Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Auckland: Just Another Little Global City?

This is Tiffany's - Auckland.

Since 1940, Tiffany's flagship store has operated at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. The polished granite exterior is well known for its window displays, and the store has been the location for a number of films, including Breakfast at Tiffany's, starring Audrey Hepburn, and Sweet Home Alabama, starring Reese Witherspoon.

In the United Kingdom, Tiffany stores are located in Terminal 5, at London's Heathrow airport (opened at the end of March 2008), in the Westfield London shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush, in Old Bond Street, opposite the entrance to Burlington Gardens, and in Manchester, Selfridges Exchange Square. 

A flagship Irish store was opened in Brown Thomas on Dublin's Grafton Street in October 2008 and is the largest of the company's European outlets. Also in October 2008, Tiffany's opened a store in Madrid, Spain.

In Australia, Tiffany's flagship store is located on Collins Street in Melbourne. Other stores include Chadstone Shopping Centre (Melbourne); Sydney (Castlereagh Street, Westfield Bondi Junction and DFS Galleria on George Street); Brisbane (Queens Plaza); and Perth (King Street).

Last year (October 2016), a Tiffany store opened facing Takutai Square in Britomart, Auckland. I haven't shopped there. Yet. Nobody I know has either. For that matter - apart from "high net worth individuals" - I don't know anybody who shops in the new Chanel shop, or Louis Vuitton, Prada, Christian Dior and Gucci, all located in Auckland's Queen St near the waterfront.

I was in Takutai Square on the Saturday before Anzac Day - on my way to see the Body Laid Bare exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery - especially Rodin's The Kiss (here all the way from the Tate gallery in London). La Cigale food market was in full swing (a french food market - another european idea) and I enjoyed a very fine bacon, hash brown and egg burger. Athletes of all shapes and sizes - and ages - attending The World Masters Games were also enjoying snacks (this is an international event which global cities need to bid for to gain hosting rights).

This is the new downtown Auckland. The new global downtown Auckland. 

When the same idea, though, is as has been applied in many cities of the world, it results in an all too visible homogenization. You could be in any little global city environment. Homogenization becomes visible, first of all, in the concentration of new high-rise, high-status corporate office towers with their iconic corporate logos. These mark each city’s competitive position in a global race for financial investment. To make these sites more attractive to both corporate tenants and affluent local residents, developers combine office space with expensive shops and leisure landscapes - which are not really public anymore - they are designed to attract the affluent, the "high net worth individuals", and visitors from cruise ships or international events which visit with their own branding.

Whether or not Auckland Councillors acknowledge it, the universal effect of redeveloping the city center is to move poor residents and workers far away from it; to block their traditional means of self-support support – be it black-market trade (popular at flea markets), the selling of illegal substances, bartering, informal music and street theatre, and begging. The less affluent are thus deprived of public spaces long crucial to surviving in the margins of urban societies. 

Downtown Auckland is very different today from what it was with a less mechanised port, all sorts of public employment (post office, bus terminus), imports and exports, an Oriental market. All that sort of production - and its workforce - has been moved elsewhere or automated, and its wealth generation replaced by another economy entirely. 

But is it absolutely necessary for Auckland to so slavishly dance to the globalisation tune? 
   
Is the “authentic” character of cities - of Auckland - really only a created fiction spun for the aesthetic tastes of highly educated, mobile consumers of places? Or might it be a set of historical overlays, unexpected encounters, and incompatible materials that create a dense urban patchwork of cultural identities? For Auckland's city dwellers who eke out their existence day by day, such changes in the palette of urban life may expand some opportunities while reducing other opportunities for material survival. They might receive financial compensation for jobs and housing lost, and adapt to new surroundings out in the suburbs. 

Rebuilding the center of Auckland - so far - is producing an instantly recognizable corporate zone with cultural amenities for a discerning “global eye” while gradually ringing the city with densely packed new districts for migrants and those pushed out of the city centre. These include the airport cluster of industrial zones and office parks, the apartment towers on the fringes for those who cannot afford to live in the center, and not forgetting the urban concentrations of Pacific peoples. It is too soon to know whether these places will re-create the local patterns that made the center of Auckland so diverse and lively, or if their scale and design—and the small numbers of small shops and individual traders—will create another kind of homogeneity. Though even these districts are now the targets of an urban regeneration agenda to double the population of Auckland, and increase that number on various global scorecards.

It's not too late to achieve a better balance.... remember this.... RWC 2011....







Just 6 years ago, Auckland hosted an international event and made it its own - for its own - and Aucklanders - including its Pacific Island and Maori population - came to their city centre and enjoyed it. But even then there wasn't enough public space. And since then - piece by piece - chunks of Auckland's public open space has been given over to private development to enable the location of more global brands.

An important question for Auckland Council and councillors. What's the plan? Is there a plan to accommodate a downtown party for Aucklanders in future - the party central envisaged by John Key when he was PM? And don't mention the CBD MasterPlan - which was touted as the implementation plan for the Auckland Spatial Plan. Apparently it has no effect (for chapter and verse revisit the battle to prevent the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square and its conversion into Zara and H and M shops). Not worth the paper its printed on. Who is Auckland's downtown being developed for?

I could go on at length, but need to bring this to a conclusion. A month ago I attended the NZ Planning Institute Conference held in downtown Wellington on its waterfront. The event was spread across several venues - including the TSB Arena and Te Wharewaka o Poneke - Function Centre, Conference Venue. The latter means "waka house" - it's a very particular place for Maori. So is Te Papa - just a bit further along the Wellington waterfront.

There is nothing remotely equivalent in Auckland.

It's time there was.

Or do we only aspire to being just another little global city - just like all the others.

If anyone is remotely interested in a key planning document in the formation of Wellington's waterfront look at The Wellington Waterfront Framework, and read pages 5 and 6 to see who wrote it and how it came about. Then I suggest you might like to read it all. Auckland needs one like it. 

1 comment:

Darren Rickard said...

It sounds like you are stuck in yesterday - while the majority of people are open to this change and looking forward to tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Auckland: Just Another Little Global City?

This is Tiffany's - Auckland.

Since 1940, Tiffany's flagship store has operated at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. The polished granite exterior is well known for its window displays, and the store has been the location for a number of films, including Breakfast at Tiffany's, starring Audrey Hepburn, and Sweet Home Alabama, starring Reese Witherspoon.

In the United Kingdom, Tiffany stores are located in Terminal 5, at London's Heathrow airport (opened at the end of March 2008), in the Westfield London shopping centre in Shepherd's Bush, in Old Bond Street, opposite the entrance to Burlington Gardens, and in Manchester, Selfridges Exchange Square. 

A flagship Irish store was opened in Brown Thomas on Dublin's Grafton Street in October 2008 and is the largest of the company's European outlets. Also in October 2008, Tiffany's opened a store in Madrid, Spain.

In Australia, Tiffany's flagship store is located on Collins Street in Melbourne. Other stores include Chadstone Shopping Centre (Melbourne); Sydney (Castlereagh Street, Westfield Bondi Junction and DFS Galleria on George Street); Brisbane (Queens Plaza); and Perth (King Street).

Last year (October 2016), a Tiffany store opened facing Takutai Square in Britomart, Auckland. I haven't shopped there. Yet. Nobody I know has either. For that matter - apart from "high net worth individuals" - I don't know anybody who shops in the new Chanel shop, or Louis Vuitton, Prada, Christian Dior and Gucci, all located in Auckland's Queen St near the waterfront.

I was in Takutai Square on the Saturday before Anzac Day - on my way to see the Body Laid Bare exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery - especially Rodin's The Kiss (here all the way from the Tate gallery in London). La Cigale food market was in full swing (a french food market - another european idea) and I enjoyed a very fine bacon, hash brown and egg burger. Athletes of all shapes and sizes - and ages - attending The World Masters Games were also enjoying snacks (this is an international event which global cities need to bid for to gain hosting rights).

This is the new downtown Auckland. The new global downtown Auckland. 

When the same idea, though, is as has been applied in many cities of the world, it results in an all too visible homogenization. You could be in any little global city environment. Homogenization becomes visible, first of all, in the concentration of new high-rise, high-status corporate office towers with their iconic corporate logos. These mark each city’s competitive position in a global race for financial investment. To make these sites more attractive to both corporate tenants and affluent local residents, developers combine office space with expensive shops and leisure landscapes - which are not really public anymore - they are designed to attract the affluent, the "high net worth individuals", and visitors from cruise ships or international events which visit with their own branding.

Whether or not Auckland Councillors acknowledge it, the universal effect of redeveloping the city center is to move poor residents and workers far away from it; to block their traditional means of self-support support – be it black-market trade (popular at flea markets), the selling of illegal substances, bartering, informal music and street theatre, and begging. The less affluent are thus deprived of public spaces long crucial to surviving in the margins of urban societies. 

Downtown Auckland is very different today from what it was with a less mechanised port, all sorts of public employment (post office, bus terminus), imports and exports, an Oriental market. All that sort of production - and its workforce - has been moved elsewhere or automated, and its wealth generation replaced by another economy entirely. 

But is it absolutely necessary for Auckland to so slavishly dance to the globalisation tune? 
   
Is the “authentic” character of cities - of Auckland - really only a created fiction spun for the aesthetic tastes of highly educated, mobile consumers of places? Or might it be a set of historical overlays, unexpected encounters, and incompatible materials that create a dense urban patchwork of cultural identities? For Auckland's city dwellers who eke out their existence day by day, such changes in the palette of urban life may expand some opportunities while reducing other opportunities for material survival. They might receive financial compensation for jobs and housing lost, and adapt to new surroundings out in the suburbs. 

Rebuilding the center of Auckland - so far - is producing an instantly recognizable corporate zone with cultural amenities for a discerning “global eye” while gradually ringing the city with densely packed new districts for migrants and those pushed out of the city centre. These include the airport cluster of industrial zones and office parks, the apartment towers on the fringes for those who cannot afford to live in the center, and not forgetting the urban concentrations of Pacific peoples. It is too soon to know whether these places will re-create the local patterns that made the center of Auckland so diverse and lively, or if their scale and design—and the small numbers of small shops and individual traders—will create another kind of homogeneity. Though even these districts are now the targets of an urban regeneration agenda to double the population of Auckland, and increase that number on various global scorecards.

It's not too late to achieve a better balance.... remember this.... RWC 2011....







Just 6 years ago, Auckland hosted an international event and made it its own - for its own - and Aucklanders - including its Pacific Island and Maori population - came to their city centre and enjoyed it. But even then there wasn't enough public space. And since then - piece by piece - chunks of Auckland's public open space has been given over to private development to enable the location of more global brands.

An important question for Auckland Council and councillors. What's the plan? Is there a plan to accommodate a downtown party for Aucklanders in future - the party central envisaged by John Key when he was PM? And don't mention the CBD MasterPlan - which was touted as the implementation plan for the Auckland Spatial Plan. Apparently it has no effect (for chapter and verse revisit the battle to prevent the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square and its conversion into Zara and H and M shops). Not worth the paper its printed on. Who is Auckland's downtown being developed for?

I could go on at length, but need to bring this to a conclusion. A month ago I attended the NZ Planning Institute Conference held in downtown Wellington on its waterfront. The event was spread across several venues - including the TSB Arena and Te Wharewaka o Poneke - Function Centre, Conference Venue. The latter means "waka house" - it's a very particular place for Maori. So is Te Papa - just a bit further along the Wellington waterfront.

There is nothing remotely equivalent in Auckland.

It's time there was.

Or do we only aspire to being just another little global city - just like all the others.

If anyone is remotely interested in a key planning document in the formation of Wellington's waterfront look at The Wellington Waterfront Framework, and read pages 5 and 6 to see who wrote it and how it came about. Then I suggest you might like to read it all. Auckland needs one like it. 

1 comment:

Darren Rickard said...

It sounds like you are stuck in yesterday - while the majority of people are open to this change and looking forward to tomorrow.