Three bays, three beaches, one headland, and a rocky outcrop and reef – this fully designed and engineered outcome for Wellington deftly balances the scale of the coast with the feel of the inner city.
Oriental Bay takes its name from the Oriental, the ship that landed colonists in Wellington in January 1840. Today, on one of the capital’s oft touted ‘good days’ it is three small gold-sand beaches that await visitors seeking fun and recreation.
For much of the Wellington’s history, there wasn’t much beach at Oriental Bay – and what little beach that did exist was man-made from the ships’ ballast material unloaded there. In the early 2000s it was only a beach at high tide – with the beach a coarse, three-metre strip of sand, despite ‘top-ups’ that were swiftly eroded by the prevailing northerly wave movement.
At Oriental Bay today there is a new beach ecosystem, put in place by a multi-disciplinary team that identified and worked to correct the coastal processes that were stripping the bay of sand. Early schemes for Oriental Bay depicted one long beach. The design team however, opted instead for three smaller beaches (each informed by the history and scale of Wellington’s coast) with three control points – a new headland located 60 metres out into the harbour; a series of large, carefully placed rocks that extend from the concrete sea wall; and a submerged reef – put in place to prevent the loss of new sand.
The headland, thanks to masses of stacked, pre-cast concrete slabs, is the most striking intervention. It juts out into the water at an angle predetermined by the coastal modelling and is anchored by a long timber pier aligned with Oriental Parade and Freyberg Pool. This is a space for sitting and climbing (there are also ramps to allow less able-bodied to enjoy the setting) and you can access the edge, where sea flora and fauna occupy the artificial rock pools that often wear a carpet of lurid green algae.
In tandem with the coastal works at Oriental Bay, an upgrade to the playspace was also undertaken and a new amenity block was constructed. The foreshore was widened (an ice cream and coffee outlet has been tucked into the long concrete ramp that rises to meet the promenade), and the globe lamp standards, kerb extensions and tree planters were removed to strengthen the broad sweep of asphalt that runs between the existing sea wall and the street. New lighting positioned in trees reduces the need for additional vertical structures, and, in fact, the only new addition has been new furniture that sits, facing out to the harbour, awaiting the visitors that this refreshed part of the city now attracts in abundance.
Tonkin & Taylor
Brian Perry Civil
Wellington City Council
2006 NZILA – Supreme New Zealand Award for Architecture
2005 Ministry for the Environment – 2005 ‘Year of the Built Environment’
2005 Supreme Winner International Federation of Landscape Architects – Excellence Award
2005 Association of Consulting Engineers (ACENZ) Innovative NZ Gold Award
2005 Wellington Civic Trust Award
2004 NZILA – George Malcolm Supreme Award New Zealand Recreation Association 2004 Outstanding Project Award