This city of ours has some fabulous little pedestrian byways and shortcuts which make walking at times a slightly smug activity – those few moments that cars don’t have an advantage over foot traffic, and steps which even challenge seasoned mountain bikers. We even enjoy the occasionally misplaced carpark – the ones which were bought to be built on but the developer’s luck has turned, the byproduct being an accidentally generous gift to pedestrians. Te Aro has the best of these informal acts of waywardness.
I’d imagined the recession would likely provide more such gifts to me and my fellow “street-walkers” – or at least give the existing gaps between buildings a longer existence. Walking into work last week though I was sadly dismayed. A recent favourite (a compensatory euphemism after that cute but strangely detailed Unity Press building on Lorne St was demolished – it was Unity Press wasn’t it – has anyone got photos?), perhaps better described as a disorderly carpark next to the Pacific Catch building, will no longer be available for trespassing. The hoarding was going up Friday morning.
The proposed building is yet another set of apartments – hurrah for urban densification – but another blow to architectural creativity and sunlight. This space also had the potential for being a much needed urban park. Not perhaps as perfectly sited as Swan Lane, but something to ameliorate the residential intensity which appears to be progressing without thought to the need to provide a level of recreational amenity to match the recent population increases of the inner city.
But perhaps more importantly the disappearance of such spaces (legal or not) increasingly reduces the unique pleasures of walking through the city. In this era where the council is supposed to be encouraging walking and cycling over cars (except apparently for an overbridge on the Basin) one would think a concerted effort from the WCC might be seen in actively preserving some of this urban waywardness. If England can legalise customary rights across rural landscapes then surely the WCC can protect the present short-cuts and pedestrian trespassing which add to the character and urban texture of our city. A bland, blank, block with no transparency and no through routes doesn’t just take away from one street, it takes the life away from the city.
Hmmm, a perversely contradictory post – the very waywardness of such left-over spaces is an outcome of the lack of coordinated planning (i.e. the invisible hand)… yet you call for centralized control to protect a contemporary situation, which would, at the same time, prevent future manifestations of ‘waywardness’ from evolving…
You must also be a heritage advocate ; )
Have a look on Google StreetView.
The images they’ve captured around that area show workmen installing a new vehicle crossing point and sump (and standing around).
Contradictarity (if there is such a word – well – there is now) is by nature perverse. And no, control doesn’t need to be centralised on this – but recognition should happen that these wayward paths are worthy of keeping, and enliven a block.
The Glover Park block is probably my favourite example of this. I’ve always liked the diagonal you can cut from Abel Smith street, through the Mill carpark, down to Bute Street and onto Glover Street. It’s much more interesting than Victoria Street. One thing that has always bothered me though is the fence between the end of Glover Street and Victoria Street (under the very scary NATIONAL OFFICE – which has another name… Kakapo House or something similar, I should know I walk past it every day but I’ve gone blank..).
It’s a tatty looking wooden fence with barbed wire preventing any sort of thoroughfare. Which, okay fine, if it’s private property that needs protecting. BUT BOTH SIDES OF THE FENCE ARE ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC. I can stroll up to one side of the fence and pass something over to someone else. It’s just they’re 200metres away on foot.
Actually, you can walk through the neighbouring motel carpark if you’re going from Victoria Street to Glover Street, but it’s a one way gate, so if you’re not a guest you can’t get back that way!
Glover Street is starting to take off, too (for a given value of the phrase take off) so it would be nice to see this opened up.