Isthmus

Land formed.
Barry Curtis Park.

Approach

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.

Right Sketches explaining the park’s programming: its relationships with water, culture and people, and the layers of design.

Below Auckland’s natural volcanic geology with cultural modifications, such as terracing – as evident at Maungawhau (left) and Mangere (right) – were reference points for the design of Barry Curtis Park.

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.

Ponds and wetlands.
The ponds and wetlands (left), were created out of low-lying areas. They contrast with the earthworks and other designed pieces of infrastructure and generate both a strong design aesthetic, through their thick green margins, and a means for people to explore right down beside, and in some instances, right over, the water.

Barry Curtis Park means many things to many people. Planned as a place for sports, events and recreation, it also accommodates restored waterways integrated with green infrastructure. The possibilities for use – and the way they are written into underlying cultural and social frameworks – make Barry Curtis Park a new type of hard-working suburban infrastructure, built for the present and the future.

Left The overall plan of the 94-hectare park, which, eventually will be closely linked with the Ormiston town centre (by others). A promenade extends around the perimeter of the site, connecting different areas of the park and providing a circuit for exercise. Interior path networks have been plotted carefully to follow the contours of the landscape.

1. Cultural Axis;
2. Educational Axis;
3. Wetland Playspace;
4. Skatepark;
5. Festival Lawn;
6. Sportsfields;
7. Signature Gardens;
8. Stream corridor;
9. Constructed ponds and wetlands.

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.

“The playground has oversized wetland plants, pūkekos, bird’s nests with giant eggs, and bird hides to climb into and look over. This is mirrored by a constructed wetland, with real plants and birds. You have the real thing on one side and an abstracted and fun play experience on the other.”

— David Irwin, Isthmus

Below Special gardens form destination points along the walkway system that weaves through the park. The gardens, such as the kōwhai grove (left), are informal spaces that blur the notion of land art, park folly and garden.

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’.

Team Members
David Irwin, Helen Kerr, Grant Bailey, Nada Stanish, Sean Burke, Alan England, Travis McGee, Travis Wooller,
Past Team Members

Tim Fitzpatrick, Evan Williams, Allen Nicholson, Claire Macky, Danbi Park, George Woolford, Karen Ehlers, Kent Lundberg, Orson Waldock, Sarah Baumann

Consultant Team
Stormwater Solutions
GHD
ECubed
Progenz
The Architecture Office
Rewi Thompson
Cicada Works
Tina Dyer
Boffa Miskell

Contractors
HEB Construction
JFC
TIMCO
P&M Civil
Hicks Bros Civil
Scottish Stone Masons

Client
Auckland Council

Awards
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