The Best Urban Design of 2014
It was a year of winning forms and some massive fails. Chris Barton picks his favourite urban design developments — and hands out the wooden spoons.
Photo: Patrick Reynolds.
Best Small New Building
Te Kaitaka, “The Cloak”
Artfully draped in a bronze mesh and sporting a tufted living roof of native grasses, Fearon Hay’s Te Kaitaka, above, is mysterious and beguiling. Auckland Airport’s new gateway building brings profundity to the Pacific pavilion. A winner at this year’s World Architecture Festival in the Display category, Te Kaitaka speaks eloquently of many things — Maori cloaks, meeting place, the earth. It’s also a real estate showroom.
Best Large New Building
Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT)
It’s the central quad of Warren and Mahoney’s MIT building — a massive six-storey trapezium atrium — that stuns. Here slender tensioned steel rods hang the floors from roof trusses, creating Colosseum-like balconies encircling a public ground floor, straddling a railway station beneath. A hive of learning — a layered palette of colour, glass, timber and steel — it revitalises the bleak urban wilderness of Manukau.
Best Commercial Building
387 Tamaki Drive
Ian Moore’s careful, minimalist modern composition gleams white as bleached bone on St Heliers Bay’s genteel village waterfront. It has some villagers vexed, but this lean, mean efficient building is mixed use par excellence. A winner in the International Architecture Awards for 2014, it’s stark white modernism at its best.
Bit by bit, downtown Auckland is being transformed into pedestrian-friendly, liveable streetscapes through shared-space makeovers. This latest addition is the best yet. Ask yourself: do you like O’Connell St the way it is now or crammed with cars and an obstacle course for pedestrians? Now, what about High St?
Best Park/Public Space
North Wharf Promenade and Silo Park
Yes, it’s been around for a while, but this year’s Rosa Barba International Landscape Prize recognised this creation, by Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Wraight + Associates, as one of the best examples of urban regeneration and landscape architecture in the world. It also won for Best Waterfront Project, and we sure need those. Still surreal, seductive and, most important, enjoyed.
Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery
Titirangi’s landmark 1930s Lopdell House has a bold green aluminium addition. Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, a six-storey complex by Mitchell Stout, offers a master class in spatial composition. The galleries, sliced and diced to penetrate above and below and skilfully infiltrated with natural light, are a delight. So too the yellow treads in a curving ovoid spiral staircase, the roof-top sculpture deck and the glorious Waitakere views. Bravo.
Civic Administration building under demolition threat
Boo to the council for not leading by example in preserving the heritage of this 50s steel-framed office tower by Hungarian-born Tibor Donner — a classic of the modern movement. It’s good, though, that property consultancy firm JLL is investigating “market opinion on potential options”. It’s not too late for the council to show adaptive reuse as a model. Those who forget history are destined to keep crapping all over it in the name of progress.
Worst Plan #1
SkyCity Convention Centre and Hotel
Well, certainly the few drawings we’ve seen so far. Warren and Mahoney and Moller Architects’ design collaboration looks squat and boxy, the proposed laneway dingy and uninviting. The air bridge across Hobson St is frankly awful. The council design panel has its work cut out, but why does the most imposing building (at street level) proposed for Auckland since the Sky Tower itself need to be a triumph of Mammon over design?
Worst Plan #2
Elliott St Tower
Resource consent documents for the 52-storey Elliott Tower revealed architect Paul Brown’s proposed tower for Shanghai-based New Development Group as a hodgepodge of ordinariness. Effort has been made to improve the look with a larger podium, lantern lighthouse at the top and flared Albert St façade, but it’s still a prominently placed dog’s breakfast.
The first stage of the Tamaki regeneration project in northern Glen Innes is a case study of how not to do it. Send letters telling people they have to leave their homes of 40-50 years, then hold “consultation” meetings followed by eviction notices — arrogance that not surprisingly met with violent protest. The transformation of this predominately state house suburb by pepper-potting home owners among rentals signals the once-proud tradition of affordable public housing is on the way out.