Two weeks ago I attended the opening of Te Wānanga, the reimagined and rebuilt waterfront by the Ferry Terminal in downtown Auckland. I'm not sure I was actually invited, but made the Harbour crossing and pleaded for entry because this is the kind of thing I love about working for Council.
Auckland is transforming and all the learning, all the mātauranga māori, all the collaboration, the creativity and passion is starting to be read in every detail of our city. The future of Auckland is in good hands and sometimes, as an elected member, you need to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony to be reminded that all the loud voices of naysayers and Council haters can be put to the side, because if we placed too much stock in them, nothing would be achieved and our city would be a bleak place indeed.
In 2015 I completed a paper on Creating Living Buildings through Otago Polytechnic. This study has significantly influenced my thinking around what we need from our built environment. The paper focused solely upon the design of sustainable buildings, but the same principals discussed can be applied to our cities. The Living Building Challenge is organized into 7 performance areas; place - restoring a healthy relationship with nature, water - creating developments that operate within the water balance of a given place, energy - relying on solar income, health & happiness - creating environments that optimize physical and psychological health and well-being, materials - endorsing products that are safe for all species through time, equity - supporting a just and equitable world, and beauty - celebrating design that uplifts the human spirit.
When I look at the creation of new infrastructure, new spaces and places, I think about these seven principals of sustainable design and mentally check off how they’re applied.
In terms of how Te Wānanga responds to these criteria you can see many of these design principals being met in this new public realm. Place – Te Wānanga is a brand new coastal ‘shelf’ that blends the boundary between land and sea, it’s a meeting place for people to connect to the wide blue ocean and feel restored. Water – with the addition of 50 new gardens and 19 rain gardens, Quay street will be home to 200 new native trees that provide shelter and storm water filtration, before the water hits the harbour. Beneath the floating coastal shelf you’ll see 38 seeded kūtai/mussel lines that provide 600 metres of organic water filters. Each kūtai will filter between 150-200 litres of seawater a day, removing pollutants and acting as bioindicators of aquatic health in the harbour. A little further out there is a floating ecology pontoon and kelp garden that will also help to restore the mauri of the water. Energy – given that this is a public realm the need for energy, other than the LED street lights, is negligible. Health & happiness – with the city growing at an exponential rate, people need more space. Apartment living is growing to be the norm and those city dwellers need to feel that the city is designed for them. Making a walkable, liveable city, with excellent cycle connections is hugely important, because if we boil it all down, what we want for every human being is health and happiness, and creating an accessible and vibrant waterfront achieves those goals.
Materials – whilst I can’t comment on the hard materials, the planting has been selected to ensure endemic species are reinstated so support healthy native habitats. The incorporation of rongoa (medicinal) and raranga (weaving) species are also included to encourage the practice of kaitiakitanga. Equity – the space is fully accessible and will be enjoyed by the tens of thousands of public transport users, residents and cyclists who come to the city daily. The collaboration with mana whenua has made the space distinctly māori in design with evidence found in the haumi binding on the balustrade rail, the kupenga (public aperture nets, still to be installed), the indigenous planting and the naming of the place Te Wānanga. All of this is evidence of Council’s commitment to a treaty-based partnership with mana whenua and a staunch desire to create and celebrate Tāmaki as distinctly Māori in design. We don’t want you to feel like you could be anywhere else in the world, we want you to open your eyes and know you’re in Tāmaki.
The last Living Building principal is one I really love, it’s beauty. To enable Aucklanders to live in a place where beautiful design is read in every material choice, every civic space composition, and in every building façade, is one of the best gifts a Council can give to its people. To create spaces that are uplifting, thoughtful, stunningly designed and innovatively put together, is something that every citizen should wish for. It’s this particular principal that will make us proud to live in our city by the water, Tāmaki Makaurau.
This is what it is to design for our future.
Elected member of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board for the 2019-2022 Election Term.