Panuku Development Auckland

15 April 2015

This principle, Forethought, the one from which all our work springs, is a really tough one to make sound groovy and off the cuff – because it is fundamentally the opposite of that.

My go-to dictionary, that was printed in 1930 and does not contain a definition of LOL, says Forethought is “A thinking before hand; premeditation; foresight; provident care”. All things that seem quite good to have in your tool kit when city building.

And so to the early thinking for Wynyard Quarter. The CBD waterfront had been identified as a key driver for the city, and an untapped resource for the city’s people in terms of connecting with the water’s edge. Auckland is rather a harbour city, after all.

A masterplanning process was undertaken - I like to think of The Lego Movie at this point, just so you follow my train of thought, Masterbuilders and all that they can make in terms of awesomeness - and the possibility of the space was teased out.

Design frameworks for the Jellicoe Precinct and wider Wynyard Quarter were created, focussing strongly on Human Scale. After all – humans are quite important to pretty much everything we do. If you don’t believe me, go and try and make a cup of tea without using any of your human bits.

Amongst a wide pallette of other considerations, close attention was paid as to how visitors would move through the space. The inclusion of key attractors (like the North Wharf hospitality offering and children’s playground), as well as a mulitude of small, thoughtful touches from heritage features to native planting, ensure that the eye and the imagination are continually drawn through the space. We are curious creatures us humans, after all.

These choices came from an understanding that to focus solely on the aesthetics of the physical setting was to miss a fundamental factor in planning a new, positive addition to the city – the people. After all, no-one builds a stage without factoring in the performances that might take place on it or the audience that gives the whole thing meaning.

The success of this new waterfront was going to heavily depend on users embracing it. To this end, and by way of keeping up with contemporary practice, strategies around growing visitation were developed.

Three strategic interventions were identified and put into practice – Place by Design, Place by Activation and Place by Programming. It is important to note that these interventions work together and don’t tend to be so successful as individual options. Like a three-legged stool needing three legs to stay up.

Place by Design guides the creation of new spaces. “Human Scale” in this context means the inclusion of attributes that make us humans feel good about our surroundings – like landmarks to locate us, view shafts to give the eye something to look towards, public art to feed the soul, the retention of historic features for authenticity and story telling, and places to sit. People tend to sit where there are places to sit (I didn’t make that up, by the way). And all following the framework established in the Precinct Plan.

Place by Activation refers to the generation of new activities, activations and interim uses, and also follows the objectives of the Precinct Plan. Draw cards like the play space, half court, and North Wharf hospitality offering (nothing brings people together like food) were included to attract a wide range of people and communities to these new places and spaces, as well as give them reasons to return.

The last piece of this particular three-legged stool, Place by Programming, has seen the establishment of a streamlined (mostly, we do our best) permitting regime for all our sites, and an intensely planned year-round programme. This is where the bulk of our work lies – we have an incredible stage to work on, and the daily job of fielding enquiries and welcoming people is one that never fails to get me up in the morning.

We are very principled when it comes to this principle. Thinking holistically about the potential and desired future of this place – what it could look like, what it would involve and, most importantly, who want would be there. Because, after all, a liveable city needs people who want to live in it, one assumes!

This fundamental grounding and incredibly thoughtful planning has resulted in a confident, considered environment in which we hope both practitioner and visitor alike can feel positive, cared for, and proud of their town and its potential.

And so I end this edition, as I started, unable to sound too groovy – as this one runs right to the heart of it all – underneath the jugglers and food trucks is deep thought, careful planning and craftsmanship, and an eye to the future and all it might be. Thanks for reading, fellow human.

Stay tuned, Frith will be illustrating the principles for Placemaking that guides her and the team here at Waterfront Auckland in a monthly series of blog posts.

FRITH WALKER, Place Manager.
Frith Walker is Place Manager for Waterfront Auckland, creating a space that continues to surprise and delight - we like to call her "the keeper of the vibe".  

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McConnell Property is making excellent progress with civil earthworks, drainage and roads due for completion by May 2017.


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