Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Art Deco In The Gun Again

The demolition dust from St Heliers' Art Deco buildings has not yet settled, but it looks like it's happening again!
Ahhhh, the sins of our fathers - the (old) Auckland City Council struck a deal with Viaduct Harbour Holdings, allowing it to destroy nine out of 17 buildings in the Wynyard Quarter, deemed worthy of protection.
Those-in-the-know have been legally stopped from speaking publicly! In fact, the deal's so secret-squirrel that the (new) Auckland Council will not even confirm its existence! Why such secrecy? Auckland Council is a public body - it has a public obligation to infom ratepayers before deals are set in cement.
Wynyard Quarter is light industrial, with marine/early 20th.century industrial heritage: bulldoze it all, and you get just another glass canyon. Woop-de-doo. And if so, then why did council bother to put an $8mill. heritage tram track around there? Do they think folk wanna trundle round and round, looking at reflections of historic trams in the mirrored glass? If the Quarter becomes another Viaduct Harbour lookalike...OMG! There's a limit to how many bars, nightspots and cafes a city can support.

These Wynyard Quarter buildings are not particularly old, not particularly significant - they're Art Deco, not everyone's taste. But they have more character than many structures deemed worthy of preservation in other places.
However the main reason to save them is that Wynyard Quarter needs a point of difference.
It's an area of maritime light industry with yacht supplies and showrooms, the fish market, wharves, and the hope is that it can sustain more of the life it already has. Ok, its redevelopment plans do contain apartments, parks, promenades and the tram...but its attraction will be the light industrial sights and sounds of boats and marine services. To enhance that is not to remove everything there and build something entirely new, as was done at the Viaduct.
There's plenty of space (incl.some huge empty blocks) in the Quarter for larger developments. Wynyard Quarter needs to grow alongside what is there. The remaining heritage is little enough, just 17 buildings in over 35ha/86 acres! Can't they all be accomodated?
After the St Heliers mess, Auckland Mayor Len Brown said this sort of thing must never happen again. Ok, Lennie, show us your mettle!

No comments: