I wasn’t going to write anything more this week, but the latest shenanigans in Auckland have me chortling with laughter. So-called Super City – you can keep it. A more disorganised bunch couldn’t be found. But then what can you expect if you have John Banks and Murray McCully in the same room, making decisions on the future of Auckland based on the needs of a rugby competition under two years away?
Perhaps Banks and McCully have got it right – sit back, take a chill pill, and do the competition again, but this time get it right. The thing is of course that they don’t have time for that. Suddenly, it makes the process on the Wellington waterfront look all very considered and sensible. As was reported yesterday, “Auckland is about building something (and fast), whereas Wellington is about thinking about somethings.”

So, what has happened in Auckland? How can the whole process have gone so swiftly off the tracks? How can one set of judges have chosen 8 contenders for the crown of Queens Wharf, only to have the whole process thrown out with no ceremony today?

Auckland Mayor John Banks says the submissions were sub-standard.
“We have decided after listening to the people of Auckland, and after going through this process and competition, that what we’ve ended up with is simply not good enough.”

Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee is also disappointed at the outcome of the design contest.
“What we’ve seen so far doesn’t make the standard, it’s not good enough,” he says.
“Queens’ Wharf deserves better, the people of Auckland deserve better.”

Yes, part of the problem is the retarded nature of the initial competition itself. In exactly the same manner as the Te Wero bridge competition they held 2 years ago, which was a disaster and came to nothing, some munchkin in charge of the process decided to repeat the whole deluded process. The whole 2 stage process is clearly part of the problem, instead of being a useful safeguard as was intended. If you want carefully considered, go for this. If you want iconic world symbol, go for something else.

But there is more to it than that. The brief was also muddled. What exactly was wanted?
Yes, we want an iconic building.
Yes, we want a long term Cruise ship terminal.
Yes, we also want to keep some old sheds that are boring and ugly, but gosh, in terms of Auckland architecture, they’re not from the 1980s so they must be old.
Yes, we want a place for drunken Poms to party in 2011 without upsetting the rich snobs in the Viaduct Basin.
Yes, we want a cheap quick fix for about $20million, but also, yes, we want somewhere that Auckland will be proud of and can show off to the world.
Yes, we forgot to tell you that, and yes, we might change the rules and the budget later.
Yes, we want something big and pretty, and yes, ooh, don’t forget, it should have some maori and pasifika stuff in it as well cos we just remembered that we’re the biggest polynesian city in the world.
Yes, we forgot to tell you about the iconic bit, but I mean, like, really, wasn’t that like, obvious?
No, we won’t pay you for your work in the competition and we’ll lump the professional designers in with the school kids and the random nutters.
Iconic symbols, coming up:
and many, many more….

The last thing in this story: listen to the comments from Aucklanders on the NZ Herald website:

RichieRich (Te Atatu South)
Some of the best architects in the country, and all they could come up with was this crap? I agree with Banks and co – if the city is going to do something, do it properly and make it worthy. Get some overseas architects in to design it as all of ours lack vision – just have a look at the crappy glass, concrete, plaster and plywood examples in downtown.

Paul (Mt Eden)
It’s surely an interesting turn of phrase from the Mayor that Auckland is in danger of “inheriting” yet another mediocre design. It hasn’t actually been built yet, so we can’t possibly be inheriting anything. This is instead, the deliberate future planning for mediocrity, not the accidental inheritance of it. If a suitable long-term design cannot be built within the budget and timeframe available prior to the Rugby World Cup, then surely the best course of action would be to erect temporary structures for that event, and defer the long-term investment until a better solution can be found. I am sure that for the purposes of the Rugby World Cup, a suitable “Party Central” could be made using Big-Tops, Superdomes, Marquees, and temporary grandstands etc, as is done for most one-off shows in Auckland such as the Easter Show, Ellerlie Flower Shows etc, all of which cater for huge numbers of patrons at relatively modest cost. Then sit down and re-think the budget and brief for the longer-term option, without the unneccessary time-pressure imposed by the Rugby World Cup.

Tracey (Balmoral)
Monday October 5, 2009 I just dont get that we could be paying someone in China to design this. We are in a recession and ought to be supporting New Zealand talent. Also, in sport, it is devilishly hard to get funding for anything which requires payment overseas. The reasoning being the money should support new Zealand companies and economy. Remember the Craig Ross debacle with Rowing? It doesnt matter how much cheaper we can get something overseas if we are getting certain grant money in sport we must use NZ companies. The same goes for such a hugely public thing as this. Was the Sydney Harbour bridge designed in the USA?

hey you (Waiotaiki Bay)
Thursday October 1, 2009 So once again instead of something unique and appealing, we, the rate payers of Auckland once again find ourselves on the end of a commitee designed horse.ie a camel, is this possibly a ruse and sop to the north shore community who were lumbered with a similar wharf masterpiece in the early ninties to ease them into the supercity thing with an “ours is worse than yours” type syndrome.

Juan Molina (Ponsonby)
Thursday October 1, 2009 Have you noticed?
The eight shortlisted entries include architects.
None of the comments of the jury panel includes the word Architecture.
None of the 13 requisits for stage 2 of the competition includes the word Architecture.
Really, was never about Architecture. Shame

sanity (Glendowie)
Thursday October 1, 2009 Will be interesting to see the views from the architecture community. No doubt they will be very political about it, and a couple of the bigwigs are there in the finalists so no doubt they will all be happy.

I agree with Geoff – it is clear that in the end keeping at least one of the sheds was fundamental, and as others have said this is such a mediocre but typcially shortsighted approach.