Further Update: Council meeting to discuss this issue, from 7.30 to 9.30 on 22 October, at St Catherine’s College Hall – 14 Upper Bourke Street, Kilbirnie….
Although not an overly frequent frequenter to the suburbs, there is a certain feeling about being by the beach that we quite like: if we weren’t an urban blog, we’d be a seaside blog. Lyall Bay, home of Wellington’s best surf break, and a special spot for windsurfing and kite boarding, is a virtual paradise right on the edge of the capital city. At the edge of the Cook Straight, at times civilised, at other times wild beyond redemption, Lyall Bay is a fantastic place to be in the ‘burbs. In short, the Fish liked to dine at the Maranui Cafe.

I liked their logo, I liked their snappy graphics, I liked the way you had to join up and become a member in a giant book, I loved their square stumpy yet oddly nicely proportioned building, I loved their eggs on Sunday morning, and most of all, I liked the rowdy atmosphere with the semi-tamed view of an un-tamable ocean.

But now it’s gone, burnt to a crisp, and the City Council won’t pay to have it repaired. Or is that really the case? There’s certainly a lot of squealing coming from the Cafe aficionados like me, who really really really want to sit beside the sea, have a cup of your favourite hot stuff, and shovel down some primo food of a weekend. But curiously the building is still standing, still looking pretty much like a totally salvageable situation. So what gives?

As usual, it seems to be a case of petty politics, squabbling neighbours, and a bad case of poxy PR by the Council. Have we learnt nothing from the saga of the Chocolate Fish Cafe, where the Council got tarred with the brush of “the bad guy” when it was not really that at all?

The neighbouring building just a short shrift away is the Lyall Bay Surf Club, who presumably must be mortal enemies of the Maranui Surf Club, seeing as they share the same stretch of beach, and who have not got nearly as tall, interesting, or, let’s face it, an ‘iconic’ building as does Maranui. (While we’re their, is it just me, or is the surf club name miss-spelt? Shouldn’t it be Maraenui with an E in the middle? But let’s not go down that Michael Laws route to nasty pettiness). The Lyalls currently live in this dullish looking building:
No – wait – that’s the Toilets and Changing Rooms – the Lyall’s building is even more crap and boring and embarrassing to be seen in:
No wonder they desparately want to upgrade it. They chose ArcHaus to propose a new building for them (just how DO those guys get all the work in town?) which looked like this:
The architects ArcHaus have said this:

The proposal for a new club house for Lyall Bay Surf Life Saving Club creates efficient and purposed built spaces to meet the future needs of the club. The new club house will replace the existing club house and contains storage areas, changing facilities, a patrol/first aid room and training/lounge areas on two levels. It enables the club to continue its important service to the public of providing surf life guarding to the Lyall Bay beach. The two main purposes of the club, patrolling/life saving on the beach and providing training and storage facilities for its members manifest in the proposed concept of the new club house.

The new building for Lyall Bay SLSC is made up of two main volumes, one for the storage area and one for the other club spaces such as changing facilities, training room and lounge. Each volume is distinctively different in materials and textures and reflects the spaces contained within. The storage area is facing west, extending the footprint of the current building towards the No. 2 building. The club volume sits to the east and rests partly on the storage area. The difference in width further distinguishes the two volumes and creates entrance points into the building.

A third volume sits between the two main parts, creating the centre and the heart of the new club house and providing the vertical circulation. This volume acts as a focal point in the design. It contains the generously glazed entrance lobby which opens up the club towards the promenade and the city to the north, allowing the public to see the activities of the club and engage with it. This volume cantilevers out towards the beach and forms the patrol and first aid room in a prime position. It offers an ideal and elevated vantage point for the surf guards and creates a strong visual element indicating to the public that this area of the beach is being monitored by the club.

The club area is clad in glazed clay tiles in various colours creating a vibrant and innovative external envelope reflecting the active and energetic nature of the surf club. This will positively enhance the surrounding areas and create a new focal point on Lyall Bay beach.

Anyhow: it got the thumbs down from the Council in terms of funding, and now the Council are in a quandry. Some more images of the currently shelved ArcHaus project:
and a close-up with some great rock climby things – although do you really need it with the beach just there?
while mean time, there is this lovely but redundant old building, that looks like it should be public toilets, but I don’t think is, although people still pee there anyway. It’s all dreadfully confusing.

But meantime, the Cafe sits untended. The DomPost newspaper has noted that:

Operators of the fire-damaged Maranui Cafe have called for the building to be repaired as soon as possible but their request has been knocked back by Wellington City Council. The council has proposed replacing four buildings fronting the beach with one large building that could include a cafe.

Representatives from Maranui Surf Life Saving Club met council officers yesterday to discuss options for the building, which has been closed since it was badly damaged by fire in August. Club chairman Peter Clark said the proposed building was a long-term vision that was separate from the damaged building – home to the cafe and surf club.

“The council needs to step up and fix the building. We need to have our building back up and running as soon as possible.”

But the Council isn’t really being the bad boy here. They know that the Cafe is a mega drawcard for the beach. They’re desperate to get it back open again. It brings locals to the beach, it attracts tourists to the city, it almost replaces the Chocolate Fish in it’s by-the-beach coolness (but not quite: nothing really can). There is all sorts of nasty creepy insurance bullshit going on – apparently a half mill worth of damage to restore it, but honestly, half of Wellington would join in with a weekend working bee if we could get it back open by Christmas. Just do it. There’s no point to the Council messing around with petty politics now, there needs to be some snappy decisions made now. Right now. Before this bad situation gets even worse. And if I was in charge, I’d do this:
1. Get the insurers to pay up and restore the Maranui building immediately, and this time put a sprinkler system in.
2. Get an architect to design another building, to cope with bus shelters and public toilets, and if they want to be kind, the Lyalls as well.
3. There is no 3. That’s really the only thing to do, isn’t it? So why are we waiting?

Oh – and just one more thing: to whomsoever might design the new buildings: take a word from Baywatch on the design of a surf club.
Rule number 1: don’t spoil the view of the beach. Get it up on legs. Really.

Post script. As always, Tom Scott has the best lines – and today his is very apt: