Saturday, October 01, 2005

Why is Auckland without any soul?

The Brit may be an award-winning building but does it have a soul?
In practice, it seems such a sad souless metaphor for all that is wrong with Auckland. It has no life and you get the impression no fun is allowed.
On the Queen St level, there are few armchairs and seats that resemble the nice well-polished furniture at your Grandma's place that you feel are there to be admired and not actually sat on. Last time I sat on one of those chairs, a security guard kept glaring at me as if I was breaking some Britomart statute. I was busy fishing in my backpack for something. I wished I could have satisfied his intolerant attitude by eventually pulling out a bomb.
The Atomic coffee shop has such friendly staff but the place is pushed right at the back away from obvious view - you have to know it's there. There is no cafe ambience and the unimaginative design resembles your local tacky suburban bakery. Why isn't the coffee shop in the centre of the floor, as it is in some shopping mall floors, so you at least have to walk around it and there are people talking, having coffee, smiling.
No doubt the authorities hired some expensive interior design company to create this space that is on a par with the other top soulless spots in Auckland - the horrible concrete Aotea square, or the concrete open spaces along the Viaduct where I saw some poor kid on school holidays the other day trying to kick a ball outside his parents´┐Ż Viaduct apartment. Let's hope for his knees' sake, he didn't fall over.
The planners may like concrete minimalism but where is the human interaction.
I was staggered to discover the other day what was going on in the empty ticket booth at the end of the floor, away from the real ticket booth and in the end where no-one seems to walk (people turn left not right when they come off the escalator to exit the building so miss the coffee shop end) . An artist was painting in the tiny space behind the booth.
Apparently this is Britomart's third and final artist-in-residence for 2005. Where were the other two? How come I missed this as well? This artist has been painting pictures of people passing through the Brit. I guarantee 99% of people passing through the train terminal would never have known of his existence. Where were the big signs inviting us to see him paint or view his work? Why not have him in the middle of the floor so he himself feels part of the surroundings, not holed up behind a ticket booth.
It is all very bizarre and extremely sad.
Mayor Hubbard is this week calling for Auckland to start getting behind some events so Auckland can come alive. This morning's Wellington Dominion has a mocking editorial .
"Now all Mr Hubbard has to do is find the heart of his city so he knows where to stage these events. Is it the wind tunnel at the bottom of Queen St? Is it the overpriced shopping parade in Newmarket, the effete boutiques of Parnell, or is it actually in neighbouring Manukau City where residents are still occasionally glimpsed without cellphones glued to their ears? Assuming Mr Hubbard can find a beating heart to his city, the next challenge will be finding something to stage there..."
Painfully true. So why not start with the Brit. I'm amazed how many Aucklanders tell me they have never even set foot in the building. Let's bring it to life, have some fun going on, literally re-arrange the furniture, put coffee shops and people-friendly places where you trip over then, encourage buskers,stop having security guards stare you down as if you are going to do some banned activity like smile.
Just why is Auckland so soulless? Has it always been this way?
On the iPod: Reggae Got soul- Toots

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Blogger concerned_citizen said...

Lack of good public transport is one of the reasons that Auckland has no soul. The litmus test of a good city is when EVERYONE can get around cheaply. Kids, adults, the old, the young, and the rich and the poor.

I completely agree with your comments about Britomart. It's a fantastic building but it just doesn't have enough people going through it.

There's just no sense of a grand strategic plan for Auckland.


11:04 AM  

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