Saturday 6th of August was a busy day in Auckland with two ‘new’ public spaces opening, one in the inner city and the other at its outer edge. I chose to go to the public art opening on the waterfront (while other members of my family elected to take the elicit thrill of cycling on the new motorway in Hobsonville).
This is the view from Te Wero Island approaching the new pedestrian and cycle bridge, Wynyard Crossing, over to Wynyard Quarter. The paving design is based on traditional Maori patterning, I’m looking to find out its meaning but I suspect is related to kai moana – food of the sea and its abundance. The curvy roof is the new Viaduct Events Centre.
The bridge is a double drawbridge, which they were showing off throughout the day, along side what were probably the most picturesque boats in Auckland:
I arrived at 10am for the official opening of the three public art works. The first work was a sound installation by Rachel Shearer (NZ) called The Flooded Mirror, just at the end of the new bridge, and the associated cast concrete step design details (the steps are called Silt Line), the first attractive water access point for people in the central city in some time, that also mark the shifting tides.
I didn’t get a chance to experience this work away from the crowds but it supposedly relates to the “interconnections between sea, geology and humans”, with “sounds inspired by mineral structures as a metaphor”, and as “an aural map of energy flow narrating ancient general histories and specific recent histories” operating to coincide with tidal frequency (from Auckland Council flyer). I had to laugh when the time came to switch the sound on and the draw-bridge buzzer burst in, diverting the apprehension and stealing all the attention as history-in-the-making.
The next official work to be ‘opened’ was the interactive Sounds of the Sea by Company (Finland/Korea). These immaculately polished, reflective ships ventilators have various functions, as echoing seats or conduits of sound (based on ships speaking tubes). The artists demonstrated by one giving part of their speech into the curved form at a distance and the other holding a microphone to the opening of its twin at the other end of the installation. Yet another ventilator/sound tube delivered the voice of the sea from directly underneath the North Wharf.
The final official piece of public art work to be opened was the refurbished Wind Tree by Michio Ihara (Japan/USA), which once stood in Queen Elizabeth Square between Queen Street and the Ferry Building. Originally installed in 1977, this work was removed in 2002, with some controversy over its treatment by the previous council. The new position hopes to mend bridges for public art in Auckland, much like the original work was part of a rebirth for public art in Auckland in the 70s.
Aside from these three pieces that were deemed worthy of speeches, there were a number of visually, aurally and texturally attractive works on the site, including a series of buoys that seem awfully similar to a temporary installation along the old foreshore for the ‘Living Room’ programme in 2007 called ‘Bouys Before Shore’, by Erwin van Asbeck and Charlotte Fisher (as seen in The Aucklander Central, 23/05/07). They have protested about what appears to be their idea reused with out reference (see in the NZ Herald, Thurs Aug 11).
There was something wonderfully sculptural about the old Golden Bay cement silos that remain on site, with their bright spiral stair-cases and white skirts. The playground, crawling with people on the first day, had a sea-side theme, reusing local, marine materials for a rustic play-like-it-used-to-be feel, while tying into the sustainability efforts during construction. This contrasted with the fake grass on the play hill, but the resultant dry, durable surface was sure to please parents on a grey, damp Auckland day.
The landscaping also has a creative edge; with ‘green’ drainage swales on Jelicoe Street blending with general planting, inspired by the lush forest that existed right down to the waters edge prior to human colonisation. Storm water is treated on site through a man-made wetland that runs out to the sea similar to the design at Waitangi Park in Wellington. (context from seminar by Megan Wraight of Wraight and Associates at UoA, 10th May).
Free trams on the day were popular, I chose not to queue for a ride around in a circle, but I look forward to the day when the tracks are extended along the waterfront to the transport interchange and other inner city destinations.
This piano player in the fledgling jungle was the cherry on the top for me, a place full of life, people relaxed but engaged by the gift of music, with fresh sea air, verdant growth, glowing colour, the smell of nourishing food nearby under shelter, and plenty of places to sit and be part of it.