As Auckland grows in scale and confidence, a multi-agency approach has been employed to better connect the city centre to the harbour. With greater numbers of people commuting to, and working in, downtown there is a demand for higher quality public spaces. Delivered as part of a suite of projects, Te Wānanga, the new downtown public space, blends the boundary between the city and the harbour.
Located at the foot of Queen Street and bounded by Quay Street and Queens Wharf, the ferry basin is Auckland’s busiest and most significant stretch of waterfront. Until now it has been a place of movement rather than habitation, constrained by traffic movements on land and water.
Stitching together the land and the sea, the design brings to life Te hā o Te Tangaroa, the breath of Tangaroa the sea god; the natural rhythm and space between high and low tides has driven the design. Currently under construction, this will become a place to move through as well as to rest, an oasis inspired by our coastal and cultural environment.
The porous public space is constructed over, and connected with, the sparkling Waitematā harbour. Designed to adapt to climate change and sea level rise, the piled structure offers habitats of prospect and refuge for people on the surface balanced with an enhanced habitat for coastal plants and fish below the waterline. Both the terrestrial and aquatic ecologies have been designed to protect and enhance native species and restore some of the pre-colonial cultural connections with this rich site.
This urban coastline is rich with stories from the past; narratives of arrival and departure have informed the reimagined space. In the ferry basin between Princes Wharf and Queens Wharf, the concept of a ‘tidal shelf’ emerged from an understanding of the local geology – this artificial shelf will extend out from the Quay Street shoreline as a piece of public architecture, elevated above the harbour.
Through a process of co-design, Isthmus collaborated with knowledge-holders from mana whenua. We explored the concepts of manaakitanga and mīharo, ambition for the extraordinary. This inclusive design approach recognises the evolving nature of the working waterfront environment, remembers the former coastline and respects the people who lived here prior to colonisation.
Observations of the personality and peculiarities of the harbour edge started with gathering shells from a nearby beach. The design is inspired by the breath between incoming and outgoing tides, tai pari and tai timu. The shell form represent a ‘nested ecology’ that hosts life, just as this project makes space for sea snails, seaweeds, sponges, crabs, bivalves, barnacles and sea squirts. New and existing piles have been designed to support inter-tidal and sub-tidal habitats with perches for seabirds, textured surfaces and crevices for barnacles, periwinkles and seaweeds.
Scheduled for completion in late 2020, along with the upgrade of Quay Street, the Downtown public space will be a transformative project for Auckland. Co-designed with mana whenua, it will be a unique project for Tāmaki that weaves mātauranga Māori through its spaces and narratives to offer a new invitation to the water’s edge. It will restore the edge as a place of respite and refuge; a knowledge basket for all who visit, and a breathing point for everyone and everything that filters through this busy place where the city meets the sea.
Tonkin + Taylor
Tāmaki Makaurau Mana Whenua
Ngāti Whātua ki Kaipara
Ngāti Whātua Runanga
Ngāti Te Ata Waiohua
Ngāi Tai Ki Tamaki
Te Ākitai Waiohua
Kaitiaki Working Group
Jarrod Walker, Marine Ecology Consultant
Richelle Kahui-McConnell, Ecology Consultant
Tess Harris, Mana Whenua Selected Artist/Weaver
Reuben Kirkwood, Mana Whenua Selected Artist/Carver