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.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:
• 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.
- 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)
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.)...?
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.