Perhaps we don’t need to be mean to Auckland and its architecture, as it seems to be quite good at beating itself up.
The AAA has been running a competition called Urban Eye, for a written entry on Auckland Architecture. We’re sorry we missed it. Some of the entries are so good, they could almost have been written by the Fish. But no: we’re innocent. Mind you, damn fine moderately average writing, not just for the Winning Entry (on the AAA site, and reproduced below) but also the Second and Third prize entries. Nice bit of writing getting stuck listening to your mate drunkenly ramble on about something you’ve heard them go on about a million times before.

There is, of course, some fine architecture in Auckland, to go along with their fine beaches, many islands (and Islanders), and a wonderfully convoluted motorway system, the budget of which must be the envy of many a small third world nation. And then again, there is this piece of excrement, recently erected. But the recent Auckland Architecture awards showed some excellent work in the City of Sales, as did the Wellington Architecture awards held last night in the City Gallery. According to the Arch Centre report, it was a great party, and there’s a pretty good summary of all the awards posted there. There’s even a welcome on their website to someone called Herr-Kislop or Kerr-Hislop, which sounds an unlikely name for an architect, but there you go. Sounds like those architects are all a friendly bunch in Wellington: perhaps not so much in Auckland, where at least one writer (the winner) is disgruntled, and writes frankly of Auckland, entitled:

A massive all encompassing, devastating failure across the board in every way possible. That’s one way I describe Auckland, a poorly mismanaged & governed city from the very beginning and it’s still happening on a grand scale even today.

From a constant failure to invest properly in decent infrastructure, public transport, public buildings, and user friendly public facilities, let alone failing to looking after our best assets, such as the volcanic cones (most of which have been quarried from existence), the twin harbours, the beaches, lakes and natural features that abound within the Auckland region. And to top it off, the failure that is the rancid cream on the cake, are the buildings that drape themselves over Auckland like a damp mouldy blanket, rotting away at our souls and lives.

They are the truly insidious and disgusting developer driven foul leaking homes, ghetto enhancing apartment dwellings and ill conceived commercial buildings that blight our amazing landscape with their hideous forms and poorly functioning purpose. I could write volumes on how sick I feel each time I’m affronted with a new pile of shit being constructed on prime sites around Auckland.

I ask you, have you ever truly been offended by a building just by its pure ugliness and gross form, mismatched colour palate and greed hungry dollar driven templates that attempt to squeeze every last cent of rentable space out of every square metre?

Everywhere I turn, glance or sometimes, just plainly look and stare at some of the recent buildings that have been built in and around Auckland during the largest property boom this country is ever likely to see, my heart sinks because I know that yet again we’ve failed. Failed to cry outrage at the tiny apartments that force people to live like rats, failed to hold accountable, the people responsible for the thousands of leaking and sick homes that are ruining lives every day.
From the decaying Eden Quarter, to the nasty apartment blocks that blight Hobson and Nelson Streets, the Newmarket slum apartments bordering Broadway Park and let’s not forget to mention the sieve that is Sacramento in East Auckland. They are but a fraction of the thousands of homes that are claiming victims left, right & centre in Auckland. The commercial building nightmares such as the Comfort Inn in Newton Gully, the Tony Tay Building on the prime site on the corner of K Rd and Queen St, all the way to one of Auckland’s most truly grotesque forms that is the Royal Oak Mall. Have you ever been stuck in traffic at the roundabout and wondered at the surrounding hideous forms that we call building’s, that radiate out from it, like some sort of malformed ripples in a very sick stagnant pond? Does ugly form breed more ugly form around it? And, if so, how can we stop it?
royal-oak-outside .. royal-oak-inside
I hope though, that one day soon, we can turn this tide of greed driven construction and malformed intent and start reshaping Auckland the way it should be. From the Ironbank to the Auckland University’s New School of Business, to the Civic and the Wilson School in Takapuna, all the way to looking after our beautiful beaches, unique landscapes and the environment. And hopefully along the way creating new urban spaces to enjoy our harbour waterfronts and inner city parks. These are what we should cry for, buildings that enhance our lives, workplaces and appeal to the landscape with better form, function and aesthetics that would make Auckland a city to be proud to live in, visit or just simply be a pleasure to transit through. We should be designing buildings that leave a positive impression by creating, approving and ultimately using in the way intended. Because these are buildings that we will have to use, look at, and live in for the rest of our lives should we choose to live in Auckland.

The winds of change are upon us, so I hope that we as Aucklanders will make the right decision in voting in a governing body that will take pride in Auckland and bring it forward out of the mire we find ourselves in.

Exceed expectations and excel in everything you set out to achieve, for you cannot fail if your heart is in it until the very end.