Saturday, October 03, 2009

Auckland Views: The CBD

I was in Auckland’s CBD (Central Business District) recently, so I snapped a few photos. In my early days in New Zealand, I became the most familiar with this area of the city because I often I walked through it catch buses or to meet Nigel.

One of the first things I noticed was the diagonal crossing, often called a “Barnes Dance” after Henry Barnes, the first person to use it on a large scale. I’d never seen such an intersection before, and there are several along Queen Street.

Some people call them a “pedestrian scramble” as all traffic is stopped so pedestrians can cross in any direction, including diagonally. Despite what its critics say, it’s actually a pretty efficient way to handle large numbers of pedestrians and vehicles.

The photo above shows the “Barnes Dance” waning at the intersection of Queen and Wellesley Streets, with the Civic Theatre in the background. Built as a movie palace, the Civic was completely refurbished and reopened on December 20, 1999, the 70th anniversary of its first live performance. Its interior has the same charm and magic as other movie palaces of that era.

The Civic is part of an area known as “The Edge”, an entertainment district in the heart of Auckland. Part of that is Aotea Square, which is currently undergoing major changes and repairs.

Awhile back, it was discovered that there were major structural problems with the roof of the carpark underneath Aotea Square—so much so that collapse, especially in an earthquake, was possible. The solution ultimately decided upon was to reengineer the roof and carpark structure, which also meant the square could be completely re-designed.

The earth that was removed to build the carpark and square above it was dumped at a park on Basque Road in the Newton area of Auckland—not far from where I used to work. In fact, I sometimes had my lunch in the park.

The story told is that original design was faulty, with lawns and plantings planned for the square, but engineers are said to have forgotten to include the weight of water in the soil and people attending events when they designed the carpark structure underneath, meaning all that had to be removed. Instead, the square became a vast, ugly paved area on several different levels that left it rather pedestrian unfriendly.

The new designs will create a big open area pretty much all on one level, mixing paved areas and lawns. It will be able to accommodate about 20,000 people, making it a natural gathering spot for large free public or civic events.

Right now, work on the square is only about halfway through, and it’s a huge mess. The two photos below were taken looking across the square toward each other.

I’m looking forward to seeing the square finally completed. If it’s anything like the artist’s concept drawings, it should be a pretty good space.


Roger Owen Green said...

Concord, New Hampshire USA has some diagonal crossing. There are intersections in Albany, NY USA where the light is red in all directions, and while diagonal crossing is not exactly encouraged, it is certainly viable and safe.

I care more about this topic that anyone who isn't a traffic planner should.

Roger Owen Green said...

"Despite what its critics say, it’s actually a pretty efficient way to handle large numbers of pedestrians and vehicles."

Thank you for spelling both its and it's correctly, and in the same sentence!

Arthur Schenck said...

I wondered if I should worry about you and your interest in diagonal crossing. Instead, I see your interest and raise you one obsession:

Over the years, I've been the self-appointed head of the apostrophe posse at various jobs I've held, fighting to prevent unintended possessives or plurals hiding their possession. It was mostly a losing war. But the difference between "it's" and "its" was my one non-negotiable thing. So it always makes me gasp those rare times when, because of fatigue, inattention or sheer laziness, I get it wrong. Fortunately, this wasn't one of those times!

Which means that, in all seriousness, your comment about getting the two right pleased me more than many other positive comments I've had over the years. It's not called "obsession" for nothing, after all…