Keen urbanistas arriving into Wellington early for the Urbanism New Zealand conference yesterday could partake of two special guided tours: either an e-bike foray with Boffa Miskell or a flaneur’s walk with Gerald Blunt.
Blunt, who is on the conference Advisory Committee and who works as a city shaper at Wellington City Council, began his walking tour at the bottom at the Pukehau National Warm Memorial Park. Commenting on Pukeahu’s relatively remote location from the CBD, Blunt said it had been interesting to see how it had become an asset for the city.
No street corner was left unobserved on the way from Pukeahu to the waterfront down Tory Street, with a walking commentary all the way about the granular details and latent lanes, as observed here by Andy Brangwin of Jasmax.
Towards the northern or lower end of Tory Street a highlight was the tactical urbanism project undertaken in partnership with Victoria University’s School of Landscape Architecture to create a temporary installation.
Stops along the way included an opportunity to learn more about Wellington’s Waitangi Park, and particularly its urban wetland.
Another established feature along the waterfront is the Wellington Writers Walk sculpture placements with examples below excerpting some great lines from Maurice Gee and James K. Baxter.
A good amount of time was made available to soak in the newly minted north kumutoto project by Isthmus with its distinctive sculptural pavilion shelter made up of a matrix of solidly attached timber cedar battens – apparently almost 18km worth.
Blunt deserves a big thank you for sharing the back story behind these and other developments (“the long story short”), and for his pointers of things to come. And he did so with only one noticeable attack of urban-speak with a comment at one site that “it’s a hard edge to activate”.
For the Jasmax contingent from Auckland a standout part of the tour was the obvious “informality” in play between people and the harbour edge. “It’s as if in Auckland people are afraid to go down to the sea, whereas here there are so few barriers, even if you want to dive off the wharf. It’s like the rules haven’t had to be broken, they just aren’t there”.
As another, local tour participant said, “I’ve lived here for most of my life but you forget just what it’s taken to piece together parts of the city, and really, when you stand back, how it’s beginning to be the sum of those parts, accidents and all. It takes a rainy day to notice that sometimes”.