I discovered the Wynyard Quarter by coincidence. It was during my second day spent in Auckland: 16th March 2013 when I started walking along the waterfront and I was naturally brought to the Wynyard Quarter from the piers of the main ferry harbour area. It is always nice when the urban environment suggests you a direction. Wynyard Quarter is designed by Architectus architectural firm. What I find extraordinary about this place is the beauty of celebrating a big change that is going to happen in this area and the will to make people aware of it. This is happening by placing at the core of urban transformation the park, which acts as the spine of the new Wynyard Quarter. Around the park a brand new world is on the making. People are therefore invited to know the origins of this world by becoming spectators of the transformation’s process which will occur for the next 20 years.
The park feels like a laboratory where mysterious machines operate, where new points of view can be gained, and new people can be met. It is a multilayered space where we feel aware of the maritime heritage, of the industrial heritage and by the fact that the place in under transformation and we are part of it.
An elevated observatory reinforces this feeling by providing a front seat, a place where to admire the change. It is a slim, long, and elegant steel structure built along the north side of the park, it works as suspended promenade which can be accessed either by stairs or by a public lift. It reminded me of the folies by Bernard Tschumi in Parc de la Villette in Paris, but I think this one has the great added value to be a place where the entire area can be seen and observed during its transformation. It presence is further signalled by hot pink flags which add vibrancy to the place.
Many things are happening in the spine: playgrounds, fountains, and kiosks, and yet I feel not pushed in doing anything at all, then I can still find a solitary place where I can observe the ocean.
What a find also truly fantastic is the detailed combination between the hard surfaces and the soft ones, between the mineral world and the vegetable one. They together create an elegant public environment.
Allan B. Jacobs and Donald Appleyard wrote in the “Toward an Urban Design Manifesto” in 1987 : “A city should have magical places where fantasy is possible, a counter to and an escape from the mundaneness of everyday work and living” the Wynyard Quarter is one of those places.