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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 8. 1965.

Little Boxes, Bigger Squares

Little Boxes, Bigger Squares

Our city planners are squares! When it comes to building a city they think of little else than squares and boxes.

For instance the street system is laid out on the rectangular or "grid" pattern, in spite of the hilly and rather unaccommodating topography of Wellington. Hence, steep streets leading straight up the sides of hills — for example upper Vivian Street or Aurora Terrace.

Some writers on town planning have pointed out the high, and increasing, number of road accidents which occur at right-angle intersections and suggest that the grid system may need some revision.

Many continental cities are laid out with radial and contour type traffic systems. Possibly Wellington could utilise some similar pattern. Probably though, such proposals would be shrugged off as being too costly. Services such as water, sewerage, telephone would all be disrupted, and not all buildings in any one area can be removed and replaced at any one time.

The grid may be excusable on economic grounds, but what excuses can be found for the building designers? Almost every major building project in Wellington for years has been yet another plain, functional, square-looking, slabsided box.

In spite of severe criticism this trend continues. Shell House, the Manchester Unity building, Dominion Life, and parking buildings are a few examples.

The odd exceptions such as the "beehive" and some or the blocks of flats in Oriental Bay, and one or two buildings elsewhere deviate from this pattern. Some of these hove more aesthetic merit than others, but the paucity of their numbers is the deplorable thing.

The question is whether it is economic considerations, or sheer lack of initiative, that is the deciding factor in the planning of the buildings. Overseas cities have experimented with building shapes, round, crescent, hexagonal and achieved distinctive and pleasing forms. They have circumvented the economic aspect, why can't we?— G. F. McD.