Thursday, 1 July 2010

Would-be Queens Wharf architects would throw their toys over two sheds [updated]

Shed01 It’s amusing to hear that twenty-one Auckland architects have signed a letter protesting the demolition of the Queens Wharf cargo sheds, otherwise known as eyesores in the face of one of the world’s great harbours.

It’s amusing for one reason, because they say these eyesores are in fact “among the few good examples of early industrial architecture left in Auckland.”  They call them “noble,” without any hint of a wink. That’s highly amusing.

And it’s amusing for another reason because of the eight architects listed by the Herald as having signed the letter, at least four of them sent designs into the original Queens Wharf ‘Party Central’ competition (Gordon Moller was so excited he sent in two entries), at least three were slated to be part of the second stage once the competition winners were thrown out, and at least two were seriously upset to later get canned.

Not one of them, at any stage, in any of their designs, retained the sheds.

Yet now they’re all bemoaning their demolition.

Can anyone spell “sour grapes”?

Or is this just twenty-one under-employed architects saying a very loud “Gizza job.”

PS: For your homework, a) see if you can spot how many on the list are or have been part of Auckland City Council’s “Urban Design Panel,” who have total subjective say-so over so much of Auckland’s architecture, with complete veto powers over your next project; and b) what their aesthetic judgement about these sheds says about their qualification for such a position?

Shed02 PPS: “I’m fed up with the bloody sheds… Forget about the sheds, they don’t matter.”

UPDATE: AUT historian Paul Moon, for whom I have increasing respect, argues in the Weekend Herald that we should shed no tears over those eyesores.

_Quote Their aesthetic value, even if they were restored to pristine condition, would be negligible, except for those with very fanciful imaginations… The fact is that the sheds on the Wharf were designed purely for functional reasons, in an age where aesthetic appeal in industrial buildings was considered even less important than it is now. To elevate them to anything even resembling architectural merit is disingenuous…
   “… it is surely a fallacy that just because something is (relatively) old, it therefore deserves a protective case placed over it so that it can be preserved in perpetuity. And all the time that the space is being held hostage by these grim buildings, the opportunity for our present generation of architects to shine by designing something genuinely inspirational on Queen's Wharf is kept out of reach.
    “That, surely, is the bigger architectural offence.”


  1. This is actually about more than re-use of adapted sheds.

    And they can work well - as per Wellington / Sydney etc.

    But this has a hidden agenda from Mike Lee - once they're bowled, then it's easier to quietly push through a monstrous crusie terminal and cut off the wharf for secure customs areas etc.
    Keeping the sheds at least gives us a breathing space to work out what we want.

    Would you design your whole hosue for your kids 21st? why allow the RWC/party central to have any long term impact? the sheds may go later - or maybe one would stay. But that debate should be on it's own merits not a rush for a party central - ie is it a park? / art gallery/ theatre / cafes/bars - a mixture - wouldn't you want to decide that before clearing the section?

  2. So they should be used for cruise ships. That’s what wharfs are for.
    They are not for Sunday afternoon walks.

  3. Well, paint me multi-coloured and call me Cubist, because I see both sides of this issue right now.

    I'll qualify the following by saying I don't really know the buildings in question beyond the images and links here. They are prosaic and simple - honest waterfront sheds.

    What is 'noble' in this context? Few buildings communicate their function and use as effectively as a waterfront shed - Wellington's numbered sheds have been used for alternative purposes for years and form an important part of the harbourfront identity. The architectural language, simple though it is, gives a sense of place to the harbour.

    Conversely, the buildings look a bit shit and run-down. At the end of the day, the 'heritage' value of this sort of building - a pragmatic archetype - has to be balanced against the function it provides. I'm not convinced from anything I've read that the sheds transcend being simply good examples of typical, monolithic industrial waterfront architecture.

    Interesting to me because I recently finished work on a very similar project here in Sweden - two brothers converted a waterfront warehouse into a restaurant which subsequently got burned down, and the project was to build up a larger restaurant/bar complex which respected the surrounding architecture - consisting solely of large, waterfront sheds. It was a lot more fun that it sounds.


  4. the drunken watchman3 Jul 2010, 04:07:00

    "who have total subjective say so..."

    subjective? ouch!

  5. I have a hard job making a decision on this one.

    Just because they are old doesnt mean they should be pulled down.

    HOWEVER - why pull down a temporary structure (albeit Old) to replace it with a NEW temporary structure?

    After all they only want to use them for people to get pissed in - what difference will it make to a half-drunk welshman or Australian if they are getting pissed in a bright shiny new temporary building or a quaint rustic one?

    PC is quite correct that they were built as strictly functional, with no architectural merit, however TIME has given those hand-rivetted steel beams and massive old timbers an appeal that cannot be replicated, so they should certainly not be destroyed - how about re-located? (if that is possible)

    It is a terrible waste of the most valuable piece of land in the country - could one of them not be incorporated into the landscaping as a supplementary venue to a nice modern structure -highlighting the old and the new?

    I would love us to have an iconic structure like the Sydney Opera house but I still have a soft spot for old and rustic which is our history


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