Art & Culture
January 29, 2016

Murals in Auckland

From the Daily Scot:

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I noticed a colourful trend emerging in Auckland before I left in 2014: bold and beautiful painted murals were popping up throughout neighbourhoods

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On the sides of prominent buildings, inside alleyways and incorporated into the architecture of newly opened retail and hospitality establishments, commissioned artists where now part of the design team.  Graffiti?  Definitely not.  Detailed splashes of colour adding a new dimension to the urban environment.

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We need not rely on the city to commission a public mural to liven up an area.  Business owners, why not cover the entire elevation of your restaurant like this venue in Melbourne?

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Mix it up a bit and add some vitality and randomness to the street elevation.  We could use some bold murals and splashes of colours in areas of the city, especially on those dark gray winter days that tend to endlessly consume us.

 
 

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From the Daily Scot:

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Looking back on my seven years living in Auckland, there was one specific moment residents and visitors alike took notice that the City of Sails was serious about providing world class civic spaces and amenities. That moment was the opening of Wynyard Quarter.
Sure we had access to the waterfront through Prince’s Wharf and The Viaduct (developed for the 2000 America’s Cup) but this new linear waterfront space expanded our imagination, accommodating and celebrating working industry and the site’s gritty past.
 

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Wynyard Quarter’s programming and placemaking is superb: used-book libraries inside shipping containers, playgrounds, interactive water features, restaurants, giant steps cascading into the ocean tempting a toe dip, and the event node that is Silo Park. 


 

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In addition to constantly evolving placemaking by a dedicated team, what set this development apart from similar projects I have visited are the vernacular of the architecture/landscape materials and the preservation of existing industrial site features against new refined material palettes.  And the use of colour!

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Alan Gray, Senior Urban Designer for Panuku Development Auckland, refers to this juxtaposition as “Friction.”  Beautifully illustrating this friction and, hands down, my favourite space along the waterfront, Silo Park comprises six former concrete silos preserved to recall the site’s past while re-purposing the infrastructure to house events ranging from art installations to providing a backdrop for outdoor movies.

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Fridays during the summer months meant heading to Silo Cinema for classic films like Goonies and Ghostbusters, family-friendly flicks viewed from the lawn surrounded by food trucks and a shipping container serving beer and wine.   Because it’s now a victim of its own success, grabbing a spot means showing up a few hours early with blankets in hand to stake your claim amongst fellow moviegoers.

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Wynyard Quarter has many components.  Spreading south from Silo Park, filling in the adjacent blocks, is a future comprehensive mixed-use development.  Here, business headquarters, hotels, apartments and linear parks are taking shape after years of master-planning and staging.  Think Vancouver’s Olympic Village with the added commercial and lodging component.
Check out the two informative videos on the Wynyard Quarter website which highlight its transition from scruffy light-industrial area to amenity-rich mixed-use precinct.

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Scot Bathgate, as guest editor this week, introduces work by Auckland’s Alan Gray:

My good friend Alan Gray is a Senior Urban Designer for Panuku Development Auckland (a new division created from the merger of Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Properties).
I asked him if he would be interested in sharing his knowledge and experiences for developing the amazing new spaces along Auckland’s waterfront and he kindly provided the following on Test space use for Waitemata Plaza.  There are great lessons here for all the municipalities in Vancouver looking to develop public urban realm

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Effective Engagement Tools: A small case study from Auckland’s Waitemata Plaza

by Alan Gray

 
Traditionally, design experts have utilised the tried-and-true workshop or charrette formats to engage the public.  But many wanting to participate cannot attend, plans can be abstract, and emotionally charged venues can be intimidating.
One of the methods we have been using at Waterfront Auckland has been site trials and testing.  I want to share a mini case study on site trials from one of our recently implemented projects, Waitemata Plaza.

Map and images here.
 
Waterfront Auckland set aside some money (8 percent in this case) from the project budget to gauge feedback prior to any formal design investigation.  “Fast-Cheap-Easy” was the idea.
Public work sessions helped develop a list from nearby residents, walking commuters, local office workers, design students and visitors for “softening and greening” the plaza.  But what does this mean to inform an actual design?  Stakeholder response included fake turf, real lawn, trees, gardens, sand and timber decks – and perhaps a kiosk to help activate the space.
This led to the development of the Waitemata Plaza site trials.  We wanted to start very simple and build from that.  The trials were set to last through the summer months.
To kick things off, we produced a video where I introduced the trials.

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Trial Step 1- The Carpet
The existing plaza was made up of very uneven cobbles that were difficult for walking commuters, so the first step was a 60m length of red synthetic turf over a thick foam pad: the Red Carpet.  It was literally an invitation into the space.


 

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Trial Step 2- Urban Beach and Synthetic Turf Lawn
A month after the red carpet, we implemented an urban beach and lawn area very close to the inner harbour.  The beach had shade umbrellas and lounge chairs; the turf area had café tables, chairs and umbrellas.  The public, so unaccustomed to moveable chairs and tables, initially thought this was built for a private event.  They loved that it was for them!


 
Trial Step 3- Kiosk Activation
The space was a great destination for the lunchtime crowd. We rolled in a local ice-cream company’s kiosk – those really cool stainless steel cubes – and worked out an arrangement whereby in exchange for free rent, the vendor would be responsible for the setup and takedown of all the furniture each day.  They also became an invaluable source for getting feedback from users of the trial space.



 

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During the trial period, the space was used to host several events, including a massive Dragonboat Regatta where over 400 participants were based!

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Trial Step 4- Trees
To provide additional shade and green, I forklifted in several of the pohutukawa tree planters from Queens Wharf.  The native trees made a big change in the scale and comfort of the space.

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Trial Step 5- Timber Decks

We modified some shipping palettes to make stacked decks in both the beach and turf areas, and added some sling lounge chairs and bean bags.  These were a hit.

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Monitoring and Feedback
As important as the trials was feedback that would influence the final design of the space. 

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By the Daily Scot:

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Tying in with the discussion earlier on the retail floor-plate sizes and individual storefront scale, here are some examples of an emerging trend of micro-retail from Auckland.  Throughout the CBD, small storefronts are popping up, allowing flexibility and smaller economic commitments from tenants.

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If a business fails, a quick replacement is more than likely, available due to lower overhead helping the landlord as well as those searching for a small start-up space to test their concept.  These micro-retail strips also activate the street scene by creating clusters of choice for pedestrians whether for dining or shopping options.

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A good example is this collection of micro-retail shops on Auckland’s Queen Street.  From day one the developer chose to divide up the floor plate into a series of small spaces,leading to a variety of take-out food options.  A collection of nearby benches under street trees complete the public realm by providing a place to eat and people watch after you collect your meal.

 
Size does matter; sometimes the shops are only a few feet wide as seen from this photo of a Creperie:

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Here are some other micro-retail examples from Auckland, ranging from coffee shops wedged between buildings to a roll-up garage housing a mini-shipping container.

 

 

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Scot gets some pics from Auckland:

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I always love to receive photos and blurbs about the latest happenings in Auckland, my second hometown.  Matt Jones, an urban designer and good friend, passed along these photos of the Street Food Collective located on Auckland’s vibrant Ponsonby Road, my old stomping ground.
Although somewhat hidden and secretive (located behind a new mixed use development), the space has three laneway connections to surrounding streets leading pedestrians to a permanent restaurant, a bar (out of a truck) and a rotating set of food trucks and pop-up eateries.
Great to see Auckland developers providing space for flexible uses and site programs.

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From Auckland’s transportblog, by John Polkinghome:

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Are vacant homes adding to Auckland’s housing shortage?

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As Auckland housing hysteria gets more, well, hysterical, there seem to be a few people worried that investors are leaving homes vacant rather than bothering to rent them out – preferring to rely on capital gains as a source of income instead. …

The most easily accessible source of data on vacant homes comes from the census. The 2013 census shows that, on census night, there were 33,360 unoccupied homes across Auckland. That sounds like a lot. Out of the 500,000-odd homes in Auckland, it’s 6.6%, which might still sound like a lot.

However, it’s almost unchanged from 2006, when there were 33,330 unoccupied homes, 7.0% of the total. And not much up from the 29,586 recorded in 2001, also 7.0% of the total. When I first saw these stats, I thought of them more as something indicating the current shortage of homes – i.e. housing is tighter, so more homes are being occupied. ….

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I think it’s a myth that there are large numbers of people leaving homes vacant for speculative reasons, and I think the data in this post goes a long way to busting it. I also don’t see support for my original hypothesis that low vacancies in Auckland suggest a housing shortage. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a shortage, but the vacancy data doesn’t really tell us. Of course, since the census we’ve had two years of strong population growth and not built enough homes for all the new Aucklanders.

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In addition to Vancity Buzz, the SFU City Program is going to take some claim to Darren Davis: one of our cohort for the Next Generation Transportation certificate program.  

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Written by Darren Davis for Vancity Buzz. Davis is a proudly car-free principal public transport planner at Auckland Transport with over 20 years experience in transport in Auckland, starting out as a rabble-rousing public transport lobbyist, who evolved into being a planner, strategist and consultant. He has produced high level strategic policy advice, successfully influenced regional and national government agencies, been involved on-the-ground in major transport infrastructure, carried out public transport service design and worked on Transit Oriented Development projects.

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In early October last year, I had the privilege to spend 10 days in and around the Metro Vancouver region. And being a professional transit nerd, I did what transit nerds do and rode transit – and did other stuff too like eat, drink, hang out and have fun.

Like many Vancouver residents I had my issues with the transit system. The biggest issue I had was that buses would turn up so soon after my arrival at the stop that I didn’t have time to assemble $2.75 in change to pay the fare. I quickly solved this issue by purchasing a pack of FareSaver tickets at a 7-Eleven.

The other issue I had was long waits for buses. One time at 11 p.m., I had to wait a whole nine minutes for a bus. And at YVR Airport, I missed the departing Canada Line train but before I stopped cursing under my breath the next train turned up.

And the biggest mistake I made was massively overestimating the time it would take me to get from one place to another. One day I had to get from English Bay to Gastown for a lunch date at noon. Based on my Auckland experience, I set out at 11:10 a.m. I had a choice of the #5 Robson or the #6 Davie bus. I got on a #6 Davie and made it to the corner of Granville and Hastings by 11:25 a.m., then walked five minutes to Hastings and Cambie for my lunch date, getting there at 11:30 a.m. I then got to enjoy Victory Park for half an hour. The point I’m trying to make is that TransLink’s network gave me a bonus half-an-hour of my life over my current expectations from my hometown of Auckland.

My generally pleasant encounters with Vancouver’s transit system was at the conclusion of a 10-city trip in Canada and the U.S. with highly variable levels of transit service from dismal to fairly good. But Vancouver’s system was easily the best – something that Vancouverites really should treat as a source of pride, not acrimony.

Probably the most striking thing for me was the lack of appreciation, even disdain, for the service that TransLink provides. I suspect that this is a case of “you’re used to what you’re used to” taking the status quo as a baseline and judging the system as a whole by instances of less-than-perfect performance. This is an example of perception driving reality.

A case in point is Auckland and Wellington. Auckland’s customer research shows much higher scores for our public transit system than similar work in Wellington, even though most people, especially Wellingtonians, will tell us that Wellington (currently but not for much longer) has a much better public transit system than Auckland.

This is why people like myself, and many other observers from around the globe are flummoxed and somewhat perplexed by the debate going on in Vancouver about future transport investment that appears to have descended into a slanging match about TransLink and its alleged catalogue of sins. No transit referendum has, or could or should, attempt to solve issues of structure and governance. These sorts of issues are best sorted out between Metro Vancouver and the province.

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From the New Zealand Herald:

On Saturday, a single crash near the Central Motorway Junction in Auckland left much of the city’s motorway network gridlocked for the afternoon. Many Aucklanders are askng why the impact was so large and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. The unfortunate reality is that crashes and gridlock are an inevitable part of car-based transport systems. We can’t fix that by building wider motorways – all that will do is encourage more driving and thus increase the number of people sitting frustratedly in traffic. What we can do is build a transport system that minimises the number of people affected by giving them the option to travel congestion-free by bus, train, ferry, or bicycle.

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UPDATE:

SINGAPORE: A technical fault which resulted in a power outage caused the service disruption of the Sentosa Express, the island’s monorail system, on Thursday night (Dec 4). Sixty-one guests and staff were on board, and the last passenger was only safely brought down from the train at 2am the next morning, according to Sentosa Leisure Management.

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