Friday, September 02, 2011

Could have been a contender


The Queens Wharf fanzone and function centre was completed this week and will host the Pacific Islands Forum from September 6. The last touches are being applied to Shed 10, which is expected to be ready early next week.


Construction of the waka-shaped pavilion is complete and it is ready to be assembled on-site at Te Wero Island in the week of September 26.

The three marquees that are also part of Waka Maori and will showcase carving, ta moko, weaving and fashion will be built after the waka is in place. Event planners say Waka Maori will be ready to open on October 13. It runs until October 23

Are we ready? No. The Great Manager's vision of Paaarty Central, now reduced to an inelegant shed and a giant tubigrip, will just scrape through, all things being equal (which they are not). The waka-shaped pavilion, cruelly named by this blogeur as the "tupperwaka," might be ready in time for the closing ceremony, with any luck (of which there is little).

And that is it, just about; three structures in search of a purpose, two of them also searching for new homes once the rugger buggers have gone. What will happen in these structures is still something of a mystery. The shed was repurposed without any real purpose. The waka-shaped pavilion will promote Maori enterprises, useful for any visitors who prefer trade fairs to football. The tubigrip (officially known as the Cloud, since it is long and white) has some giant screens for the watching of games and perhaps some other attractions beyond getting pissed; no, hold the front page: it will be a trade fair.

Of course, we have the Events Centre, which is nice if you have an event to hold, such as a trade fair. Then there is the Wynyard Quarter, in which it sits: a curiously distracted work of urban design, where various family-orientated amusements are scattered. These include a basketball hoop, some seats and a sculpture which had been in storage for several years after being ousted during the last project of urban design, the repurposing of Queen Elizabeth Square as a transport hub (in common parlance, bus stops).  And there is a piano.

Families will find nowhere to buy family necessities, since there is no dairy or superette, while the lavatories are far and few. Instead there is an artless row of restaurants and bars, the urban designers presumably having decided that Auckland's waterfront has not quite enough places for eating and drinking at a substantial price. And there is a tram, which travels around the Quarter. For ten dollars you can sit on it all day; five dollars if you can prove you are not a tourist. If you have an interest in old industrial buildings, you will enjoy the sightseeing.

What you will not see is anybody in charge. The Wynyard Quarter seems to have been purposefully designed to minimise staffing costs. The Council is now asking for people who are passionate about the waterfront to step forward. However, only those who are so passionate that they are prepared to work for nothing need apply. The women who used to be passionate about the waterfront, the ship girls, are nowhere to be seen.  In their stead, the latest up-and-coming musical talent will be there during the summer, presumably playing for nothing.

Of course, we architectural theorists love this sort of thing. It is full of absence, of loss, of memory and the possiblity of memory loss. It is peculiarly inanimate, as this animation shows. For ordinary kiwi mums and dads, it might prove to be something of a disappointment, a place to go where there is nowhere to go.  It is not really for us.You are really only wanted round these parts if you have money to spend, if you are part of the business class. Perhaps we should call it the Empty Quarter.

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