Isthmus

Coast |

Meeting place
by the sea.
Beachlands-
Maraetai Walkway.

Approach

Light and bright, this fine line traces the edge of an exquisite piece of coast. Across its length, the walkway’s bridges and boardwalks take their design cues from vernacular buildings and structures. They are designed not to distract but to sit quietly – and subtly add to the mana and majesty of the region.

Below An elevation (top) of northerly views of Waiheke Island, the Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel Peninsula from the coastal edge, as shown in the plan.

The Beachlands-Maraetai Walkway is a six-kilometre-long coastal walkway and cycleway connecting two growing settlements on Auckland’s Pōhutukawa Coast. It follows the coastal contours of the land and tiptoes past archaeological and culturally significant sites – the result of the hundreds of years of occupation by Ngāi Tai.

Maraetai is a relaxed settlement but is under increased pressure from population growth. The walkway offers non-road-based connectivity between burgeoning communities.

The walkway’s materials also evoke the ever-present sea and the occupation of the area. At Te Puru Park and Leigh Auton Reserve, the shells embedded into bands of darker concrete reference the area’s middens while indicating a transition into more-carefully treated spaces. At stream crossings, bridge deck timbers run longitudinally – as if made with found timber – to reinforce bridge length. At Te Puru and Omana Bridges, timber pile caps playfully recall wharf structures; at the more urban and clean lined Maraetai Bridge employs irregular batten placements to create blocky graphic patterns. At Spinnaker Bay, the pared-back bridge sits comfortably – an appropriate response to the elevated reserve setting.

“What seems so simple and so logical now, took many years of planning, foresight and the winning-over of a community. The measure of success is something that feels so right – it’s hard to think what this place would be without it.”
— Damian Powley, Auckland Council

Left The varied landscape includes the bush-fringed open space of Omana Regional Park. The coastal edge was replanted in places with native vegetation. A pā site sits above the planted edge.

The ‘designed path’ employs a family of robust materials that includes weathering hardwoods and mild steels that invoke the farming, maritime, cultural and natural history of the area. All interventions are low-key – natural fits in a beautiful environment, designed to elicit an “of course” response from those who use the trail. This is a beachcomber’s walkway, a place for ‘over-water’ experiences, for boardwalks that allow the exploration of saltmarsh grasses, where nodal markers allow low-key enquiry and robust seating provides welcome opportunities for rest.

Left An early concept sketch of the promenade at Maraetai.

Left and above The boardwalk straddles the histories of the area. New stone walls sit adjacent to old and the coastal edge’s sea life, of great historical and contemporary importance, is evident in many places.

Left The influence of detritus of the sea, such as this fish skeleton, can be read in some of the finished works.

Te Puru Bridge – spanning the lower tidal reaches of Te Puru Stream – is the designed ‘landmark’ of the walkway. The stream was once a landing place for the sheep collecting barges and a modest fishing fleet, and Te Puru Bridge acknowledges this heritage without being overtly referential. The bridge is intentionally reductive, with a ‘blast grey’ substructure dissolving into shadows, and joists and bearers that are compressed into a single plane to further reduce the bridge’s scale. Set to accommodate two boats still moored upstream, the bridge’s height positions walkers in the tops of the mangroves, an elevation that provides excellent views up and downstream, and provides a just-the-right high-tide jumping platform for summer’s enthusiastic kids.

“The site has always been one of crossing and transit; it’s a site with a lot of cultural depth but the bridge was not designed necessarily with that aesthetic in mind. But people still relate to it; it works. The bridge has found favour with a number of different groups, without intentionally trying to be one thing or the other.”
— Damian Powley, Auckland Council

Team Members
Sean Burke, David Irwin, Grant Bailey, Haylea Muir, Nada Stanish, Travis Wooller, Damian Powley,
Past Team Members

Alan Gray, Danbi Park, Haylea Muir, Sophie Schmeltz

Consultant team
Tonkin & Taylor

Contractors
Fort Projects
HEB Construction

Client
Auckland Council

Awards
2010 NZILA – Gold Award – Te Puru Bridge