Barry Curtis Park is a giant piece of public infrastructure embedded into land with a town centre growing slowly around it. The park is inspired by natural and cultural patterns, such as volcanic geology, historical pā and defensive fortifications, and the stone walls and planting of the farms that once occupied the site.
Since the 1990s, Manukau, in south Auckland, has been a ‘future development’ area for the growing city, with a structure plan to accommodate 40,000 new homes around a new town centre and a new park. The park – named after long-serving mayor Barry Curtis – is massive: 94 hectares, the largest urban park to be built in New Zealand for more than a century.
Barry Curtis Park sits at a confluence of streams, carefully positioned to relate to and integrated with the growing town centre of Ormiston. An early-established aim for the park was that it be stitched into the fabric of the community and to achieve this social, environmental and economic outcomes were developed through consultation with community groups. This step was critical as it enabled social and economic resilience to be built in alongside landscape and ecological resilience.
The varied demands of multiple users led to a merging of park typologies. Smaller parks nest within the larger landscape. The extensive recreational landscapes (the sports fields and large festival lawn) typical of a regional park are combined with the green infrastructure (stormwater ponds and restored streams) of an ecological park and the intensively designed axes of the urban park. These in turn are integrated with a playground and skate park that tie back to the town centre.
Strong connection points are a key to Barry Curtis Park’s success. A promenade encircles the perimeter and links clearly to the other axes, typically at community play parks and parking areas. The park’s main thoroughfare, a formal, linear promenade, is anchored at one end by the town centre and orientated at the other to the volcanic field, with varied civic and natural spaces connected along the 700-metre length. Its ceremonial entranceway faced with tree-fern logs and surrounded by a stepped, disc-like earthwork is a strong landmark.
Another key route is the Education Axis, which is framed by tall poplars and the distinctive dry-stack stone walls common to Auckland’s older parks and neighbourhoods. This axis is a softer connection, repeatedly connecting with the stream corridor and providing opportunities for people to access varied habitats and ‘signature gardens’, which blur notions of land art, park folly and garden.
At Barry Curtis Park, the modified landscapes of Tāmaki Makaurau have provided rich source material for a new Auckland landscape. Here, new uses and possibilities have been carefully orchestrated through the interplay of subtly manipulated and exaggerated landforms, layered natural and cultural patterns and vegetation – all work together to create an overarching sense of ‘place’.
David Irwin, Helen Kerr, Grant Bailey, Nada Stanish, Sean Burke, Alan England, Travis McGee, Travis Wooller,
Tim Fitzpatrick, Evan Williams, Allen Nicholson, Claire Macky, Danbi Park, George Woolford, Karen Ehlers, Kent Lundberg, Orson Waldock, Sarah Baumann
The Architecture Office
Hicks Bros Civil
Scottish Stone Masons
2010 NZILA Bronze Award – Landscape Design – Rural/Park/Recreational
2008 NZILA Silver Award – Landscape Planning and Environmental Studies
2008 NZILA Gold Award – Rural/Park/Recreational Barry Curtis Wetland Playground
2008 NZILA Silver Award – Visionary Landscape – Signature Areas
2006 NZILA Gold Award – Visionary Landscape
2004 NZILA Silver Award – Landscape Planning and Environmental Studies – Barry Curtis Park Developed Design Booklet