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Wharf designs fail to wow

Auckland design competition produces 'zero clear winners'

by Niki 27 October 2009
  • Field Landscape Architecture Click image to expand

    Field Landscape Architecture

  • Williams Architects Click image to expand

    Williams Architects

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    Following the announcement of the 'Opening the Red Gates' competition for the redesign of Queens Wharf in Auckland, the Auckland Architecture Association has posted a damning comment from one of the city's most outspoken architecture professionals.

    Dr Dushko Bogunovich, Associate Professor of Urban Design at the ScALA - School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, has blamed 'politics, money and egos' for the alleged low calibre of design entries shortlisted in the competition.

    Evaluation of the shortlisted designs took place today and the winner is expected to be announced in mid-November, but Bogunovich's comments are painful enough to call a re-evaluation of the competition.

    Among the comments made by Bogunovich, who emigrated to New Zealand from the United States in 1993, he states that, "even after the second round it remains a mystery why some of the designs were shortlisted in the first round – against the judges’ own severe criticism of their flaws".

    The Associate Professor said the competition can be summarised with the formula: "0-1-2-3-4: Zero clear winners, One judge above all: the all-powerful dollar, Two strong favourites, Three good ideas, Four losers (sadly)." He then goes on to explain that 'There isn’t a single project that fully exploits the amazing potential of the hottest site in the country', the 'stingy budget' is the key to the weak entries, the 'two strong favourites' remark is due to three of the shortlisted projects actually presenting just two concepts - as two of the three are 'identical', not all has been lost as new zoning and concepts for the Wharf have been made clear, and that four of the eight entries shortlisted are not 'worth further attention' .

    Central to Bogunovich's argument is the funding issue as he blamed the budget of just $47 million for 'one of the most important and visible public projects in NZ’s history'. "This in a nation where the government is happy to budget $1,800 million for building tunnels where there are no hills (but there are creeks and waterfalls) and major banks owe $2,000 million in unpaid taxes," he said before celebrating the entrants innovation in the face of a limited budget.

    Finalists were asked to address several factors in design development before the evaluation. These included the necessity toappropriately reveal Auckland's history, geography and cultures; cater for cruise ship industry needs, including access for vehicles and pedestrians; recognise that the wharf will be approached from both the sea and land; provide adequate shelter for public events including Rugby World Cup 2011; and be an inviting public space for the public.

    237 entries were originally submitted for the competition but if Bogunovich's opinion, endorsed by the Auckland Architecture Association, counts, more investment in both cash and time is necessary to produce the New Zealand Government's vision of an 'exciting and enjoyable place that Aucklanders can access and all New Zealanders can be proud of'. But with the Wharf's anticipated role in the 2011 Rugby World Cup celebrations, time is something which may be in short supply.

    Niki May Young
    News Editor

    What do you think of the designs? Don't forget to have your say in the comments section (left).

    The full selection of designs can be seen at the Queens Wharf Competition site.

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