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.