2018: A landmark year of making places for people

Thinking about how we want to live and the ways we move around; shaping the future, while preserving the best of the past. Creating better places for people has been one of the overarching themes of the past year.

In Auckland, the council approval of the City Centre Master Plan has put the role of urban designers and architects squarely in the spotlight, and with the Americas Cup in 2021 looming, there’s an urgency that hasn’t been seen since 2011 when hosting the Rugby World Cup provided a similar impetus.

Back then, the first stage of Wynyard Quarter came on stream; along with shared spaces, like Elliot and Darby Streets and Fort Street,  later followed by Federal Street at Sky City and O’Connell Street.

Just as those places are now so much a part of the City Centre, it’s hard to remember what things looked like before, a new tranche of projects – underway and working toward the 2021 deadline – are set to transform the city again.

Two of these projects – construction of the City Rail Link and Commercial Bay – have already caused tremendous disruption to vehicular traffic in the city, and one consequence is the rapid pedestrianisation of downtown.  The lower block of Queen Street became impassable to cars, and a no-cars zone – an idea that had been debated for years – quickly became a reality.

It’s doubtful we’ll see the return of cars to that block. In fact, there’s a clear mandate to expand pedestrian-only streets throughout the City Centre and beyond as the advantages of encouraging foot traffic are clear.

Quantifying the benefits of increased walkability has long been a challenge, but The Business Case for Walking demonstrates that environments that facilitate walking (and other forms of active transport) and provide public amenities have a positive economic impact. Consequently, we’re seeing more ‘tactical urbanism’ – quick, low-cost, street-level interventions that are experimental and exciting. From pop-up stores to polka-dotted streets, these imaginative small-scale projects start conversations and provide insight on potential results of larger, more permanent changes.

Along with the steady, rapid growth of population, there’s been commensurate increase in active (read: non-vehicular) modes of transport.

And although cycleways have been in the headlines, they are often just one (highly visible) element in a wider project involving upgrading streetscapes, and these changes are happening in suburban neighbourhoods and smaller towns across the country.

Revitalising much-loved community centres, and setting a plan for future development often begins with reflecting on the unique character of each place, the natural setting and history of the people who live there. Our landscape planners have worked with regions and districts across the country to help them evaluate the tangible and aesthetic qualities that they value most. Finding a way to measure the quantifiable with the qualitative, on equal footing, has long been a challenge. The Waikato District Landscape study was a milestone on this journey, as it moved beyond interpreting the iwi korero – instead, the Iwi Reference Group were fully co-authors of the study.

The importance and enduring value of expressing the Mana whenua and European narratives together has been an on-going mandate for the post-quake restoration of Christchurch and is particularly evident in the restoration of Victoria Square, and in the renaming of Te Ana Marina.

Going forward in the new year, Boffa Miskell will be guided by our company values of Whanau/Family, Whakapono/Trust, Kairangi/Excellence, Ngakaunui/Passion and Nga Tuhono/Partnerships as we continue to create imaginative, robust and holistic spaces that enhance the life of the people who use them.

17 December 2018