The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
June 23, 2011

Triangular Parks

With a brief flurry of media attention last week, and typical fluffy media attention more on Miley Cyrus than the ideas inside, the Wellington 2040 vision was confirmed by a Council meeting. Today, there will be the opening of two container consultation stations (one in Te Aro Park and one on the Waterfront?) which will unveil some of the report. And finally, next week, the public may get a chance to really see what has been proposed.

Seeing as the Eye of the Fish is not yet a fully-certified media channel, we haven’t been able to get to the fully monty report just yet – but we’re delighted that we’ve been entrusted with a few of the choice 3d visuals of the 2040 proposals, and we might bring you a few of them over the next few days. Thanks WCC! The first one is a teaser for what may be – entitled Triangular Spaces, we can see that it is actually – well, you look, and tell me:

I know it is only a small move at this stage, but it is a significant one: its a Council promoted proposal to demolish the hideous piece of outdated, badly built, falling apart piece of crap that is the sad remnants of the Oaks on Cuba St. That’s the building that once was a cutting edge piece of infill architecture (by Warren and Mahoney?) that once contained a double height atrium, had aerial walkways connecting it to the James Smith department store (really? or did I imagine that), and now just houses a noodle bar, a sex shop, one of the worst clubs in Wellington, a great book shop, a sexy clothes shop, a Body shop, and a handful of other places. What it does do though is completely block off the most popular/funky street in Wellington from one of the most uncool, outdated and under-used spaces in Wellington – Te Aro Park.

We’re keen on that as a proposal – its one of many we’re in support of – and in searching back through our archives, we note that in November 2008 we said the following:
“It would be nice if Dixon St was converted into pedestrian only in return for losing Manners Mall, and in a way, it would be a better swap for the city. Imagine if Te Aro Park only had a road on one side of it, instead of the ridiculous wind-blown wedge that it is now. Take away Dixon St at that point and have trattoria opening out onto the sunny pavement, on the edge of a small urban park! The Dixon St Deli, Wishbone, Subway, Hope Bros, Bambalina, Habebe, 4 Kings, Curry Club, etc etc are there waiting – even the Santa Fe stripclub could get a leg up in life, instead of just a leg over.”

I thought that we at the Fish had proposed that the Oaks be done away with, but it was actually one of long-time commenter David P’s comments that first noted:
“I love the idea of pedestrianising/landscaping Dixon Street. I’m rather fond of Eva and Egmont Streets which strike me as very Melbourne-like and could be incorporated in to a scheme. You could also extend a park around the corner in to Taranaki Street and clean up the tatty area where the bungy gadget is. If you bulldozed the Oaks, then you could locate a couple of single story cafes in the park area with alfresco seating for fine days.”

So, well done Eye of the Fish readers, and well done DavidP – perhaps we do have some use as a forum after all. Any way – that’s enough from me for today – over to you to discuss if you wish. More coming soon.

sav
23 - 06 - 11

Really cool idea. It would be great walking down Cuba St and having that park open out infront of you. I would just add a minor improvement of having trams running down Manners St. It could really become something being in such a central part of the city and totally surrounded by business (something that the civic square doesn’t provide). Some gutsy stuff from the council in the last few weeks with these ideas and the hardline on earthquake prone buildings. Good stuff.

jennturner
23 - 06 - 11

i take offense at the comment that oaks houses one of the worst bars in wellington. in my humble opinion its the best. its epic and has such a rich history. its drag shows were groundbreaking. well, maybe not a first, but definitely a draw card for wellingtron on a average saturday night. karaoke is ok, and a good holding peg while someone amps it up enough to rival Scotty and Mel, now proudly stationed in the sexy little store next to midnight in upper cuba. The closing of the pound drew people from every dark corner of the city to a queue which stretched to taranaki street. inside the people were squished so close together you could taste to sweat when you turned. it was as hot as dubai.

to add to the insult, you didn’t even mention the amazing, unsurpassable pad thai found only at the oaks noodle house!

Maximus
23 - 06 - 11

Aaah, an impassioned plea for the sweat and squishyness factor of the grungy nightclub from Jennturner. You’re obviously more familiar with it more than I am, but then again we may be talking at cross purposes. To me it is the building that is grotty and bad – not so much knowledge about the goings on within. I went to the Karaoke Bar there in the Oaks once – just once was enough – and to say it was a dive would be paying it a compliment. But then again, I’m not a great afficionado of karaoke – perhaps they are all reminiscent of dodgy dealings, swathed in cheap vinyl, pirated copies of bootlegged CDs played distortionally through speakers that have spent too much of their life sitting at 11 rather than 9. My voicebox deserves better than that…

The shops, if they are any good, will survive – Arty Bees certainly would. But the question to me is – would the space be better without the building? Could they, would they, with a bus? (going through the north side). Would they, should they, remove the cars from Dixon St too, to allow the square / triangle to conjoin itself to the footpath and paved areas outside the Dixon St Deli? One of the great things to me that Wellington is lacking is a north facing stretch of pavement away from vehicle fumes, where diners can sit outside and eat good food. Most major cities have it in some form or another. We have it in limited amounts in places like Hummingbird, only that faces south and you have to breath in smoker’s fumes and vehicle plumes. Dixon St could be paved over, opening onto the park, looking across the square to the Opera House. Magic.

jennturner
23 - 06 - 11

i think i’d like to see a building there, preferably the same one smashed around a bit and a new bit growing out from the space in the middle. the park is a good size and memphis bell is a gem. i agree with making dixon pedestrian but think trams are gaybo. leave them for melbourne. we could get a luge, maybe a pedal luge that loops up to the terrace. ahh, getting home in very high heels could be so much easier.

m-d
23 - 06 - 11

“One of the great things to me that Wellington is lacking is a north facing stretch of pavement away from vehicle fumes”

Waterfront?

Maximus
23 - 06 - 11

Umm, m-d, your radar and compass may be out of whack. Oriental Parade faces North, the city part of the Waterfront faces East – good for breakfast, but not for dinner, and not really that good for lunch.

Perfect dining situation: facing into the sun, away from cars but near people, sitting outside, awnings keeping excess heat off, good food, great wine, and excellent company. There is no one place in Wellington that really slings ALL of those together…

Alan
23 - 06 - 11

News that this park may eventually be enlarged by demolishing the Oaks is evidently news to some at the Council, who have just issued this press release:

“Te Aro Park to Get an Upgrade Over Winter

Work on a new mural to decorate the public toilets and an upgrade of Te Aro Park’s triangular seating is set to begin in the next few weeks.

People shouldn’t be too affected by the seating upgrade unless they’re accustomed to eating their lunch on Te Aro Park – sections of which will be cordoned off as work is done on that particular area.

Meanwhile, well-known artist Diane Prince is about to start a new artwork on the walls of the public toilets in the park. The existing mural, there since 2006, is now being painted out to prepare for the new mural.

It turns out Diane has a close tie with the artist who created Te Aro Park in the late 1980s – Shona Rapira Davies. They have collaborated over the last 10 years or so through their ongoing project Native Bird Productions.

The Council’s Arts and Culture Portfolio Leader, Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, says it’s important to preserve Shona Rapira Davies’ design.

“Would you believe – it’s more than 20 years since the park was redesigned by Shona. It’s a great tribute to the area, and I’m particularly pleased to learn that someone she works closely with is now working on the corresponding mural,” says Cr Ahipene-Mercer.

Commissioned by the City Council, Diane is working with staff from Otaki’s Te Wanaanga O Raukawa on the mural, which explores the early occupation of the land that is now Te Aro Park.

As for the park’s triangular seating – the wooden slats are ageing and need to be removed. These will be replaced with granite. The granite will be hardier, easier to clean and stand up to the hard use the park gets. The work is expected to cost around $25,000.

Work on the seats is to start on Monday 4 July and is expected to take four weeks. Depending on weather – the work could carry on into August.

m-d
23 - 06 - 11

Really – I’ve always considered the stretch in front of of Chaffers Apartments as pretty much North facing, in front of Te papa also. If it isn’t, my radar must certainly be off then (and Google maps too).

Robyn
23 - 06 - 11

“aerial walkways connecting it to the James Smith department store (really? or did I imagine that)”

The first time I went to Wellington – on holiday in 1983 – I remember going to James Smiths and crossing over that walkway. (There was also a Darth Vader in James Smith’s, promoting the newly released Return of the Jedi). If you look at the buildings from the outside, you can see the boarded up holes where the walkway used to join.

Despite being a bit of a dunger, the Oaks has some pretty good tenants. Namastey Indian restaurant, Memphis Belle Cafe, and the aforementioned Arty Bees and Oaks Noodle House (and, yes, their pad Thai is amazing).

I like the idea of Te Aro park being opened up more to Cuba St, but it doesn’t need to be a totally empty space. What about some shops/cafes?

greg
23 - 06 - 11

Fantastic idea. Do it and do it fast. A big problem for inner city dwellers is the lack of green space and this is a step toward remedying that.

Wellington.scoop.co.nz » Shipping containers offer exhibition of council’s green strategy for the future
24 - 06 - 11

[…] Maximus comments on the council vision […]

Maximus
24 - 06 - 11

m-d – yes, Chaffers also faces north, but i guess i think of it more as part of Oriental Parade than as part of the city waterfront… the issue there, of course, and the probable reason why the businesses there keep going bust, is that the Chaffers building (Herd St Post Office) is so much on its own – a lone building in the park. And not just on its own, but the cafes etc are on the opposite side of the building from the park. They’re probably the most isolated shops/cafes in central Wellington, and yet I bet their rent/m2 are as high as the more central CBD.

Robyn – its early days yet, and yes, I think the likelihood of something still surviving in the Park such as cafes etc are quite likely. To me though, one of the key points is that the traffic needs to be heavily reduced along Dixon St. The recent flooding of lower Dixon St with numerous carparks has just made the park even more cut off.

60 MPa
24 - 06 - 11

Would you lot stop arguing about which way is North and agree that Jennturner’s luge idea is the single best thing ever proposed on this site?
I can see it now – a towrope up to varsity then the downhill starts from the lights at the top – build speed then a hard left down Percival st and off over the Dixon st steps – a high speed drop leading to a Hot Wheels-style loop over and under Willis st then a run-out down Dixon st, depositing the elated rider at the new Te Aro park – ready to party and with high heels intact.

Oh yes.

Seamonkey Madness
24 - 06 - 11

Is anyone else slightly perturbed at the fact that WCC are propoing to use huge chunks of (expensive!) granite as seats, if only between now and if/when the park gets rebuilt.

Where’s that ‘The City Is Ours’ chap when you need him?

m-d
24 - 06 - 11

“Would you lot stop arguing about which way is North and agree that Jennturner’s luge idea is the single best thing ever proposed on this site?”

Yep – I’ll third that. Can we get one that comes all the way down from Karori too?

Maximus
24 - 06 - 11

“Where’s that ‘The City Is Ours’ chap when you need him?” Really – you want him? I thought he was totally, rabidly mad. I think he is currently spending his time writing letters to the Council, accusing them of wrong doings. I’m very glad I’m not a Councillor and don’t have to deal with the likes of him…

Glad to see that Jennturner’s idea is getting support. Well worthy of an illustration – Jenn, if you’re out there, want to send us a visual?

m-d
24 - 06 - 11

I’ve been inspired by this (the post, not the luge) to post something slightly related over at the ArchCentre blog (I’ve also stolen your image)…

Maximus
24 - 06 - 11

and an excellent piece of information it is too.
http://architecture.org.nz/2011/06/24/making-porridge-pancakes-te-aro-park-2/

jennturner
24 - 06 - 11

i took on your challenge and created a visual. please see post on my blog, fholly – http://fholly.blogspot.com/. please no one let my boss know this is how i spent my friday afternoon!

Flat White
24 - 06 - 11

I’m surpised that no-one has mentioned the fine drinking establishment in the Oaks known as the ‘Shot Shack’ – the purveyor of the cheapest shots anyone could want in the wee small hours of the morning. It has all the best features of a late-night Courtenay Place drinking den – unlit spaces, sticky surfaces, dodgy clientelle, indifferent serving folk. I almost feel the need to start a Facebook page right now calling for the place to be saved. Almost.

davidp
26 - 06 - 11

>but it was actually one of long-time commenter David P’s comments that first noted

I had a deja vu moment when I read the council’s plan. But without closing Dixon Street I think the plan isn’t as strong as it could be. An isolated triangle with traffic on two sides isn’t an inviting place to hang out. By closing Dixon Street you’re making the park a much better and bigger space and also making it an extension of Cuba Street. Midland Park is an analogous situation… One of the reasons it is so popular is because it runs up to Astoria and magazine shop. If there were a lane of traffic between Astoria and the park then it’d be a poor space.

Overall, I’m disappointed just how unambitious the plans are. You could build an Oaks Park (including closing Dixon St) by 2015 if you really got stuck in, and I can’t imagine buying the Oaks building is likely to be prohibitively expensive. So why it is a plan for 2040?

Similarly turning MFC car park in to a proper park. They could start this next year and have it finished by the end of 2012. But the plan says that this won’t proceed until they’ve build an underground car park. I’m a supporter of cars (which I think are a brilliant invention) and building motorways all over the place. But city centers aren’t the right place for cars. People coming to events at MFC have perfectly good public transport options or can just walk there. I’d just do away with the car parks and get on with landscaping.

Maximus
26 - 06 - 11

Davidp – yes, there is a fault in the logic of the underground MFC carpark that the Aussie designers haven’t factored in yet – underneath the present carpark is a vast tank full of sewerage / stormwater. Sort of takes away the desire to go underground just here…

Totally agree with your Dixon St comments. Hope that Council are reading all this. When the time comes, you should put in a submission on that one.

60 MPa
26 - 06 - 11

+1 for Dixon St mall/pedestrianisation – unless someone is planning on moving the sun, the pleasure from walking on that side of the street is an underutilised asset to the city.

Also note that an underground carpark in the MFC area would be below the water table and stormwater aside, building under the water table is $$$$$.

jacqui
13 - 07 - 11

RE; ‘one of the most uncool, outdated and under-used spaces in Wellington – Te Aro Park’

Is this what people really think of Te Aro Park? Is it uncool because it’s not not ? Why?aesthetically pleasing
Is it really ‘under-used’? Maybe the reason for that is it’s isolated by the roads on either side of it?

I’m interested in people’s opinions.

Jacqui