Working waterfronts are constantly in flux; crusty, utilitarian, muscular and dissolving, with temporal qualities that engage all of our senses. Yet contemporary waterfront redevelopments are often characterised by the removal of the very qualities that attract us to these places. At Auckland’s Wynyard Point redevelopment these conventions are challenged in a development that anticipates transforming a forlorn industrial and maritime precinct into a layered, mixed-use precinct.
The first catalytic projects of this redevelopment are public spaces centred on Jellicoe Harbour and Silo Park. These spaces promote an alternative design approach to the typical erasure of waterfront memory. Here, friction is encouraged, smelly fish are the attraction, rust, grit and patina are embraced and derelict artefacts are reprogrammed.
Underpinning the design are two key moves: retention and enhancing of fishing and maritime industries form the focus of new public experiences; and, interpreting the site’s peculiar archaeology of patterns and materiality informs a new public landscape.
Jellicoe Harbour has an engaging diversity of use, including large industrial container shipping, ferry services and a viable fishing industry. This overlay of waterfront activities, previously removed from the public gaze, is now central to the public realm experience and integrated as attraction via fishing fleet premises, wholesale and retail fish and seafood markets.
The design weaves public realm experiences around these ‘as found’ conditions. The harbour edge, North Wharf Promenade, is now a site of negotiation, a pedestrian and cycle promenade from which to witness and experience the coexisting waterfront industry. It is also a site of contrasts with the patina of wharfs, rails, rust and ropes juxtaposed with the adjacent lustre of alfresco dining that has thrived in this authentic waterfront condition.
Jellicoe Street runs parallel to the harbour edge and contrasts with the exposed, hard harbour condition. This ‘boulevard’ establishes a new public realm language for Auckland, one that promotes a civic presence with an indigenous character; a grand axis with a pedestrian focus and rich, informal planting.
Silo Park is a triangular tract that links Jellicoe Harbour with marine industries to its west. It is located on a former cement depot from which a large silo – once earmarked for removal – is retained. The silo now forms a multi-programmed focus of a layered public space that facilitates a range of hybrid uses; passive recreation, event space, youth precinct, industry and folly. Each program is new to the site, yet built from the pattern language, infrastructure and the mythology of place.
These overlapping programs are orientated via the armature of the gantry, an evocative response to the industrial language of the site. It is designed to be part folly, play structure, lookout, arbour and event framework. It also forms the infrastructure for a proposed working dock. This facility is proposed to be used for the final ‘fit out’ of large super yachts, a specialist New Zealand industry. Bringing this industry into public view and integrated into the design, reinforces an authentic, albeit glossy, waterfront experience.
A large, central lawn is used a range of recreation and event purposes. Its tilted corners resemble bunds that are used to prevent industrial silo spills, alluding to the site’s former uses. Adjacent is a large bio-retention wetland that receives the broader site’s stormwater that eventually cascades into the harbour via large water stairs. These stairs comprise reclaimed precast concrete units previously utilised for the storage of manufacturing materials – again, a local narrative has been salvaged to articulate a new one.
Jellicoe Harbour and Silo Park demonstrate a receptiveness to investigate, embrace and interpret a narrative of place in the creation of a contemporary and authentic public realm experience.