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Design Review: Volume 4, Issue 2 (September-May 1951-52)

The Auckland Harbour Bridge

page 40

The Auckland Harbour Bridge

The Original Design Slightly Modified by Our Correspondents.

The Editor,

Dear Sir,

In the Star of January 11th, 1952, a sketch of the above was published with the caption commencing as follows: ‘This massive block of concrete and steel …’ thus confirming its apparent solidity. In reality the ‘Anchor’ is hollow—i.e., framed in reinforced concrete with an external wall approximately 8″ thick faced with 6″ precast concrete slabs. We question this attempt at endowing the bridge with architectural treatment' drawing attention to the ‘Anchor’. If this is what we are to have then, present apathy indicates that we, the public, deserve it. Only a critically awake public can expect a high standard of design—and if the ‘Anchor’ is a serious solution to the problem, all we can say is that this rather weak sop to the public lacks any appreciation of the elements of good design. Our bias is for a sane, reasoned approach in design, therefore we ask for public opinion on the following criticism:

1. As the real ‘Anchor’ is a solid reinforced concrete block set mainly below ground level, then what is the reason for the frame above ground, encased in the 8″ wall with its 6″ skin of precast slabs giving the impression of solid squared stonework? Is this necessary?. Can we not be honest in expressing structure truthfully?

2. Is the use of pseudo Maori carved slabs of precast concrete, sane decorative treatment for this ‘Anchor’. Such carving, essentially in timber, has its origin in the Maori meeting-house and has no connection with a present-day engineering problem.

3. What is the purpose of the masonry terrace surrounding the ‘Anchor’ on three sides? Is it, by its slight elevation above the immediate ground level, to provide a point from which to view the bridge and harbour? We doubt its use as a vantage point, and surely even as such, why the solid stone dwarf wall—a visual obstruction, as opposed to a light open balustrade in metal?

4. Has a cypress, or any other tree, ever been successfully grown in an ornamental stone box in New Zealand? These cypresses, flanking the terrace steps, are strangers among the native pohutukawas, and are destined for an early end in such a location.

5. The pretentious triumphal approach up the steps leads to an anticlimax of what appears to be a metal plaque. Is the inscription to be ‘Mene mene tekel upharsin oh “Anchor”’, which, being interpreted, means “Thou hast been weighed and found wanting, oh “Anchor”’.

6. Finally, we see a reasonably pleasant open balustrade for the carriageway, but why is it broken by the ‘upsurge’ of the ‘Anchor’ block? On a practical basis, why does the balustrade receive different treatment at the ‘Anchor’? Surely it is more sensible to continue the one form of balustrade right through. This will also emphasise visually the entity of bridge-approach and highway.

In every way the ‘Anchor’ block and terrace, as shown in the sketch, demonstrate lack of consideration of fundamentals in design, which should be the integration simultaneously of function, structure and aesthetics.

As a constructive approach we suggest ‘treatment’ of the ‘Anchor’ as shown in the accompanying sketch (below).

Constructive Critics
The Proposal Put Forward by Our Correspondents.

The Proposal Put Forward by Our Correspondents.

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