Cut and Cover

Monday, March 15th, 2010

In a surprise move, the possibility of lowering State Highway One past the National War Memorial was announced on the front page of the weekend paper. At the Architectural Centre, we have been advocating this for a number of years now – we hosted a Symposium on the design of the ‘Memorial Park’ in 2007, and the over-whelming feedback from the group of assembled experts was that the roadway through the park should be lowered. In our feedback to the City on the Ngauranga to Airport study, we also noted that the Memorial Park should be lowered. Recently, during the vision for Wellington in 2040, we again pressed for the roadway to be lowered, to give the Memorial due respect and space. We’re very pleased that this is now, at last, being addressed with the respect it is due.

The present strip of pseudo motorway that sidles past the base of the National War Memorial, and incorporates two or more steeply climbing driveways up to the front of the old Museum building (now Massey University), is not so much a National shame, but very much a National lost opportunity. The Carillon, sitting high behind the War Memorial, is visible from wide and varied vantage points, but is presently visible only fleetingly from the windows of passing cars. The noise and smell of the traffic is however highly prominent to visitors at the Memorial, and takes away from the solemnity and the respect that a National Memorial should engender. In creating a lowered roadway for the vehicular traffic, enabling the War Memorial to sit better in a park-like setting and to connect out over the roadway to the city on the other side of the park, there will be improvements for all concerned.

Cars will be able to continue past the Memorial without stopping – it is State Highway One, after all, and any stoppage on our State Highways is normally costed in millions of dollars in lost time. Pedestrians walking both north and south in the city will also be able to cross more safely, connecting Massey University and the Mount Cook community to the Mount Cook School, currently isolated on the ‘wrong’ side of the highway. Cyclists will, we hope, be catered for somewhere, although the need for cyclists to ever head towards the motorway onramp that is the Inner City Bypass is highly questionable.

But most of all, the best part of this proposal is for the people of New Zealand. No longer will the Memorial be crammed in by non-stop lines of heaving, dangerously flowing traffic. No longer will the noise and pollution of the cars despoil what should be a revered and respected place. Yes, there will be associated costs, but these should be viewed as only fair and reasonable – this cut and cover under-grounding of the roadway is what should happen, and should always have been proposed. As large projects go, this is one of the simplest operations that could be done. The adjacent roadway is already clear of buildings. The contours of the site are admirable, especially if the roadway goes underneath Tory St, as it should do. The site can be carefully examined for archaeological remains, and then excavated without any delays to traffic.

The only thing remaining then, will be to integrate the new traffic scheme of the Basin Reserve back into the newly leveled roadway. We’re hoping that the NZTA will have taken that on board already: their proposal is due out to the public for consultation today. Our alternative scheme is also nearly ready to unveil.

The park can then be landscaped back over the top of the cut and cover trench, and for once, Wellington will have a Memorial Park worthy of its name.


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One Response to “Cut and Cover”

  1. dennis Says:

    In her presentation to the NZIA AGM last night, Jan McCredie was keen to note that, if we were in France we would post the urban design mistake that is the blockage of the northern end of Kent and Cambridge, as a mistake to be learned from and not repeated. Let’s hope this can happen and we avoid putting something across the southern end and ruin one of the most special Victorian urban spaces in Wellington.

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