Friday, November 21, 2014

Reshape or Real-estate Auckland?

This artist's image of Auckland's Lower Queen Street - which presumes Queen Elizabeth Square is sold - accompanies a Stuff article entitled Central Auckland's Future Debated.

The Stuff article reads: "people are said to be frustrated with the low quality of public spaces" and "45,000 people are expected to live in the CBD by 2032" and "city leaders are concerned by the lack of open space for the expected influx". The Stuff text explains the origins of the news article:
 "Several public spaces and projects are up for discussion in a new online survey at shapeauckland.co.nz. This follows the release of the Downtown Framework in September, a blueprint for what Auckland's central city could look like with some development. Twelve projects, including redesigning Lower Queen St, Queens Wharf and Quay St into shared spaces for people and vehicles, are included in the framework. Auckland's design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid says giving people a "Koru Lounge bus service" on Lower Albert St and making parts of the city more friendly will give Auckland a competitive edge globally. The future of the central wharves, including Captain James Cook and Princes, could become public space....."
I lwas interested in the comment attributed to Ludo, "....Princes Wharf could become public space...".
Man! That's a stretch of imagination. Be great to see something done to fix this loss of public space.

The Stuff article is based on a media release from Ludo. He's championing the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square essentially - and hoping that this might/could/can be translated into better public spaces elsewhere in the CBD and waterfront area.

The Downtown Framework can be seen here. I have gone through this document in some detail and blogged about the area here and here. My planner's reactions to the Downtown Framework are summarised in these bullets:
• Overall, the Framework is a good start.
• The geographic scope for the Framework is excellent. It allows for integrated evaluation and assessment of the key projects and transformation opportunities in the downtown waterfront CBD area.
• Similarly, the Downtown Projects list is comprehensive, and includes the removal of the Hobson Flyover, the redevelopment of the downtown carparking building, and potential redevelopment of Copthorne Hotel.
• Great to see the Beach Road cycle infrastructure.
• However the Downtown Framework is vulnerable to critique that its purpose is PRIMARILY: to enable CRL enabling works, to facilitate Downtown development, AND to justify the sale of QE Square land.
• There is too much emphasis in the framework narrative that it is for cruise ship visits and for international investment. This is old style urban regeneration. Modern planning should place emphasis on local place-making that meets the social and cultural needs of Auckland's population, and deliver strong sustainability.
• Major gap is handling of Custom Street and Quay Street. Simply lacks credibility that can achieve “de-tuned” Quay Street AND improved North South pedestrian amenity at Queen and Albert intersections with Custom Street, without major intervention for general traffic and buses.
• The Framework text, direction and themes all prioritise CRL enabling works and development, and characterise public spaces, parks and squares as playing second fiddle, supporting role only. There is a significant planning imbalance, despite the advice given by Reset Urban Design.
• No account is given of method for handling traffic movements in and out of downtown development and their effect on either Custom Street or Lower Albert which is to be taken up with a bus interchange. In fact there is very poor engagement with buses.
• There is no discussion of impact for pedestrians on Britomart laneways following their conversion to bus interchange status.
• Very poor engagement with Maori dimension.
• Greenwash engagement with strong sustainability.
• There is no vision statement of look, feel, mood. We know post 1960’s Auckland was built in a rush, without parks and public spaces, priority given to commerce and cars. Other cities had the same problem. This is Auckland’s opportunity to address those deficiencies – as identified by Reset urban Design. The framework suggests options without providing detail suggesting their low priority. 
Referring again to Ludo's picture (at the top of this post - I don't know for sure if it's Ludo's picture, but I'm sure he will tell me if he didn't provide it to Stuff.). If you're an architect or a planner you will know two things to be suspicious about when considering an artist's urban plan conception:
  • is it shown at night? (does it need bright lights and christmas trees to make it look good)
  • is it full of happy people? (what attracts them and keeps them, and makes them happy) 
And - in this case - does it show the HSBC Tower?  (Answers: yes, yes and no.)

Does it show Ludo's Koru Lounge Bus Experience on Lower Albert? (Answer: no.) And by the way did the Downtown Framework show the Koru Lounge Bus Experience on Lower Albert? (Answer: no, there was no credible indication at all in the Downtown Framework how bus services would be handled when they have been bundled out of Lower Queen Street (as shown in Ludo's picture, and as examined here.)). To date, disappointingly, even transportblog is persuaded by Ludo's picture.

So. What might be best practice? What can we learn from international experience? According to experts, during the latter part of the twentieth century, while a small number of exemplar city centre squares continued to be attractive places, the vast majority acquired either an image of empty spaces or an unattractive picture as traffic islands. This was emphasised by the decline of traditional community activities (markets, fairs, playgrounds) and the perception of comfort generated by internalising external space (malls, gated shopping centres); coupled with a commodifying of cities in which they were merely viewed as commercial and retail opportunities. Communities need public spaces as places for assembly. They are the physical manifestation that communities are coherent and vibrant. Increasingly, it is being recognised that identity and place have enormous roles in reinforcing society. The re-introduction of public squares is part of reversing the erosion of the public sector and the public realm, and reclaiming city centres from private interests for the benefit of communities....

That's an extract from the abstract to a piece of research by Giddings et al: Here's more of  what these experts are saying:
"...The loss of the city squares as places for citizens, seemed to hasten the commodifying of cities in which they were viewed merely as commercial and retail opportunities; and the downgrading of the public realm by privatisation. Modern landmarks started to reflect the values of commercialism, where offices and retail units replaced buildings that were more representative of society. City streets and squares were covered-in by malls. These have the illusion of being public, especially as they occupy public space, but are operated by the private sector (Giddings et al, 2005). There also grew a perception, mainly emanating from the United States that public spaces were dangerous places. Fear of crime began to deter people from using them (Woolley et al, 2004). Much of this negative perception was aimed at young people, and notions such as urban youth culture, clientele of the young with large disposable income (Worpole and Knox, 2007), and youthful playscapes (Chatterton and Hollands, 2002) dominating city centres, encouraged increasing privatisation. Often the process happened through public-led urban regeneration initiatives, with resulting developments being owned and managed by private landlords who have the power to restrict access and control activities (Minton, 2006). It also enabled the private sector to operate a form of social control through segregation; and the attendant growth in private security enabled a reduction in police costs. Private developments on public space provided a further income for the city authorities through the tax base, as well as offering profitable ventures for private enterprises. What was left of public space was often rented-out by local governments for commercial purposes; and what has been termed cafe-creep (Kohn, 2004), spread commercial interests even deeper into the public realm...."
What we need in Auckland's CBD are a variety of public spaces and places and squares and plazas. We don't just need waterfront places. We don't just need places with bars or with cafes or with shopping. We need places that are great in the morning. We need places that are great in the evening. We need places that attract young people. We need places that attract families. We need diversity of public space provision.

One thing we don't need is to sell public places that we own.

Remember: Quay Street, Lower Albert Street, Admiralty Steps, Queens Wharf, Princes Wharf, Captain Cook Wharf .... all of these places and spaces are already in public ownership.

Keep Queen Elizabeth Square in public ownership. If you - you who are reading this posting - have concerns about rushing off to sell QE Square then make a submission. You have until December 12th to do so. Have your say.

And, Ludo, why don't you listen to the public space feedback Council commissioned and that's on your website and researched by Buzz Channel (byline: The Art of Listening Made Simple.)...?

References:

Chatterton, P. and Hollands, R. (2002) Theorising urban playscapes: Producing, regulating and consuming youthful nightlife city spaces. Urban Studies 39: 95–116. | Article |
Gehl, J. (2006) Life between Buildings – Using Public Space, 6th edn. Copenhagen, Denmark: The Danish Architectural Press.
Gehl, J. and Gemzoe, L. (2001) New City Spaces. Copenhagen, Denmark: The Danish Architectural Press.
Giddings, B. (1996) Towards the urban restoration of Newcastle Upon Tyne. URBAN DESIGN International 1(3): 265–281. | Article |
Giddings, B. and Hopwood, B. (2006) From evangelical bureaucrat to visionary developer: The changing character of the master-planner in Britain. Planning Practice and Research 21(3): 337–348. | Article |
Giddings, B., Hopwood, B., Mellor, M. and O'Brien, G. (2005) Back to the city: A route for urban sustainability. In: M. Jenks and N. Dempsey (eds.) Future Forms and Design for Sustainable Cities. Oxford: Architectural Press, pp. 13–30.
Kohn, M. (2004) Brave New Neighbourhoods, the Privatisation of Public Space. New York: Routledge.
Minton, A. (2006) What Kind of World are We Building? The Privatisation of Public Space. London: RICS.
Woolley, H., Rose, S., Carmona, M. and Freeman, J. (2004) The Value of Public Space, How High Quality Parks and Public Spaces Create Economic, Social and Environmental Value. London: CABE Space.
Worpole, K. and Knox, K. (2007) The Social Value of Public Spaces. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


Supercity's very own INCIS

It is good that Auckland Council is being reasonably transparent about the problems it is having with computerisation - though re ports about problems have taken a while to emerge. Because of a previous life in IT systems in the UK, and having written a book about the subject, and remembering the aborted Wanganui based INCIS* police computer systems, I investigated the Auckland Council computerisation issue more than 4 years ago, and concluded then:
"Auckland Council’s computer system development, its new INCIS, has the potential to get very out of hand, very quickly. Bad, early decisions, have very expensive consequences later on. Once Council commits to a development pathway it can’t easily change horses. So the CEO's comforting words that the expenditure of $450 million is "over the next 10 years" are not of any great comfort. Especially if it's good money after bad. At the very least we need to learn from the old INCIS which took years, great cost and wasted effort before the decision to cancel. There are benefits in maintaining separate computer systems: resilience; performance bench-marking, for example. In the days of distributed processing and extremely powerful desktop computing, one big central computer doesn't necessarily mean better...."

The NZ Herald report today does us all a service by communicating the essence of the confidential reporting to councillors. This was report describes the problems faced:
Chief among these was the technical complexity of amalgamating the systems inherited from the eight previous councils in Auckland - including more than 5000 applications - none of which was suitable as a starting point. The scope of the project had also widened.
You will see in my analysis 4 years ago reports of risks that arise if system specification (scope) is not nailed down before committing to computerisation. Amalgamation of several systems is especially challenging. The focus on "Unitary", "Super", "harmonisation", "single system" are not asociated with liveability in today's world of cultural diversity, ethnic multiplicity, and personal lifestyle choices. Strategic thinking which took into account the cyclic nature of institutional fashion and organisation - where tendencies oscillate between integration and fragmentation, centralisation and de-centralisation - would have future-proofed Auckland Council's IT structures and designs to facilitate and enable changes in either direction.

I'll conclude this posting, with my previous conclusion: "Council's Governing Body needs some very good – and probably very expensive - advice now. This cannot be left to fester."

And if you're interested in a little discussion around the time NZ Govt decided to sue IBM over its INCIS project, check out these archives.

*  INCIS = Integrated National Computerised Information System,
or in Auckland Council's case: Integrated Council Information System.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Daldy Street showcases Auckland's Future

Not your typical Auckland Street. But a sneak preview of a style that is setting the standard on Auckland's waterfront at Wynyard Quarter. And - be clear - this is a public street and public park for all Auckland to enjoy, and cars are in the minority. I took these photos as workers toiled on the last details of this latest and very creative addition to Auckland's public domain. Come on down and have a look this weekend..... 

Waterfront Auckland is opening up one of Auckland’s newest streets for a day of play and exploration this weekend: Saturday, 22nd November, between 11:00am and 3:00pm. So get on down there and soak up the new atmosphere. The idea is they'll keep cars away for the day, "...bring your picnic rug and make the street yours for the day. It wouldn’t be a party without fun and games, so we’ve got lots lined up, from backyard cricket and BBQs to music and a sprinkler (you know how kids love a sprinkler)..." 

This is one of the playground features in the park. This is a public space for all of Auckland. Including all demographics: kids, families and there are plenty of places for older people to sit and watch too. This is a three storey play space, spiral staircase, netwalls, and interesting slides to go down. Reminscent of a waters slide maybe...
This is a serious bit of stormwater fun. Looks like it collects local rainwater, stores it in the tank, and there's all sorts of ways to play with and use the water. As you can see in pictures below. Along with raingardens and other sustainability features, ecological planting, this park suggests approaches for the rest of Auckland. It sets the bar at a different level to what citizens have become acustomed.
I happened upon this intense development scene. Proud workers wanted to talk about what they were doing - despite concerns about getting everything done for the weekend. There is real creative energy and vigour in this project. You can see how it will draw and attract people from across Auckland. This is the x-factor that private investors look for when assessing development opportunities on adjacent sites. I'd like to see a bit of this thinking - green space, seats, a serious sense of play with interpretation, and wind and sun shade - in Queen Elizabeth Square.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

New York/Brooklyn Urban Waterfront Study

I spent a few happy hours this week exploring world class waterfront regeneration projects in the vicinity of Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges on the Hudson River. This posting illustrates 10 different projects and contains my reflections on what I saw. We can learn lots from these (how ferries are handled, how to activate public waterfront spaces, what works), because some of these piers and spaces have been the subject of development and redevelopment initiatives for 40 years. They've been there, done that. Useful to learn from mistakes and avoid repeating them..


This map shows the locations of the 10 different sites I visited and describe in this posting. You can see Brooklyn Bridge (centre) and Manhattan Bridge which connect Manhattan Island (top left) with Brooklyn (bottom right).



The next groups of pictures and descriptions are of Project Sites 1, 2 and 4.

Site One - Pier 15, South Street Seaport

Looking along the wharf/pier at Site 1 toward Brooklyn. It now has a second level built above the wharf deck for about half its area. There is a substantial garden on the wharf deck,, seating and pathways. The wharf is used for some tourist boat trips (the main ferry wharf is Site 3).
The top level has substantial grassed areas and moveable plastic coated lounger chairs.
The place was well used by kids and parents. This wharf is accessed by walking from Site 4 which is free of cars and vehicles. I was impressed by the lack of vehicles - apart from bikes - in this big city of New York. Disability access is by means of wheel chairs.

I was also struck by the absence of commercial or retail activities on this part of the waterfront development (apart from ferries and tourism boats). Pier 15 is of similar scale to Auckland's Queens Wharf.
There was a variety of seating types on the elevated level.
This is the seating arrangement on the wharf deck level at the end of the wharf. People waited here for tourist / sight seeing boats, but it was all public space.
The seats at the end of the elevated deck were most popular.
This is the view to Site 2 (Seaport Museum Pier 16) from the end of the elevated deck. You can also see Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge further away.
 This is a view from Pier 15 of Site 4, the coastal walkway which links the various wharves. Significant planted areas with shrubs and grasses are a softening feature, providing some shade, and privacy. Note the large format tables and benches in the foreground. These were used by large parties for lunches and to gather in groups.
I was there in the build up to lunchtime. Pier 15 was a favourite spot for lunch. Feet-up. Check the laptop. There are three grassed areas on the elevated level.

Site Two - Pier 16, South Street Seaport

Walking between Sites 1 and 2, between the two piers, takes you along the waterfront edge (Site 4). (As a matter of interest, the structure to the left is an elevated motorway... but it is supported on steel so appears to take up little space at ground level...)
When you walk onto Pier 16 what strikes you is the quality of the timber decking, and interesting heritage features like the red kiosk. The wall display explains what is going to happen over the fence (to Pier 17)....
This is to be an extension of the regeneration that has been started on Piers 15 and 16.
The images show how the piers were used historically.... and the text explains the intentions behind the redevelopment.

More interpretation...
...and more ... worth a read... Jane Jacobs even gets a look in here....
...here she is....
This is an explanation of the care that is going into the redesign experience for the new Seaport...
And here is what is planned for Pier 17, part of the South Street Seaport redevelopment. I am a bit nervous about anything has to be viewed at night - shades of the cloud on Queens Wharf at Auckland - but it does appear to include significant public amenity, and it is integrated with developments on Piers 15 and 16...
There are several classic boats moored on Pier 16 - and you pay per view... but lots of great seating options...
This part of the interpretation was interesting. It explained the development of a "Festival Hall" complex there about 30 years ago. Everyone was doing it then - copying Baltimore - and none of them were successful. (Might have been better if Auckland built one as was considered for Princes Wharf. But hey ho...)

This is being demolished to make way for the Pier 17 concept....
And here is how the architects conceive of it in the daytime...
Looking back down Pier 16 to Manhattan city (the proposed new development will be on the wharf/pier to the right of this picture.)

And here's me, just to prove I was there. Very interesting development. Very public.

Site Four - The Coastal Link

This is a view back to Pier 15 from Site 4 - the coastal walkway. It's lunchtime and these workers are taking a break sitting on these fixed seats at table width railing, to have their lunch.
The coastal walkway includes sections of steps down to the water. The visitor, using a hire bike, takes a photo. Remember - no cars on this walkway. Is that an Un-American activity?
Looking back toward Pier 15 from Site 4. You can see the second level, and the masts of the heritage boats moored on the other side.
This aerial shows the location and shape of Site 3. It is the pier developed for commuter and other ferry services. You can see the ticket office and covered walkway (NB: no cars parked anywhere, access is by strictly by walking or wheel chair), five ferry pods (receiving different types of ferry - some front-loading, others side-loading), and something different - like an extension - at the end..

Site Three - The Ferry Terminal Pier 11

 Here a pair of Yellow ferries dock at one of the pods. They were quickly in and out.
Mix of commuters and public on the deck of the ferry pier.
Ferry docks at pod near end of pier.
And there's an interesting add-on at pier end....
This interpretation plaque suggests it was the idea of an artist. A community island pond.
This guy had four fishing rods going.
In the centre you look down into the sea beneath the pier - I guess kids might lean in and fish. You can see it is surrounded by seating. And the circular shade worked very well at letting light through, baffling the wind, and providing shade.


Site Five - A Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

A view of Sites 1, 2, 3 and 4 from Brooklyn Bridge.
Me on the bridge. The spike topped tower in the background (it is the tallest, doesn't look it because it's further away) is the newly opened World Trade Centre.
This is a very popular activity for cyclists and pedestrians.
A view of the Brooklyn waterfront projects on the other side...



Site Six - Water's edge Manhattan Bridge Base

 This was one of the more radical ideas. Taking up one of the grungy beaches, adding some rocks and old wharf beams created a popular space...
 There's formed benches, rock edges, beams, and carefully placed but random looking rocks...
Places to escape the office and lunch in isolation.
Walking between these Brooklyn waterfront projects, you are aware of commercial development close-by - but it is not IN or ON the waterfront, though owners/occupiers will be able to access the waterfront.

The "fence" between public and private is the site of a changing exhibition...
Here you see some of the old brick buildings being redeveloped, behind the temporary fence.


Site Seven - The start of Brooklyn Bridge Park

 This is a beautiful promenade and sitting area, with green space behind.
 Everyone wants their photo with either Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridge. (This is Manhattan...)
I liked the choice of outdoor furniture here. Simple. Functional. (Would kiwis chuck this stuff into the harbour?)

And look at that glasshouse artwork in the background. Perhaps it inspired the Queens Wharf idea - whatever - it is in the right place here - not out of place.


Site Eight - Further along Brooklyn Bridge Park

On the other side of Brooklyn Bridge now. There is a fantastic ice-cream cafe here. So there are places to get snack food, but they are few and far between and don't dominate. In keeping with the public/space/park emphasis.
And here is some of the interpretation of the British history, and battles that were fought...
...a little more of that story....


Site Nine - Central Brooklyn Bridge Park

The style of moveable furniture is maintained. Casually arranged. No pressure to buy to sit.

Significant developed garden edges and large green parkland. Very popular.
 Some of the edges developed with elevated seating, offering shelter from winds and more private seating spots.
 Groups pull together tables and chairs to suit their party and purpose. So much flexibility and opportunity for public and community play and activity.

I should note that along the way there were 3 or 4 playgrounds for young children. These are located in garden areas - where planting is kept thin enough for informal viewing from pedestrian walkways - and which are surrounded by child and dog proof fences!
 This is my only pic of the Statue of Liberty - a bit far away for people to take photos against....
...so they choose the city or a bridge as their backdrop...

My pictorial essay of Sites 8 and 9 doesn't do justice to the design of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Check out the Architectural Record article, and this creative reuse blog, and this design blog which contains other links and really gets into the heart of the design of the reuse of a piece of reclaimed waterfront that contains ideas relevant to Auckland's Wynyard Point. .


Site Ten - New Amenities along Brooklyn Bridge Park

This is an extraordinary initiative that appears to provide for active play of younger generation. I didn't have enough time to get into it. But I could see netball, basketball, skate-boarding, sitting, chatting....
You can see grassed areas and open water in this view. A new development that's getting known. Walkways to it are being developed. Again - no cars.
Another large pier/reclaimed area. In the foreground note the seating and sun shade structures.  In the background grassed areas.  And in between Brooklyn's heritage boat...
That is the end of this posting and descriptions of 10 waterfront projects. I talked to a couple of New York planners about them. They explained that the results you see - especially Sites 1, 2, 3, and 4 - are the result of 40 years planning. They explain that to begin with there was little local authority interest in these spaces. They were developed by the private sector. Many of these developments failed. For example the Festival Hall project which was also damaged by Hurricane Sandy. 

The lesson for Auckland hereis many-fold. But it includes that the opportunity to use waterfront assets for public purposes needs to be taken now, rather than fill in the gaps around private development, make mistakes, wait twenty years for them to be demolished, and then start again..... 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Reshape or Real-estate Auckland?

This artist's image of Auckland's Lower Queen Street - which presumes Queen Elizabeth Square is sold - accompanies a Stuff article entitled Central Auckland's Future Debated.

The Stuff article reads: "people are said to be frustrated with the low quality of public spaces" and "45,000 people are expected to live in the CBD by 2032" and "city leaders are concerned by the lack of open space for the expected influx". The Stuff text explains the origins of the news article:
 "Several public spaces and projects are up for discussion in a new online survey at shapeauckland.co.nz. This follows the release of the Downtown Framework in September, a blueprint for what Auckland's central city could look like with some development. Twelve projects, including redesigning Lower Queen St, Queens Wharf and Quay St into shared spaces for people and vehicles, are included in the framework. Auckland's design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid says giving people a "Koru Lounge bus service" on Lower Albert St and making parts of the city more friendly will give Auckland a competitive edge globally. The future of the central wharves, including Captain James Cook and Princes, could become public space....."
I lwas interested in the comment attributed to Ludo, "....Princes Wharf could become public space...".
Man! That's a stretch of imagination. Be great to see something done to fix this loss of public space.

The Stuff article is based on a media release from Ludo. He's championing the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square essentially - and hoping that this might/could/can be translated into better public spaces elsewhere in the CBD and waterfront area.

The Downtown Framework can be seen here. I have gone through this document in some detail and blogged about the area here and here. My planner's reactions to the Downtown Framework are summarised in these bullets:
• Overall, the Framework is a good start.
• The geographic scope for the Framework is excellent. It allows for integrated evaluation and assessment of the key projects and transformation opportunities in the downtown waterfront CBD area.
• Similarly, the Downtown Projects list is comprehensive, and includes the removal of the Hobson Flyover, the redevelopment of the downtown carparking building, and potential redevelopment of Copthorne Hotel.
• Great to see the Beach Road cycle infrastructure.
• However the Downtown Framework is vulnerable to critique that its purpose is PRIMARILY: to enable CRL enabling works, to facilitate Downtown development, AND to justify the sale of QE Square land.
• There is too much emphasis in the framework narrative that it is for cruise ship visits and for international investment. This is old style urban regeneration. Modern planning should place emphasis on local place-making that meets the social and cultural needs of Auckland's population, and deliver strong sustainability.
• Major gap is handling of Custom Street and Quay Street. Simply lacks credibility that can achieve “de-tuned” Quay Street AND improved North South pedestrian amenity at Queen and Albert intersections with Custom Street, without major intervention for general traffic and buses.
• The Framework text, direction and themes all prioritise CRL enabling works and development, and characterise public spaces, parks and squares as playing second fiddle, supporting role only. There is a significant planning imbalance, despite the advice given by Reset Urban Design.
• No account is given of method for handling traffic movements in and out of downtown development and their effect on either Custom Street or Lower Albert which is to be taken up with a bus interchange. In fact there is very poor engagement with buses.
• There is no discussion of impact for pedestrians on Britomart laneways following their conversion to bus interchange status.
• Very poor engagement with Maori dimension.
• Greenwash engagement with strong sustainability.
• There is no vision statement of look, feel, mood. We know post 1960’s Auckland was built in a rush, without parks and public spaces, priority given to commerce and cars. Other cities had the same problem. This is Auckland’s opportunity to address those deficiencies – as identified by Reset urban Design. The framework suggests options without providing detail suggesting their low priority. 
Referring again to Ludo's picture (at the top of this post - I don't know for sure if it's Ludo's picture, but I'm sure he will tell me if he didn't provide it to Stuff.). If you're an architect or a planner you will know two things to be suspicious about when considering an artist's urban plan conception:
  • is it shown at night? (does it need bright lights and christmas trees to make it look good)
  • is it full of happy people? (what attracts them and keeps them, and makes them happy) 
And - in this case - does it show the HSBC Tower?  (Answers: yes, yes and no.)

Does it show Ludo's Koru Lounge Bus Experience on Lower Albert? (Answer: no.) And by the way did the Downtown Framework show the Koru Lounge Bus Experience on Lower Albert? (Answer: no, there was no credible indication at all in the Downtown Framework how bus services would be handled when they have been bundled out of Lower Queen Street (as shown in Ludo's picture, and as examined here.)). To date, disappointingly, even transportblog is persuaded by Ludo's picture.

So. What might be best practice? What can we learn from international experience? According to experts, during the latter part of the twentieth century, while a small number of exemplar city centre squares continued to be attractive places, the vast majority acquired either an image of empty spaces or an unattractive picture as traffic islands. This was emphasised by the decline of traditional community activities (markets, fairs, playgrounds) and the perception of comfort generated by internalising external space (malls, gated shopping centres); coupled with a commodifying of cities in which they were merely viewed as commercial and retail opportunities. Communities need public spaces as places for assembly. They are the physical manifestation that communities are coherent and vibrant. Increasingly, it is being recognised that identity and place have enormous roles in reinforcing society. The re-introduction of public squares is part of reversing the erosion of the public sector and the public realm, and reclaiming city centres from private interests for the benefit of communities....

That's an extract from the abstract to a piece of research by Giddings et al: Here's more of  what these experts are saying:
"...The loss of the city squares as places for citizens, seemed to hasten the commodifying of cities in which they were viewed merely as commercial and retail opportunities; and the downgrading of the public realm by privatisation. Modern landmarks started to reflect the values of commercialism, where offices and retail units replaced buildings that were more representative of society. City streets and squares were covered-in by malls. These have the illusion of being public, especially as they occupy public space, but are operated by the private sector (Giddings et al, 2005). There also grew a perception, mainly emanating from the United States that public spaces were dangerous places. Fear of crime began to deter people from using them (Woolley et al, 2004). Much of this negative perception was aimed at young people, and notions such as urban youth culture, clientele of the young with large disposable income (Worpole and Knox, 2007), and youthful playscapes (Chatterton and Hollands, 2002) dominating city centres, encouraged increasing privatisation. Often the process happened through public-led urban regeneration initiatives, with resulting developments being owned and managed by private landlords who have the power to restrict access and control activities (Minton, 2006). It also enabled the private sector to operate a form of social control through segregation; and the attendant growth in private security enabled a reduction in police costs. Private developments on public space provided a further income for the city authorities through the tax base, as well as offering profitable ventures for private enterprises. What was left of public space was often rented-out by local governments for commercial purposes; and what has been termed cafe-creep (Kohn, 2004), spread commercial interests even deeper into the public realm...."
What we need in Auckland's CBD are a variety of public spaces and places and squares and plazas. We don't just need waterfront places. We don't just need places with bars or with cafes or with shopping. We need places that are great in the morning. We need places that are great in the evening. We need places that attract young people. We need places that attract families. We need diversity of public space provision.

One thing we don't need is to sell public places that we own.

Remember: Quay Street, Lower Albert Street, Admiralty Steps, Queens Wharf, Princes Wharf, Captain Cook Wharf .... all of these places and spaces are already in public ownership.

Keep Queen Elizabeth Square in public ownership. If you - you who are reading this posting - have concerns about rushing off to sell QE Square then make a submission. You have until December 12th to do so. Have your say.

And, Ludo, why don't you listen to the public space feedback Council commissioned and that's on your website and researched by Buzz Channel (byline: The Art of Listening Made Simple.)...?

References:

Chatterton, P. and Hollands, R. (2002) Theorising urban playscapes: Producing, regulating and consuming youthful nightlife city spaces. Urban Studies 39: 95–116. | Article |
Gehl, J. (2006) Life between Buildings – Using Public Space, 6th edn. Copenhagen, Denmark: The Danish Architectural Press.
Gehl, J. and Gemzoe, L. (2001) New City Spaces. Copenhagen, Denmark: The Danish Architectural Press.
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Supercity's very own INCIS

It is good that Auckland Council is being reasonably transparent about the problems it is having with computerisation - though re ports about problems have taken a while to emerge. Because of a previous life in IT systems in the UK, and having written a book about the subject, and remembering the aborted Wanganui based INCIS* police computer systems, I investigated the Auckland Council computerisation issue more than 4 years ago, and concluded then:
"Auckland Council’s computer system development, its new INCIS, has the potential to get very out of hand, very quickly. Bad, early decisions, have very expensive consequences later on. Once Council commits to a development pathway it can’t easily change horses. So the CEO's comforting words that the expenditure of $450 million is "over the next 10 years" are not of any great comfort. Especially if it's good money after bad. At the very least we need to learn from the old INCIS which took years, great cost and wasted effort before the decision to cancel. There are benefits in maintaining separate computer systems: resilience; performance bench-marking, for example. In the days of distributed processing and extremely powerful desktop computing, one big central computer doesn't necessarily mean better...."

The NZ Herald report today does us all a service by communicating the essence of the confidential reporting to councillors. This was report describes the problems faced:
Chief among these was the technical complexity of amalgamating the systems inherited from the eight previous councils in Auckland - including more than 5000 applications - none of which was suitable as a starting point. The scope of the project had also widened.
You will see in my analysis 4 years ago reports of risks that arise if system specification (scope) is not nailed down before committing to computerisation. Amalgamation of several systems is especially challenging. The focus on "Unitary", "Super", "harmonisation", "single system" are not asociated with liveability in today's world of cultural diversity, ethnic multiplicity, and personal lifestyle choices. Strategic thinking which took into account the cyclic nature of institutional fashion and organisation - where tendencies oscillate between integration and fragmentation, centralisation and de-centralisation - would have future-proofed Auckland Council's IT structures and designs to facilitate and enable changes in either direction.

I'll conclude this posting, with my previous conclusion: "Council's Governing Body needs some very good – and probably very expensive - advice now. This cannot be left to fester."

And if you're interested in a little discussion around the time NZ Govt decided to sue IBM over its INCIS project, check out these archives.

*  INCIS = Integrated National Computerised Information System,
or in Auckland Council's case: Integrated Council Information System.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Daldy Street showcases Auckland's Future

Not your typical Auckland Street. But a sneak preview of a style that is setting the standard on Auckland's waterfront at Wynyard Quarter. And - be clear - this is a public street and public park for all Auckland to enjoy, and cars are in the minority. I took these photos as workers toiled on the last details of this latest and very creative addition to Auckland's public domain. Come on down and have a look this weekend..... 

Waterfront Auckland is opening up one of Auckland’s newest streets for a day of play and exploration this weekend: Saturday, 22nd November, between 11:00am and 3:00pm. So get on down there and soak up the new atmosphere. The idea is they'll keep cars away for the day, "...bring your picnic rug and make the street yours for the day. It wouldn’t be a party without fun and games, so we’ve got lots lined up, from backyard cricket and BBQs to music and a sprinkler (you know how kids love a sprinkler)..." 

This is one of the playground features in the park. This is a public space for all of Auckland. Including all demographics: kids, families and there are plenty of places for older people to sit and watch too. This is a three storey play space, spiral staircase, netwalls, and interesting slides to go down. Reminscent of a waters slide maybe...
This is a serious bit of stormwater fun. Looks like it collects local rainwater, stores it in the tank, and there's all sorts of ways to play with and use the water. As you can see in pictures below. Along with raingardens and other sustainability features, ecological planting, this park suggests approaches for the rest of Auckland. It sets the bar at a different level to what citizens have become acustomed.
I happened upon this intense development scene. Proud workers wanted to talk about what they were doing - despite concerns about getting everything done for the weekend. There is real creative energy and vigour in this project. You can see how it will draw and attract people from across Auckland. This is the x-factor that private investors look for when assessing development opportunities on adjacent sites. I'd like to see a bit of this thinking - green space, seats, a serious sense of play with interpretation, and wind and sun shade - in Queen Elizabeth Square.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

New York/Brooklyn Urban Waterfront Study

I spent a few happy hours this week exploring world class waterfront regeneration projects in the vicinity of Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges on the Hudson River. This posting illustrates 10 different projects and contains my reflections on what I saw. We can learn lots from these (how ferries are handled, how to activate public waterfront spaces, what works), because some of these piers and spaces have been the subject of development and redevelopment initiatives for 40 years. They've been there, done that. Useful to learn from mistakes and avoid repeating them..


This map shows the locations of the 10 different sites I visited and describe in this posting. You can see Brooklyn Bridge (centre) and Manhattan Bridge which connect Manhattan Island (top left) with Brooklyn (bottom right).



The next groups of pictures and descriptions are of Project Sites 1, 2 and 4.

Site One - Pier 15, South Street Seaport

Looking along the wharf/pier at Site 1 toward Brooklyn. It now has a second level built above the wharf deck for about half its area. There is a substantial garden on the wharf deck,, seating and pathways. The wharf is used for some tourist boat trips (the main ferry wharf is Site 3).
The top level has substantial grassed areas and moveable plastic coated lounger chairs.
The place was well used by kids and parents. This wharf is accessed by walking from Site 4 which is free of cars and vehicles. I was impressed by the lack of vehicles - apart from bikes - in this big city of New York. Disability access is by means of wheel chairs.

I was also struck by the absence of commercial or retail activities on this part of the waterfront development (apart from ferries and tourism boats). Pier 15 is of similar scale to Auckland's Queens Wharf.
There was a variety of seating types on the elevated level.
This is the seating arrangement on the wharf deck level at the end of the wharf. People waited here for tourist / sight seeing boats, but it was all public space.
The seats at the end of the elevated deck were most popular.
This is the view to Site 2 (Seaport Museum Pier 16) from the end of the elevated deck. You can also see Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge further away.
 This is a view from Pier 15 of Site 4, the coastal walkway which links the various wharves. Significant planted areas with shrubs and grasses are a softening feature, providing some shade, and privacy. Note the large format tables and benches in the foreground. These were used by large parties for lunches and to gather in groups.
I was there in the build up to lunchtime. Pier 15 was a favourite spot for lunch. Feet-up. Check the laptop. There are three grassed areas on the elevated level.

Site Two - Pier 16, South Street Seaport

Walking between Sites 1 and 2, between the two piers, takes you along the waterfront edge (Site 4). (As a matter of interest, the structure to the left is an elevated motorway... but it is supported on steel so appears to take up little space at ground level...)
When you walk onto Pier 16 what strikes you is the quality of the timber decking, and interesting heritage features like the red kiosk. The wall display explains what is going to happen over the fence (to Pier 17)....
This is to be an extension of the regeneration that has been started on Piers 15 and 16.
The images show how the piers were used historically.... and the text explains the intentions behind the redevelopment.

More interpretation...
...and more ... worth a read... Jane Jacobs even gets a look in here....
...here she is....
This is an explanation of the care that is going into the redesign experience for the new Seaport...
And here is what is planned for Pier 17, part of the South Street Seaport redevelopment. I am a bit nervous about anything has to be viewed at night - shades of the cloud on Queens Wharf at Auckland - but it does appear to include significant public amenity, and it is integrated with developments on Piers 15 and 16...
There are several classic boats moored on Pier 16 - and you pay per view... but lots of great seating options...
This part of the interpretation was interesting. It explained the development of a "Festival Hall" complex there about 30 years ago. Everyone was doing it then - copying Baltimore - and none of them were successful. (Might have been better if Auckland built one as was considered for Princes Wharf. But hey ho...)

This is being demolished to make way for the Pier 17 concept....
And here is how the architects conceive of it in the daytime...
Looking back down Pier 16 to Manhattan city (the proposed new development will be on the wharf/pier to the right of this picture.)

And here's me, just to prove I was there. Very interesting development. Very public.

Site Four - The Coastal Link

This is a view back to Pier 15 from Site 4 - the coastal walkway. It's lunchtime and these workers are taking a break sitting on these fixed seats at table width railing, to have their lunch.
The coastal walkway includes sections of steps down to the water. The visitor, using a hire bike, takes a photo. Remember - no cars on this walkway. Is that an Un-American activity?
Looking back toward Pier 15 from Site 4. You can see the second level, and the masts of the heritage boats moored on the other side.
This aerial shows the location and shape of Site 3. It is the pier developed for commuter and other ferry services. You can see the ticket office and covered walkway (NB: no cars parked anywhere, access is by strictly by walking or wheel chair), five ferry pods (receiving different types of ferry - some front-loading, others side-loading), and something different - like an extension - at the end..

Site Three - The Ferry Terminal Pier 11

 Here a pair of Yellow ferries dock at one of the pods. They were quickly in and out.
Mix of commuters and public on the deck of the ferry pier.
Ferry docks at pod near end of pier.
And there's an interesting add-on at pier end....
This interpretation plaque suggests it was the idea of an artist. A community island pond.
This guy had four fishing rods going.
In the centre you look down into the sea beneath the pier - I guess kids might lean in and fish. You can see it is surrounded by seating. And the circular shade worked very well at letting light through, baffling the wind, and providing shade.


Site Five - A Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

A view of Sites 1, 2, 3 and 4 from Brooklyn Bridge.
Me on the bridge. The spike topped tower in the background (it is the tallest, doesn't look it because it's further away) is the newly opened World Trade Centre.
This is a very popular activity for cyclists and pedestrians.
A view of the Brooklyn waterfront projects on the other side...



Site Six - Water's edge Manhattan Bridge Base

 This was one of the more radical ideas. Taking up one of the grungy beaches, adding some rocks and old wharf beams created a popular space...
 There's formed benches, rock edges, beams, and carefully placed but random looking rocks...
Places to escape the office and lunch in isolation.
Walking between these Brooklyn waterfront projects, you are aware of commercial development close-by - but it is not IN or ON the waterfront, though owners/occupiers will be able to access the waterfront.

The "fence" between public and private is the site of a changing exhibition...
Here you see some of the old brick buildings being redeveloped, behind the temporary fence.


Site Seven - The start of Brooklyn Bridge Park

 This is a beautiful promenade and sitting area, with green space behind.
 Everyone wants their photo with either Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridge. (This is Manhattan...)
I liked the choice of outdoor furniture here. Simple. Functional. (Would kiwis chuck this stuff into the harbour?)

And look at that glasshouse artwork in the background. Perhaps it inspired the Queens Wharf idea - whatever - it is in the right place here - not out of place.


Site Eight - Further along Brooklyn Bridge Park

On the other side of Brooklyn Bridge now. There is a fantastic ice-cream cafe here. So there are places to get snack food, but they are few and far between and don't dominate. In keeping with the public/space/park emphasis.
And here is some of the interpretation of the British history, and battles that were fought...
...a little more of that story....


Site Nine - Central Brooklyn Bridge Park

The style of moveable furniture is maintained. Casually arranged. No pressure to buy to sit.

Significant developed garden edges and large green parkland. Very popular.
 Some of the edges developed with elevated seating, offering shelter from winds and more private seating spots.
 Groups pull together tables and chairs to suit their party and purpose. So much flexibility and opportunity for public and community play and activity.

I should note that along the way there were 3 or 4 playgrounds for young children. These are located in garden areas - where planting is kept thin enough for informal viewing from pedestrian walkways - and which are surrounded by child and dog proof fences!
 This is my only pic of the Statue of Liberty - a bit far away for people to take photos against....
...so they choose the city or a bridge as their backdrop...

My pictorial essay of Sites 8 and 9 doesn't do justice to the design of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Check out the Architectural Record article, and this creative reuse blog, and this design blog which contains other links and really gets into the heart of the design of the reuse of a piece of reclaimed waterfront that contains ideas relevant to Auckland's Wynyard Point. .


Site Ten - New Amenities along Brooklyn Bridge Park

This is an extraordinary initiative that appears to provide for active play of younger generation. I didn't have enough time to get into it. But I could see netball, basketball, skate-boarding, sitting, chatting....
You can see grassed areas and open water in this view. A new development that's getting known. Walkways to it are being developed. Again - no cars.
Another large pier/reclaimed area. In the foreground note the seating and sun shade structures.  In the background grassed areas.  And in between Brooklyn's heritage boat...
That is the end of this posting and descriptions of 10 waterfront projects. I talked to a couple of New York planners about them. They explained that the results you see - especially Sites 1, 2, 3, and 4 - are the result of 40 years planning. They explain that to begin with there was little local authority interest in these spaces. They were developed by the private sector. Many of these developments failed. For example the Festival Hall project which was also damaged by Hurricane Sandy. 

The lesson for Auckland hereis many-fold. But it includes that the opportunity to use waterfront assets for public purposes needs to be taken now, rather than fill in the gaps around private development, make mistakes, wait twenty years for them to be demolished, and then start again.....