Well, Well, Welly. Wellington City Council weren’t joking when they said they were going to start work on the Manners Mall bus route. Notice in the paper one day, ripping up those horrid concrete bricks (not one of the design team’s best choices it would seem) the next day. One of our regular readers sent this pic in as they started work:
Design of the existing space, as I think I am safely allowed to say now, was pretty damn awful. Sorry Ath, it sucked in a most dreary manner. Actually, most things suck in Manners, but I digress. The concrete bricks were… a failure. The brick bricks, even more of a failure. I think we all know that, especially from the little trails of asphalt left in their place. The little galvanised cages for the plants, with the tractor seats on top – I understand the concept, but sadly they were a failure as well. Ugly, cold, the lights failed and the plants and trees never really survived the onset of Gothicus Masticus, the nasty blight affecting all the trees at least.
However, sadly, the design of the proposed new space is, as far as the Fish is concerned, still horribly wrong.
Car parks down Dixon, no.
Cars sharing part of Manners St – I really don’t know whether that is In or Out, as the quality of the design plans were so poor. I had been naively thinking that the Council might send them back for another go – can’t quite believe that they’re building from them. Actually, I’d strongly suggest that the next set of plans (for lower Cuba, Dixon St, Manners St etc) all be given to a company that specialises in creating nice places for people – an architect, or landscape architect, and certainly not a traffic engineer as per the current set. It is too important for Wellington to get it wrong. But who am I to criticise? After all, I’m just a Fish, albeit a Wellingtonian who has to walk this way every day for the next 50 years.
We can only presume that somewhere there exists a set of plans that shows lovingly thought out kerbing details, a selection of carefully coordinated paving slabs, integration of lighting in a sensitive manner (a sensitive Manner even), well planned and comfortably built seating at strategic points, and cleverly thought out design decisions on all the intersections. That’s the way it was done in Auckland down Queen St, where they won national awards for the design, and also in Wellington’s own Kumutoto, which still pleases me as a place for where the plaice meets the rat race.
Anyway, in the mean time, it appears that we’re preparing a place for Gondolas, as the street was turning into a lake yesterday, or at the very least the workers seemed to be digging a new canal….
Ooh, and one last thing: there’s a comment on a previous post of ours, that says it comes from John Key. Have we really cracked open the cabinet then? Read on…
I love the picture showing “improvements” as the contractors flood the street. I do think flooding the street would be an improvement over the bus lane proposal.
One of the things that it seems everyone has missed is that manners mall is one of the few more or less east/west streets we have in the city that is a public space. The significance of this is that combined with the relatively low surrounding buildings – there is sunshine on the street most of the day. Specifically the sun is in the middle of the street, which the buses will soon be occupying.
I love cuba street, but for most of the year it is a cold, wet place to be. And the bucket fountain is the worst idea ever for a cold wet city. “I know! For a street that gets little direct sunlight let’s make a fountain that will splash people with water! Brilliant!”
The Manner’s mall work is a disaster mostly because it will destroy one of the few pedestrian areas that get all sun for a majority of the day. I would have thought sun analysis would have been one of the city’s urban design criteria.
Oh well… as a second choice I’ll take the gondolas to the buses any day.
Well we all know how this is going to end, the Council will get its way again and Wellington will gain another mediocre space. I really do not understand the Council and its ways. Why are they always so hell bent on ignoring the public opinion? I understand that the public may not know exactly what they way, that the public may be uneducated, that the public may have conflicting views and lack the big picture view but shouldn’t it be the Council’s role to ask, educate, correct, facilitate and explain?
Let us move away from Manners Mall for a while a look at another public space development nearing its completion—the redesigned Cobblestone Park. So much promise and such a let down. The whole thing feels cheap, poorly implemented and above all it’s missing all the original design elements which made it really good, in my opinion of course. It seems that someone looked at the original design and decided that all those lines were just an artist’s impression and not an integral part of the design. And don’t even get me started on that cheap and nasty playground ordered from some cheesy playground catalogue.
How do these developments happen? Is there any accountability? Are there every any post-occupancy evaluations? I pay taxes and rates damn it and I want to know.
tomek – you are indeed right that the Eye of the Fish should look at the Cobblestone Park redevelopment – and whether it has succeeded or failed. I was waiting for it to be finished – which was meant to happen a few months ago, but it has gone over time. It’s nearing completion and no doubt will be opened officially soon. No doubt it will get lauded by Mayor Prendergast, as it is her job to be unflinchingly positive about all things city, but as regards your comments on the design: yes. I agree.
I was hoping that Philip was going to write a review of it – but he seems to have disappeared a bit – if he doesn’t re-emerge, would you be keen to write a more lengthy, more considered review? The Fish is always keen for more thoughtful writers to be involved.
If there is any blame to lay for the placing of carparks in Dixon, or for the urban design, then it lays squarely on the WCC’s Urban team.
The drawing you picked out looks nothing more than an engineering general arrangement drawing, not one designed to make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy inside. That is all it seems to be – general, i.e. not specific. And from the PDF download, it has a big fat PROPOSED on it, so maybe this isn’t the final option?
It was a bit disconcerting about the lagoon that appeared there the other morning, having to scooch between BK and the Telecom pay phones to keep ones feet dry. Which begs the question, why bus lanes? Why not a mall-length slip’n’slide? =)
Always good to read your site.
Manners St bus way – I’m pleased that following some good thoughtful submissions officers changed their advice on Manners St West (which was great for those of us who never thought it was sensible to allow general eastbound vehicle traffic in, and undermine a reliable PT spine along the Golden Mile) so what we have agreed is that 6am to 7pm week days there will be no eastbound general traffic allowed into Manners St West (ie from Willis to Victoria). Whether weekends become traffic free too we’ll see from experience. The changed advice certainly helped prevent what would otherwise have been a vigorous debate yesterday at Strategy and Policy committee!
Dixon St – as I’ve said before I completely agree with you Maximus. At the moment the majority of councillors are wedded to achieving extra carparking. I think some of the extra should be sacrificed to allow Te Aro Park to be extended southwards and/or the southern pavement of Dixon St to be widened. Minimus you mentioned Manners Mall being EW aligned and sunny middle of the day – Dixon St is even better given the Park there and gets a lot more sun, as well as being surrounded by some very good buildings (and no I don’t mean the aging Oaks). I hope that the post October Council will have a slightly different view and money will be provided (in the context of the 2040 planning) for Dixon St. The other element to think about there is whether Dixon St gets closed off by extending Cuba Mall across it. At any rate whatever is there should be designed so that its principal purpose is not as a through route.
Cobblestone Park – when you do get to critique the design/delivery can I suggest that it should be in the context of what was previously there – which even with nostalgia tinted glasses about the good old days – was dark, not well used, and had as its centrepiece a pond empty because the pipe/pump work was kaput. We get told periodically that we are short of park space in the southern CBD in particular (I agree) which is where most of the residential growth is occuring. Therefore it is important that what we have works well. I also think we need to create at least one more park in this area, as well as Memorial Park, and extending Te Aro Park.
The other point to make is that the University was making noises about opening out the front of their building onto the Park and including a cafe. I think that would add a lot to the park and I hope that they will do that at some stage (soon would be nice please any University readers !)
The chosen plan was the best (by a fair bit) of the four that a panel considered. If I can dig out the plans I’ll get them to you somehow. One was a tidy up of the existing environment, one was built around an urban forest (for some reason chosing kahiketea which might have been great (if dark) in 100 years time) and the other two featured a range of people spaces on different levels. I think the final design did pick a couple of good elements out of the 2nd preference one. A proposed ‘arts’ pavilion at the eastern (lower) end of the park got dropped for cost reasons and because of the likelihood of becoming a university extension. I hope that the hardcourt area gets good use.
One question for you and your readers, because sometimes we lay people look at the delivery of designs and it’s not always what we expected from the plans – ‘to what degree – if at all – should those in governance roles get involved in design / delivery ?
Cr Andy Foster
Urban Development Leader
Wellington City Council
Gondolas? There is an idea. How about digging a canal all the way down the Golden Mile and replace the buses with canal boats? It’d be like Venice or Amsterdam, but a lot more windy obviously. And we could design freezer coils in to the system so that we could freeze the canal in the winter and people could skate on it. I’d we willing to pay for that out of rates!
I’m all in favour of getting rid of Dixon St and extending Pigeon Park to the shops. At the moment the park is isolated and unfriendly. It is a place to walk through rather than stop in. Eliminate Dixon St on one side, restrict that bit of Manners St to buses, and bulldoze the Oaks and you’d have a nice urban park that people would want to spend time in.
Andy, really great to see you commenting so helpfully and extendedly here. As you know, the Arch Centre commented quite extensively on the Manners Mall and Te Aro Park, so it is good to hear that perhaps our feedback was influential in the end. I’m not sure where the councillor’s requirement for lots of extra carparks is coming from, especially in the Dixon St area. yes, I can understand that there is a need to want to replace some of the carparks lost in the lower Cuba St area, but then, the option chosen by the Council appears to have quite a few carparks there as it is. Any extra carparks being proposed in Dixon are really pretty superfluous to requirements, if we were to be honest. Because of the bus lane outside Dixon St at present, the existing businesses are doing just fine without car parking, so it can’t be coming from them. In fact, if we were to look at the businesses involved there, Avis RentaCar are the only business which really needs carparks, and theirs are all off street anyway.
Good question of yours re the delivery of designs. I don’t think we’d support an extension of the Council planners role, as they are simply not trained to cope with that. But design does matter – crucially important in fact. The TAG team down on the waterfront I know were very capable and exacting on the designers there – which only had good outputs, as all the design work there has to be thought through many times before it comes to fruition. I’m not sure what the new Urban Design group are up to – they do seem to have replaced most of their staff, either effectively sacking or otherwise demoralizing their previous staff into leaving, and we’ve been waiting with baited breath to see what happens there next. But no word as yet, which is unusual, and more than a bit worrying.
Cheers, Guy, for
The Arch Centre
Andy, pardon my cynicism but your request that the Uni expedite any plans to open up a cafe implies that you know Cobblestone park is going to be underused, and are relying on a third party to breathe some life in to it. Shouldn’t the design be doing that? As a student at SOAD, I agree the old Cobblestone wasn’t perfect but it suffered some serious neglect, which any space would have difficulty recovering from. What the old park did have going for it was its disconnection from the road through the planting and the gently rolling landscaping. You call it dark, I romantically call it intimate :-). These are now gone and we are forced to engage with the road in all its unglorified reality, along with the concrete retaining walls. Like we don’t get enough concrete living in a city, it has to play such a primary role in an urban ‘park’.
It would be great if the park becomes a throbbing mass of Arch & Design students, basketballers, toddlers and lunchtimers. Not that we students have the time to be hanging around outside of course, although we could have the odd tute or crit out there. Weather permitting. Nothing like seeing your work floating off down Vivian or getting run over by two lanes of traffic.
Re your question about to what degree should you and your fellow councilors get involved. Is the problem really that the delivery doesn’t meet what you expected from the plan as a lay person? When you see the plans do you really think, ‘that’s a place I would like to hang out’ ? Taking a look at Cobblestone now, in its near finished state, would you have your lunch there? Play a bit of b-ball. Take the kids on the climbing frame? Come on up, we’ll shout you a coffee from Midnight until the Uni cafe opens.
Sure the old Manners Mall could have been designed better, but you’re focusing on mainly failed aesthetics. The fact it was pedestrian only and quite often streaming with people (not cars/buses) made it a nice place to be in with something going on, and a welcome relief after walking up Victoria St.
Was there ever a plan to connect Cuba and Willis St with a pedestrian only street/s? I think that would be great, but might be pie in the sky stuff and not too sure how vehicles would be able to work around that.
Sav, you ask if there was ever a plan to connect the pedestrian parts of Willis and Cuba St. Previously (ie up-to-now / currently) we have had one of the few cities in the world where it is possible to walk the length of most of the CBD and only cross a few roads – that is a record to be envied.
Starting at Ghuznee at the top of Cuba Mall, then pedestrians only had to cross Dixon, Victoria, and Willis, with the next crossing of foot / car traffic (if you ignore Woodward and Farmers Lane cost they really don’t count) being Bowen St. Which is quite extraordinary really – and any reworking of Manners Mall is going to have to live up to that. Coupled with the fact, as Minimus says, that the sun came in here really well later in the day. That’s now going to be lost forever, unless you want to play dodgems with the buses in the middle of the road.
The Council has been proposing, effectively, that having Lower Cuba St being partially mallified will make up for that loss of Manners.
I’m not too sure of that. The logical thing to do, of course, would be to make at least one of two other routes an equivalent: either connect lower Cuba really well into Civic Sq, and then have good pedestrian access across Mercer onto Willis, – or else, mostly pedestrianise the segment of Dixon St between Taranaki and Willis St. But these are not being really looked at presently. Arch Centre will be pushing for these to be considered by the present / and next Councils, as Andy Foster suggests.
Am keen to write up the park redevelopment, but will wait until things are finished and used. Agree that it seems far too exposed to the road — does anyone know if the lightboxes are still going to go in? It doesnt look likely…
I strayed off topic with my pre-rant on Cobblestone Park. I would be very happy to write something up once the park has been completed. Mind you, like all critical pieces this is going to be a subjective view of one person with particular aesthetics. Still, critical as I may be I will try to be fair.
Guy – agree completely – and I think that both routes are important for pedestrians – ie (1) Lower Cuba – via better link across Wakefield St and through to Civic Square and City to Sea Bridge then if you want through to Willis St or the Waterfront and (2) Dixon as I said earlier.
There is a third link which is probably never going to be as good as the other two but nonetheless could be significantly improved from Lower Cuba through Lombard (especially if the West Plaza hotel can improve it’s relationship with the street on that frontage) and then through Bond St where the cafe owners are advocating for a more pedestrian street.
Obviously the amount of monsy we have available to deliver all these things, and the competition for that money with everything from libraries and parks to indoor sports centres and leaky homes will come into it, as well as for urban development work elsewhere in the Central City and suburban areas. The other key to making these work is having decent buildings working with the public space.
Sorry a thought after sending the last email.
Buildings working with public space. We’ve been hearing submissions on the Waterfront Development Plan for the next year. At the moment the Waterfront company is continuing to deliver the 2001 Framework. Obviously despite the Framework saying that Kumutoto (Queens Wharf North) should be an area of buildings and squares etc rather than open space, we are getting ongoing disagreement in submissions on that, and on having an eventual transition building on the carpark adjacent to Te Papa. (UN Studio/Wardle designs adjacent Waitangi park)
A question several submitters were asked about in relation to Kumutoto was along the lines of ‘at what height does a building become too high there. The general response was 2 storeys ok, some people said 3 – shading being one of the issues raised. I’d be interested in your collective wisdom on building numbers/scale/necessity in these areas. of course there are a whole range of factors for Council to consider but it would be great to have your thoughts.
getting back to Manners St….
davidp (and others) – I completely agree that the Oaks should be removed ASAP. The prospect of an urban space/park in its place is very appealing being connected to Cuba St and the Golden Mile. It gets good sun, and would be of a scale that would allow both day to day activities and occasional events.
Such a space should satisfy those of you, like minimus, who lament for Manners Mall. Personally I never considered it ever worked as decent urban space, and it’s lack of midday sun minimised its ability to be anything more than a pathway between the eastern and western parts of the city.
Manner St east is the least appealing portion of the Golden Mile and needs to be part of WCC’s focus in the short term.
Whether the space would need to extend as far as Taranaki St as the current Te Aro park does is debatable. It may be better to contain the urban space by building a ‘Flatiron’ building at the pointy end.
Guy, regarding the discussion about other pedestrian streets being created, I think consideration of Dixon Street needs to be done in the context of the entire CBD, rather than piecemeal. It seems increasingly desirable to me treat the Golden Mile as the main pedestrian and PT route. I’m less enthusiastic of Bob Jones idea to make it pedestrian only than Kerry Prendegast’s pedestrian and PT option. If this were to happen then streets like Dixon, should probably remain shared cars and pedestrians albeit with widened footpaths where possible.
Extending the Golden Mile discussion, it would also seem essential to work towards reducing the PT on it to just a cross town bus or tram, with transfers to suburban buses at the two ends – west and north suburb buses and trains at the existing terminal and station, and south and east suburb buses at Kent/Cambridge.
So what’s happens to the thousands of pavers they’re digging up from Manners Mall? I hope they don’t just get chucked away. How about replacing the awful asphalt pavements in upper cuba street (and elsewhere) with them.
The current descending order of priority in Wellington is personal motor vehicle, PT and pedestrian. The Manners Street work confirms that. There can’t be many main city retail streets in Europe that don’t 100% priviledge pedestrians. Why be different?
I love how the last of the above images shows a soon-to-be ‘drooping’ kerb at the apex of Te Aro Park – especially designed to facilitate a bus’s turning circle or something like that I guess. The value of doing some design research before penning such changes is well illustrated by this wee gem – that end of the park that features the ‘prow’ also signifies the ‘male element’ of the design. The resulting limpidity well-represents the thoughtfulness of the so-called ‘design’ of these alterations
Furthermore, while Te Aro Park may not be the most popular of urban spaces, it is an art installation of some significance. To make nibbling changes here and there is to erode its integrity leaving an area that is neither successful as an urban space nor significant as a work of art – not really a positive outcome in any respect. (The toilet blockjs at the other end are even worse in that respect).
If there is no committment to keeping the park as it is (and I’m not saying there should be), then it would be better to actually design something that does function as a popular urban park (or put a building there, or whatever…) – incorporating the kerb shapes, etc that are desired. Money spent redesigning this park would have been much better spent than the fiasco that is Cobblestone Park (which apart from the mechanical failure of the pool, was fine as it was (that pond could have been filled in and a playground put there (if really necessary) for a lot less cost, and people would still be able to loll idly on the sides of the hillocks, partially sheltered from the noise/fumes of NZ’s main State Highway, which, of course, is now no longer possible.
So very limp…
m-d – I’m not sure if the ‘limp dick’ planning of the phallic corner (meant to be the prow of a waka, me-thinks) is actually moving the prow itself, or just the pavement in front of it.
I actually quite like the current planning of Te Aro Park, although it would seem to be only the homeless, the seagulls, pigeons and myself who do like it. I have had lunch there on occasions – so have had a chance to study it.
Sure, it has a pattern that is not visible unless you are in a tall building nearby, and sure, it has uneven tiles, and slippery bits, and yes, the seats are triangular so that you can’t face your friends – but hey, if you’re on your own its great ! Not facing friends means you can be alone in a crowded place! The acoustics of the pools are great – they change tempo and audio as you walk throughio. But it is soooo cut off, and would be so improved by being linked back to people and life on Dixon St.
Prow – yes (I did note that), but all of the vertical elements (which are the trees and the prow) symbolise the male element. Unfortunately, the trees didn’t really thrive (they would have provided some much needed containment at the site…).
And I realise that the prow itself remains unmoved – it is just the surrounding footpath, but when intervening at a site full of metaphorical reference – every ‘small’ action needs thinking through carefully for unintended consequences. To say that the footpath surrounding the park has no impact on the design of the park itself (in this case accentuating the ‘prowness’ – or not, if changed), is to be pretty short-sighted.
Like you, I quite enjoy the design, and I often compare the number of park users with the smaller Courtenay Pocket park just across the way. Surprisingly, given the general dislike of Te Aro Park, it is well-used comparatively – especially in good weather, when it is far busier than the pocket park (if you discount those simply walking through thte latter). That said, a better design at Te Aro Park might see it even more utilised…
Spencer – regarding your comment about the design of Cobblestone Park – good urban space needs activity around its edges (not of the SH sort though). For Cobblestone Park to become a vibrant and vital urban space, something really does need to be happening along the uinversity edge. I’m of the opinion that urban architecture (and those that manage it) need to productively engage with their urban environment. Now this might not mean that the School does the whole cafe thing (do we really require another in this area – although playground+cafe is a successful combination in child-unfriendly Wellington), but surely the front of the building could be more engaging with the park? It is a Faculty of Architecture and Design after all – this should be a given. It would almost certainly be a win-win, as long as that engagement was able to clearly avoid ‘ownership’ of the park and its uses.
Andy Foster – re Kumutoto heights I would agree with 2 storeys but with the added proviso that they would need to be broken up for light if larger than a long East-West footprint (eg >30m)and could be given dispensation to go to three storeys if the roof is sloped upwards towards the Northwest corner at approx 30 degrees and are not larger than, say, 15 m on either axis.
The sun swings to the North in Winter when we need it most to illuminate our pale existences and, to bring this back to Manners St, I think that you were maybe pointing out that the building shadow is the main drawback hence we don’t want to make the same mistake in the new Kumutoto area?
In defence of the Oaks, it’s slightly improved in the last year. The Memphis Belle cafe has opened on the Dixon-toilets corner, and Arty Bees has expanded into a second floor. It’s… ok. Though it still has a giant unused, unloved gap in the middle, and the pain of it never really fulfilling its ’80s potential.
Perhaps the public toilets can be incorporated somewhere inside the Oaks complex, letting that space be used to visually link the Oaks with the park.
Yes, it has improved but it is still a mostly run down dump, especially at the Te Aro Park end. The African Braid shop has a window that was broken about 2 years ago. The night club above it looks like it is the seediest bar in town. The shops on the south side go bust on a regular yearly basis. Even the porn video shop can’t really get it up.
I’m guessing that whoever owns the place has made a bundle out of it over the years, and is now just running it into the ground, much the same as, well, most of the stores in town really.
Perhaps we should be asking what else we can do with the site? Yes, it could be torn down and made into more park. Or, it could become a site for an exciting new venue. Suggestions?
For an earlier vision of Manners Mall check out the examination of a just-minted Oaks Arcade in ‘The Extroverts’ episode of 1984 architecture series The Elegant Shed, just posted on NZ On Screen (also worth checking out for interviews with Athfield and Walker and visits to Massey House and Futuna Chapel pre-suburban enveloping):
In the narration David Mitchell swoons over The Oaks: “The glassiest and classiest shopping arcade so far here …”. If only he could see it now: an exterior drive-by mirror on a bus route; and inside, a fallen vision with its and ad hoc commercial occupation and wintry abandonment of its arcade pretenses …
paul – you are so right. How did it ever get perceived as glassy and classy? Before my time: but it beats me ! There was, apparently, a double height atrium within, and not only that – get this: due to the high traffic through the area, there was an overhead pedestrian bridge from Oaks to James Smith ! Woo Hoo ! Beat that Auckland !
I can only presume that after about a decade of the bridge being used as nothing more than a public toilet, it was removed.
Infrastructure Director of the Wellington City Council, Stavros Michael is quoted as saying that creating the space in lower Cuba St that will effectively extend Cuba Mall would be a level area that would be a shared space for people and slow moving vehicles, where pedestrians will have priority.
The reality will be quite different from the artist impression of the street as there will still be a constant stream of vehicles going through, as drivers seek parking and a quicker way to get from A to B.
How do you prioritise pedestrians over vehicles and how do you control the speed of the vehicles?
By having the street as a level area will make it look and feel like pedestrian mall, people will naturally walk through it in a random manner. It will be dangerous for people and especially for kids that may occasionally wander away from their parents.
Cuba Mall is popular and is a pleasant experience for pedestrians because cars do not go through it.
The idea of closing off Dixon Street impacts too many side streets and access to buildings. The money would be better spent buying the shabby Oaks Complex, pulling it down and extending Te Aro Park to Cuba St.
Weeg, its what is being called a Shared Space. There is quite a bit of info written about it as a concept, and also a growing number of examples of it around the world. They’re doing it in Europe, in England, and starting also in Auckland and I think Christchurch – this will be the first example in Wellington.
I disagree with you on Dixon St though. “impacts too many side streets and access to buildings. ” ? Ummm, no, not really. Going from the east end, there is Egmont St (cars can come and go from the far end, so no real impact there) and then Eva St (cars can access from Leed St, so the impact there is manageable). Cuba St is next, which is already pedestrian. The west side of Dixon St is probably never going to be a nice place for pedestrians – it certainly isn’t now, but that may be to do more with tall buildings opposite causing shadows, as well as bis and taxi areas.
I agree that the Oaks would be better off gone – but the key to the park would be to stop it being an island, and to anchor it to the south side of the street. The Oaks move can happen at some stage in the future. The closing off of Dixon St should happen now….
Has the fish seen its concrete cousin lyingforlorn on the ground outside Molly’s waiting to be cemented into the pavement…???
In a word, No.
Must go see. Mollys normally covered in Toucans and drunken teens. Will hunt for fish. Thanks for the fishing tip.