Redefining Auckland's history

James
Tuesday 31 Aug 2010

Major upgrade aims to reconnect Auckland with nature within the CBD

St Patrick’s Square and Cathedral has a special place in Auckland CBD’s relatively young history. It is home to the catholic diocese’s St Patrick’s Cathedral and dates back to 1841 when the land was granted to Bishop Pompallier (New Zealand’s first catholic bishop) to build a church and cemetery. Today it creates a welcome area of respite from the hustle and bustle of life in the city.

In 2007, Boffa Miskell was commissioned to upgrade the square by Auckland City Council as part of the Streets and Open Spaces Programme, an ambitious $157 million, 10 year initiative aiming to ‘deliver world class public open spaces in order to affect a transformational change critical to the city’s urban identity, quality, character and economic health'.The design needed to incorporate a number of overarching objectives: creating a safe, comfortable and enjoyable day and night environment; retaining and enhancing the square as the city’s urban oasis; celebrating the square’s heritage and cultural significance; re-establishing the square’s relationship to the Cathedral and lastly increasing the legibility of entry points making it easier for people to walk into and through the square.

The award winning design, completed in 2009, is described as respecting the dominating presence of the Cathedral with the creation of a distinctive paved plane that grounds and connects it with the square and surrounding streets. Three discrete water features provide a metaphorical connection between the baptismal font of the Cathedral and the lower terraces. The spatial arrangement provides a variety of opportunities for Aucklanders and tourists to enjoy through the day and into the night.

Circulation routes are clearly defined without dissecting the square into unusable spaces, and consideration was given to alternative detours through the central water element and lower terraces to maintain interest for people who visit regularly.The design response looked to enhance the essential essence of the place, defined as ‘oasis’, ‘community’ and ‘spirit,’ through the use of water, stone, planting and lighting and stimulate senses through sound, touch, light and colour – creating the perfect opportunity for people to re-engage with nature in the city.

Client: Auckland City Council - Work was completed: October 2009 - Project budget: NZ$9.2million

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