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Design Review: Volume 1, Issue 4 (December 1948)

The Auckland Civic Centre Criticised

page 13

The Auckland Civic Centre Criticised

The idea of a closed square is pleasant but an even better solution seems possible through the closing of further streets and the loosening-up of the building masses.

We have published this project in the last issue accompanied by the designer's report. In this issue we show a detailed site plan and wish to raise a few points for discussion on the planning aspect. We have stated previously that the scheme has great merit in many ways. However, obviously it is only in the preliminary planning stage and being an important part of the replanning of Auckland city it should receive the fullest criticism with a view to further improving the scheme. The following questions may stimulate further discussion:

The scheme provides for a new East-West Route across the city to link with the proposed Harbour Bridge and an alternative Main Outlet from the business area.

Cook Street is marked on the plan as the link to the new harbour bridge.

Can Cook Street be expected to serve this function any more efficiently than Wellesley Street, which is a subsidiary route across the ridge now? Cook Street is just as steep and just as dangerous for driving as Wellesley Street, if not more so. It is questionable what advantage could be gained by drawing a large amount of through-traffic into Cook Street in preference to Wellesley Street. Traffic on Cook Street, Vincent Street, and the new road sections circling the Civic Block (marked “new cross-city route” and “new main outlet”) meet at an awkward oblique angle. This could tend to make a danger spot unless one-way traffic only was permitted on the roads around the Civic Block. This is hardly feasible in the lay-out. The crossing of Wellesley Street, Albert Street, and Albert Street Extension is also particularly awkward. On the steep down-hill grade of Wellesley Street a driver would find it hard to turn into the new main outlet at the rear of the Government offices with its parking areas.

Should Cook Street develop under the scheme into a busy main connection, through-traffic to and from the proposed Harbour Bridge would have to mingle with theatre-goers, taxis and buses discharging passengers, and cars leaving and entering the ramps to the underground car park.

Similarly, there is a bad spot where Wakefield Street meets Queen Street at an oblique angle just opposite the new entrance to the inner square.

In any case, traffic from the lower end of Queen Street would reach the Harbour Bridge on direct routes remaining on flat ground and traffic from the Karangahape Road area and suburbs behind it would normally stay on the level. ridge until it reaches the bridge approaches, so that it may not be necessary nor desirable to draw through-traffic into the civic area.

The block as shown is crowded with public facilities and offices, and while there is space for long-period parking underground, there is little space for the parking of short-period business visitors and evening crowds. (With all three halls occupied at the same time—and this is not unlikely to happen every Saturday night—there will be 8,000 visitors plus a large number of actors, musicians, stage-hands, etc.)

Circulation becomes a foremast consideration under those circumstances even without the added difficulty of through-traffic.

page 14

While the idea of a closed precinctual square is pleasant, its present position does not materially assist in the handling of pedestrian crowds or traffic. The open space could possibly be achieved in an even improved manner without detriment to the excellent building design. The closing of further street areas and a loosening up of the building masses and their relative approaches may be a clue to an improved solution.