Gather and weave.
Kopupaka Reserve.


Kopupaka Reserve represents a design-led approach that integrates community amenities with engineering and ecology. What once might have been considered ‘space left over after planning’ has been transformed into a park that challenges expectations around the design and use of stormwater reserves, and illustrates how urban growth can be balanced with ecological restoration. This project represents the creation of new public space in tandem with the development of a strong sense of place.

The masterplan creates a hybrid park typology that employs green infrastructure and reinterprets the site’s pre-existing horticultural practices while celebrating Māori values associated with resource gathering and healthy water.

The notion of weaving histories and overlapping functions together is the dominant design narrative of Kopupaka Reserve. This hybrid park integrates infrastructure with natural features; it’s part stormwater reserve, urban park, playground and skate park—all made possible by dovetailing the masterplanning of new streets with the green infrastructure of the 22-hectare stormwater reserve.

Left The ‘woven basket’ form was, in part, abstracted from hīnaki (Māori eel pots) and references the historical site below the confluence of the two streams where tuna (eel) gathered. The design of the park includes an environmental education boardwalk which is inspired by hīnaki.

Above and left New riparian planting includes harakeke (flax) and totāra. Light and dark crib-wall elements allow the creation of strong graphic patterns.

While Kopupaka Reserve provides the infrastructure for the attenuation and detention of stormwater run-off from the streets and buildings of the town centre, it also has a tight overlay of cultural, ecological, community and (mostly unseen) engineering objectives. The most significant component—the stormwater infrastructure—is largely hidden. Headwalls, outfalls and concrete retaining structures, the ‘bones’ of the park, are concealed under multiple layers of landscape, while the cultural aspects are visible—the curving timber ‘baskets’ integrated into the edges of three main wetland ponds. These ‘functional sculptures’ abstractly reference harakeke (flax) woven into kete (baskets) and hīnaki (eel pots). The forms appear complex and bespoke but are actually constructed from a timber-crib retaining system, an off-the-shelf system modified in colour and composition to allow the expression of a pattern in curvaceous form.

“Standard timber crib structures are a simple construction technique but the challenge was to resolve the detailing and documentation, as the structures curve in all planes, and ensure that they retain the engineering function required.”
—Grant Bailey, Isthmus

Left Graphics will be applied to Corten-steel panels around the circumference of the platforms, providing opportunities for environmental education and interpretation.

The park is structured around six stormwater wetlands and works also included the revegetation of the Totara Creek and Sakaria Stream corridors. The riparian planting extends to the reserve boundaries, where a playground, a botanical garden and a skate park have been cut into clearings. The new stormwater infrastructure not only accommodates massive urban expansion but also restores elements of the degraded riparian system, protecting water quality and ensuring habitat preservation.

However, it is the crib walls, used at a range of scales, that define the spatial experience of the park. The structures provide vantage points over the wetlands, with pond embankments designed deliberately with a formal and natural (stream) side, and the angular form of the pond embankments mimicking the site’s former irrigation dam. The formal terraces around the dam embankments ensure that safety benches and grades are met but also provide significant flat, usable space for recreation. Extensive benches and islands for aquatic planting and habitat balance recreation with ecology.

Above and left Although it forms the ‘bones’ of the park, the stormwater infrastructure—headwalls, outfalls and concrete retaining structures—is mostly hidden from view. Crib wall under construction.

In keeping with the overarching narrative, cycleways and shared paths weave between the streams, with the routes leading to the confluence of the waterways, wetlands and community gathering places. The ponds, wetlands and control structures of the stormwater reserve are community resources, and the main wetlands are the park’s primary gathering spaces. The central pond is the main civic open space, with crib walls housing a botanical garden of weaving plants. It is a flexible space, a contemporary version of a ‘band rotunda’, suitable for events.

The southern pond, adjacent to future residential development and the Sakaria Stream, will include a large playground and family gathering spaces on the site of what was once an irrigation pond. The crib wall structure for this pond takes the form of a hīnaki, and the rock-filled reed bed structure functions as an environmental filter while providing boardwalk access out onto the pond. At the northern pond, a skate park—a ‘bowl in a basket’—provides the ultimate regional destination for west Auckland’s skateboarders.

Team Members
Grant Bailey, Nada Stanish, Travis Wooller,
Past Team Members

Karen Ehlers, David Gregory, Danbi Park, Grace He, Rebecca Jerram

Consultant Team
Rawstorne Studio
Blue Barn
Consulting Engineers
Cato Bolam
Coffey Projects
Natural Habitats

A&R Civil
Cameron Civil
ICB Construction

Auckland Council

2017 Intergrain Timber Vision Awards, Landscape Winner
2017 Timber Awards – Exterior Innovation and Infrastructure Award
2017 IFLA Outstanding Award – Infrastructure
2017 IFLA Award of Excellence – Cultural and Urban Landscape
2017 IFLA Honourable Mention – Parks and Open Space
2017 NZILA Te Karanga o Te tui
2017 NZILA Sustainability Award
2016 WAF World Landscape of the Year