

Philip said “Te Aro park is also getting something of a facelift, though I forget the details and the source.”

– Do you mean Aro Park (Aro Valley), or Te Aro Park (Courtenay Place)? The former is definitely to be upgraded, but I’d be particularly interested if the latter were earmarked for refurbishment too…

Kerryn
11 - 08 - 08

I wonder why the figures in the Transit fantasyland are transparent? Perhaps they are ghosts from a better past. One of the intellectuals even looks like anti-bypass campaigner Roland Sapsford.
WCC has recently issued a press-release about upgrading Aro Park in the Valley
http://www.wellington.govt.nz/news/display-item.php?id=3266

rondo
15 - 08 - 08

Just a thought re the Cobblestone Park reworking, and the cafe that no one can afford to build: the old Liks Bar is for sale, and right on a street corner overlooking the park. It would get much more foot traffic (from Cuba) than the bottom end of the Park would get: and be right on the route from the Schools to the hubbub of Cububbub.

Perfect use for an old strip bar, and it would be nice to see one less brothel round Vivian St and permit its gradual rehabilitation back into a nice part of town.

I have this sneaking suspicion that if the cafe went ahead in its lower park area, it might just get used as a late night display case for the last of the strident street-walkers. Surely Stan could have worked a few of them into the dusky glow of the perspective?

aaa
15 - 08 - 08

God, Left Bank doesn’t need any more pigeons, and if they raze Cobblestone and start again that’s where they’ll go and there’ll be shit all down my windows.

Glover Park looks good from the air, but rubbish from the ground. I still can’t quite work out what the kitty litter is for.

And it bothers me that it is difficult or impossible to get directly from Vivian Street to that street with Havana unless you have an active student ID card and can navigate through the Arch school – though mine never worked and I had to bang on the door until someone let me out on one particular rainy day :(

And there seem to be more of those strange advertising-as-art display hoardings ala the Courtenay Place park..

Kevyn miller
30 - 08 - 08

Why do Wellingtonista’s (or is the correct term Wellingtonian’s?) assume that Transit must use every bit of spare land it owns to provide Wellington with pockets of green space. Surely that is the responsibility of the WCC and private land owners? I’m not sure whether the resource consenting of the new subdivisions alongside the Northcote-Lyttelton expressway made landscaped sound-mounds a requirement for the developers or Transit or at whose expense but the mounds are not in the expressway RoW. But the point is that now that the native plantings are becoming established they provide a refreshing change from the endless lines of urban wooden fences.

I realise that Wellington isn’t flat like Chch so this particular approach to aesthetics may not have the visual impact it has in monotonously flat Chch. On the other hand pockets of native bush may be a better use of Transit’s pockets of land than micro-parks. Direct-use green spaces or indirect-use green spaces.

rondo
30 - 08 - 08

Ha ! Maximus – you’re wrong! You said:
“I have a feeling that these seats are not going to get much use. Has anyone ever been seen using it?”

And yes, today – sunshine ! people on seats ! (well, one person on one seat).

No sign of the picniccing tourists though – although it could happen! If the traffic queues are bad enough, you should always have a blanket in the boot so you can whip it out and have an impromtu picnic….

M-D
10 - 09 - 08

Kevyn – no one is suggesting that every bit of land be turned into pocket parks (and I think most of us would challenge the fact that such spaces necessarily have to be ‘green’), what is being criticised is the extremely poor effort that Transit have put into designing the remnants of the Karo Drive. I suspect that had plantings (native if there is such a thing in urban environments) been put there rather than the grim little leftover spaces with seats that we got, then we would probably all be much happier.

But there is one thing that you need to understand as an ‘outsider’ – Wellington suffers from a lack of public parks in its commercial districts – the recent waterfront developments are addressing this beautifully, but there needs to be more spread out between these and the town-belt. In the absence of vast swathes of unbuilt flat land (ala Hagley Park), we have to make do with pocket parks such as Cobblestone, Courtenay Place, Grover, Midland). On the other hand, we have some great streets and pedestrian malls to make up for the lack of parks and plazas…

Kevyn miller
11 - 09 - 08

M-D, It has been a quarter century since I lived and worked in Upper Hutt. I’m guessing the situation yu describe is similar to the the south and east of the Christchurch CBD. All buildings and no open space. Fortunately Chch does balance this this with the banks of the Avon to the north and west of the CBD. Hopefully Wellington will acheive the same affect with the opening up of the waterfront.