More children live in central Auckland than ever before. If the city is an urban child's backyard, what should that city provide?
In Auckland’s City Centre, High Street is the as-yet-unimproved alternative to broad and bustling Queen Street, one block to the west.
Queen Street is still reaping the benefits of wider footpaths from the upgrade twelve years ago that catalysed the arrival of the requisite retailers and big-name designers that cater to the cruise ship crowds.
The squeeze-to-get-past pavements of High Street are a real contrast — lined with coffee shops and cafes, curated clothing boutiques, and destination stores like Unity Books, Crane Brothers suiting and The Jeweller’s Workshop but with barely room to move between the rows of parked cars and the shopfronts built hard to the street.
Fort Street, Freyberg Square and Vulcan Lane, three of Auckland’s lauded pedestrian-priority streetscapes are adjacent to High Street; and the difference between these spaces — in terms of accessibility and pedestrian-friendly amenities — inspired urban designer Stuart Houghton.
“More children live in the city centre than ever before,” Stuart says. “But most city streets are still very hostile to children and to the elderly. There are few, if any, spaces to sit and rest; the pavements are narrow and crowded; and parked and passing cars impede free and safe movement.
“And while it’s easy to agree that we need to design spaces that welcome people of all ages and abilities, it’s only when you see what a crowded street looks like from child’s eye-level that you fully understand what they experience.”
To illustrate this, Stuart and visualisation specialist Rob Gordon created a series of short videos. Filmed on High Street, right after Auckland’s annual Santa Parade in November, these unscripted videos follow two children through the crowded pavements.
It’s clear that the vehicles-first design of High Street thwarts them at every turn.
“We also show the kids’ transition from High Street to pedestrianised Vulcan Lane, and later, enjoying Saint Patrick’s Square,” says Stuart. “Nothing was pre-planned — as far as the kids were concerned, we were just taking a walk through the city — but once we move into those pedestrian-friendly spaces, their immediate reaction illustates the point. They relax, they start exploring and interacting with what’s around them.”
Stuart posted the videos on Boffa Miskell’s social media channels in support of an evening pedestrianisation of High Street in late December.
You can view the videos on our YouTube Channel
22 January 2019