Thursday, November 5, 2009

Queens Wharf - Let Sleeping Dogs Lie....

There's wisdom in the more considered remarks of Hamish Keith in today's NZ Herald, and also in the letter there by Architect and ideas man Stephen Smythe.

Their advice calls to mind a wise comment made to me by an experienced former councillor. He said, "a good day in council is one where a bad decision was not made..."

The Queens Wharf design brief was a bad decision because ARC wanted to turn Queens Wharf into Auckland's primary Cruise Ship Terminal - with Cruise Ships allowed on both sides. That's what killed the plan to have a great public space there.

ARC's plan - led by its Chair - should have been put out for public consultation, along with other broad ideas for the use of Queens Wharf - like emphasising its public purpose and ferry use and using its heritage buildings for other purposes - long before Auckland's design community was put to work designing a dog of a design. Trying to make a silk purse out of a dog's ear.

Government's idea of Party Central was always a good simple idea, because all it called for was some temporary renovation and structures. Put them up in time for the Rugby Event and take them down afterward. Use the time as an opportunity to experiment with ideas - as I wrote in the Herald months ago.

I have always wanted to see much more effort put into fixing the Cruise Ship terminal on Princes Wharf. Making it work better than it does now. I've seen reports which indicate that the Cruise Ship industry is not unhappy with Princes Wharf. Sure they'd like it to be better, and two terminals are always better than one, but hey - we only have a couple of these big wharves downtown.

In my opinion the Cruise Ship industry can have access to one of these - but we'll have the other one thank you very much. If there must be another cruise ship terminal, then allocate wharf space further east. Learn - again - from where Wellington is locating its new cruise ship terminal.

My objective through this whole sorry process is to ensure that the existing sheds are not lost and denigrated in a fervour of Iconic Cruise Ship terminalitis.

It has been disappointing to see politicians normally keen to save wooden hospital buildings and historic railway station buildings - all dilapidated and crumbly before careful conservation - jump so quickly to disparage and demolish Queens Wharf's extraordinary sheds. The Heritage Assessments I have read - which have yet to be shared with the public - indicate these are treasures of national importance.
The NZ Historic Places Trust’s Northern Registrar, Martin Jones, who is researching the history of the sheds and wharf, says this in his account of the role this infrastructure played: “The sheds on Queen’s Wharf are the last remaining structures associated with that huge ‘machinery’ of export and as such are an extremely important part of the country’s economic as well as social heritage.” He writes: "The history of Queen’s Wharf sheds and their place in the maritime landscape make them every bit as important as the iconic Ferry Building...”

“The Sydney Blue Gum joists and decking, riveted metal frames, and original electric lifts add character to both buildings which are striking for their modern ‘industrial’ appearance. They have considerable potential to be successfully readapted for new use both inside and out.”

Martin notes further: “The sheds are the last link to a waterfront history that shaped Auckland, but which has all but disappeared.... Cities overseas have shown what buildings like these can become with a little creativity and investment. In the right hands, the Queen’s Wharf sheds could become some of the waterfront’s most prized assets,” he says.
Show some leadership guys. Do the right thing.

5 comments:

kris said...

While I usually support preserving heritage structures....I can't help but think the Auckland public has basically no connection with the sheds. We've been cut off from them, to me they are simply a non-descript, dilapidated warehouse, off in the distance, yet another structure cutting us off from waterfront access.

Geoff said...

I'm also a little confused... I read the 85 page heritage report on the sheds and from memory the summation was-

The grid street structure it had (when there were 5 sheds and the triangular wharf police building) was the most historic part, with only two left, that's gone.

Okay, I paraphrased, but that was the summary.

The sheds are ugly and part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Yes, great sarking and fittings and such inside- save that from the scrapyard and re-use of course.

Use part of the north western one as a theatre if you like, but as far as historic reasons for saving them go, they're long gone...

Geoff

Joel Cayford said...

These comments deserve a response. I shared the feelings expressed in Kris's comment, until I had the opportunity of walking on Queens Wharf and walking around inside the sheds. Before that, I felt alienated from Queens Wharf, and considered the sheds and old and diapidated encumbrance. When I prepared an Urban Design Framework for Queens Wharf, I was happy to consign the sheds to history and demolish. My eyes were opened by visiting and exploring the sheds, and also by seeing pictures of adaptations of similar structures in Australia and South Africa - the Victoria and Albert Wharf in particular. Maybe there needs to be much more public access to the sheds and simple uses like markets and stuff like that which don't require much investment, but which allow more public identification....

Joel Cayford said...

Like Geoff, I have also read the Heritage Assessment of Queens Wharf and the Sheds, that was prepared by Matthews & Matthews Architects for Auckland City and Regional Councils. After his comment I read it again.


The assessment does describe the "street" feel that was on the wharf when all of the sheds were there, and notes that that feel has gone with only two sheds remaining. However the assessment says rather more than just that.


The report contains a "summary of significance" under value headings: historic; educational; scientific; social; and aesthetic. This includes accounts about the sheds. In terms of how: "the item, place or area contributes to sensory perception through the formal qualities of its composition and setting to the site, locality, district, region, nation...", the report states: "the building fabric including riveted steel columns, beams and trusses, massive Australian hardwood timbers and Kauri sarking is of value and represents a largely irreplaceable resource....". Under the heading of "rarity", the report states: "Sheds 10 and 11 are ht e last remaining wharf sheds of the Hamer redevelopment. They are comparatively rare examples of large scale industrial buildings remaining in the heart of Auckland." The report also provides assessment in terms of "intactness". This includes: "Queens Wharf and the sheds form part of an important, recognised group of historic structures in downtown Auckland which are closely related to maritime history, the port and transportation..."


The report ends with some discussion. This conclusion notes the loss of quality due to the removal of the other sheds, but states: "...despite the loss of whole buildings and lateration to the existing buildings, the wharf and sheds are of value. Within the downtown area, the structures are remnants of a building type generally lost to central business areas. They are part of a group of historic buildings and structures associated with the port and harbour, which include the Ferry Building, Old Custom House and Britomart buildings. The retention of a range of buildings and elements, some architecturally elaborate, some the everyday working places, with their varied historic associations, contributes to the authentic historic qualities of Auckland's waterfront...."

The assessment report finally suggests: "In principle the wharf can be adapted for public space and to allow public access and use. The sheds could readily be adapted for a range of new uses. Achieving a reasonable balance between retaining heritage values and the redevelopment of a key site on central Auckland's waterfront is important."

Geoff said...

"Maybe there needs to be much more public access to the sheds and simple uses like markets and stuff like that which don't require much investment, but which allow more public identification...."

Yes, markets, great idea, parking would be hellish though. But I'm sure that's a solvable problem.

Sheds or not aside, what happened with the publics' contributions? 4500 web submissions, 2000 bits of paper filled in at the design exhibition. (rough figures from memory)

Wouldn't making a summary of those public be a good barometer of ratepayer thinking?

Joel, can you get access to these, or remind someone to release them?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Queens Wharf - Let Sleeping Dogs Lie....

There's wisdom in the more considered remarks of Hamish Keith in today's NZ Herald, and also in the letter there by Architect and ideas man Stephen Smythe.

Their advice calls to mind a wise comment made to me by an experienced former councillor. He said, "a good day in council is one where a bad decision was not made..."

The Queens Wharf design brief was a bad decision because ARC wanted to turn Queens Wharf into Auckland's primary Cruise Ship Terminal - with Cruise Ships allowed on both sides. That's what killed the plan to have a great public space there.

ARC's plan - led by its Chair - should have been put out for public consultation, along with other broad ideas for the use of Queens Wharf - like emphasising its public purpose and ferry use and using its heritage buildings for other purposes - long before Auckland's design community was put to work designing a dog of a design. Trying to make a silk purse out of a dog's ear.

Government's idea of Party Central was always a good simple idea, because all it called for was some temporary renovation and structures. Put them up in time for the Rugby Event and take them down afterward. Use the time as an opportunity to experiment with ideas - as I wrote in the Herald months ago.

I have always wanted to see much more effort put into fixing the Cruise Ship terminal on Princes Wharf. Making it work better than it does now. I've seen reports which indicate that the Cruise Ship industry is not unhappy with Princes Wharf. Sure they'd like it to be better, and two terminals are always better than one, but hey - we only have a couple of these big wharves downtown.

In my opinion the Cruise Ship industry can have access to one of these - but we'll have the other one thank you very much. If there must be another cruise ship terminal, then allocate wharf space further east. Learn - again - from where Wellington is locating its new cruise ship terminal.

My objective through this whole sorry process is to ensure that the existing sheds are not lost and denigrated in a fervour of Iconic Cruise Ship terminalitis.

It has been disappointing to see politicians normally keen to save wooden hospital buildings and historic railway station buildings - all dilapidated and crumbly before careful conservation - jump so quickly to disparage and demolish Queens Wharf's extraordinary sheds. The Heritage Assessments I have read - which have yet to be shared with the public - indicate these are treasures of national importance.
The NZ Historic Places Trust’s Northern Registrar, Martin Jones, who is researching the history of the sheds and wharf, says this in his account of the role this infrastructure played: “The sheds on Queen’s Wharf are the last remaining structures associated with that huge ‘machinery’ of export and as such are an extremely important part of the country’s economic as well as social heritage.” He writes: "The history of Queen’s Wharf sheds and their place in the maritime landscape make them every bit as important as the iconic Ferry Building...”

“The Sydney Blue Gum joists and decking, riveted metal frames, and original electric lifts add character to both buildings which are striking for their modern ‘industrial’ appearance. They have considerable potential to be successfully readapted for new use both inside and out.”

Martin notes further: “The sheds are the last link to a waterfront history that shaped Auckland, but which has all but disappeared.... Cities overseas have shown what buildings like these can become with a little creativity and investment. In the right hands, the Queen’s Wharf sheds could become some of the waterfront’s most prized assets,” he says.
Show some leadership guys. Do the right thing.

5 comments:

kris said...

While I usually support preserving heritage structures....I can't help but think the Auckland public has basically no connection with the sheds. We've been cut off from them, to me they are simply a non-descript, dilapidated warehouse, off in the distance, yet another structure cutting us off from waterfront access.

Geoff said...

I'm also a little confused... I read the 85 page heritage report on the sheds and from memory the summation was-

The grid street structure it had (when there were 5 sheds and the triangular wharf police building) was the most historic part, with only two left, that's gone.

Okay, I paraphrased, but that was the summary.

The sheds are ugly and part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Yes, great sarking and fittings and such inside- save that from the scrapyard and re-use of course.

Use part of the north western one as a theatre if you like, but as far as historic reasons for saving them go, they're long gone...

Geoff

Joel Cayford said...

These comments deserve a response. I shared the feelings expressed in Kris's comment, until I had the opportunity of walking on Queens Wharf and walking around inside the sheds. Before that, I felt alienated from Queens Wharf, and considered the sheds and old and diapidated encumbrance. When I prepared an Urban Design Framework for Queens Wharf, I was happy to consign the sheds to history and demolish. My eyes were opened by visiting and exploring the sheds, and also by seeing pictures of adaptations of similar structures in Australia and South Africa - the Victoria and Albert Wharf in particular. Maybe there needs to be much more public access to the sheds and simple uses like markets and stuff like that which don't require much investment, but which allow more public identification....

Joel Cayford said...

Like Geoff, I have also read the Heritage Assessment of Queens Wharf and the Sheds, that was prepared by Matthews & Matthews Architects for Auckland City and Regional Councils. After his comment I read it again.


The assessment does describe the "street" feel that was on the wharf when all of the sheds were there, and notes that that feel has gone with only two sheds remaining. However the assessment says rather more than just that.


The report contains a "summary of significance" under value headings: historic; educational; scientific; social; and aesthetic. This includes accounts about the sheds. In terms of how: "the item, place or area contributes to sensory perception through the formal qualities of its composition and setting to the site, locality, district, region, nation...", the report states: "the building fabric including riveted steel columns, beams and trusses, massive Australian hardwood timbers and Kauri sarking is of value and represents a largely irreplaceable resource....". Under the heading of "rarity", the report states: "Sheds 10 and 11 are ht e last remaining wharf sheds of the Hamer redevelopment. They are comparatively rare examples of large scale industrial buildings remaining in the heart of Auckland." The report also provides assessment in terms of "intactness". This includes: "Queens Wharf and the sheds form part of an important, recognised group of historic structures in downtown Auckland which are closely related to maritime history, the port and transportation..."


The report ends with some discussion. This conclusion notes the loss of quality due to the removal of the other sheds, but states: "...despite the loss of whole buildings and lateration to the existing buildings, the wharf and sheds are of value. Within the downtown area, the structures are remnants of a building type generally lost to central business areas. They are part of a group of historic buildings and structures associated with the port and harbour, which include the Ferry Building, Old Custom House and Britomart buildings. The retention of a range of buildings and elements, some architecturally elaborate, some the everyday working places, with their varied historic associations, contributes to the authentic historic qualities of Auckland's waterfront...."

The assessment report finally suggests: "In principle the wharf can be adapted for public space and to allow public access and use. The sheds could readily be adapted for a range of new uses. Achieving a reasonable balance between retaining heritage values and the redevelopment of a key site on central Auckland's waterfront is important."

Geoff said...

"Maybe there needs to be much more public access to the sheds and simple uses like markets and stuff like that which don't require much investment, but which allow more public identification...."

Yes, markets, great idea, parking would be hellish though. But I'm sure that's a solvable problem.

Sheds or not aside, what happened with the publics' contributions? 4500 web submissions, 2000 bits of paper filled in at the design exhibition. (rough figures from memory)

Wouldn't making a summary of those public be a good barometer of ratepayer thinking?

Joel, can you get access to these, or remind someone to release them?