The NZTA have proposed options for redeveloping the roading of the Basin Reserve. But these are not really options. They are two schemes for flyovers which have very little difference. We believe that the scheme/s proposed by NZTA exclude the public from making a real choice.
Currently the Basin is a mess. From a multi-modal perspective (pedestrian, cyclist, car) the Basin is not a safe place. Aesthetically it is a dog. The inward facing cricket ground alienates its surroundings. Recent building has reneged on its public responsibilities, creating some of the worst public street faces of architecture in Wellington.
We have no doubt that something needs to be done, but the choices to be made are at least on two levels.
1) Should the remediation work to improve the urban design of the Basin assume traffic levels will increase or not? and how should it respond to consequent changes in local conditions? Data from the NZTA website suggest traffic levels have been plateauing for quite some time.
2) Should the remediation work use a tunnel or a flyover?
We think grade separation is critical to ensure better safety to all road users, and to help achieve speed consistency of motor vehicles, which will reduce emissions and noise pollution. Both tunnels and flyovers have their problems for designers. The scale of such infrastructure must respect the scale of the urban or suburban fabric it sits within. Both can cause issues of severance or undesirable residual spaces. We recognise that the NZTA images of the flyovers presented to the public do not reflect the potential design quality of the flyover structures, as these are yet to be properly designed.
Both flyovers and tunnel entrances can be poetic, elegant, and inspiring design. Both will cost money to get the design right, and to guarantee that Wellingtonians end up with a Basin Reserve that we are proud of.
Option X (diagram: updated 23 July)
Option X (perspective from the North East)
This means that debate about the possible urban environments which might result from a rethinking of the Basin must happen. Option X introduces a new way of thinking about the Basin, and new ideas to enter into the debate.
Tunnel section (detail)
Option X is a cut and cover tunnel from Sussex St to Taranaki St in combination with traffic design innovations previously used in the redesign of Trafaglar Square. It minimises intersections, and potential traffic collisions. Option X also emphasises meaningful green connections from Memorial Park, through to the Basin Reserve, and across to Government House, and neighbouring school precincts.
Aerial view from the North-West
Option X encourages the Basin to become open to a broader range of recreational uses. The removal of fences (except for the Heritage Gates), for example, would better aid pedestrian movement across the precinct (Temporary fencing can be erected for the few days a year when test cricket is on). Removing the south-east quadrant of roading secures a meaningful link between the Basin and Government House Reserve. Such a connection also provides a more elegant forecourt to both the schools in the south-east corner, and to Government House, a reminder that Wellington is a capital city, and needs to celebrate this national significance in areas in addition to the Parliamentry precinct. The grounds of Government House are on occasion open to the public. Redesigning the Basin could assist with extending public access through these grounds, and further increasing green linkages through this part of the city.
Memorial Park (Option X)
Memorial Park (NZTA)
The advantage of a tunnel is that it provides a respective space for Memorial Park, the Carillon and the Tomb to the Unknown Warrior. The alternative of traffic noise and severed space is not a pretty one.
This proposal also advocates for Memorial Park to be extended beyond Tory St to the Basin as an active park – not simply passive green grass – but one where its edges are defined by small businesses and cafes, connecting the Basin to the commerce of Tory St. This is important as an empty space is a dead space. We want to respect our war dead, but we don’t want them to be completely removed from, and forgotten by, contemporary life. For the Basin to work we need memorial space and additional reasons for people to come through this area. Such a park extension would be designed to support a diverse range of activities, with structures such as wind and sun shades, and basketball courts. Built structures (including small businesses and cafes on the edge of the park) could also support the scale and size of the John Swan-designed Compassion creche, which historically was part of a dense built environment on its western flanks, rather than being sadly isolated as it remains today on Buckle St – woefully stranded at the edge of the Basin.
The Basin is the gateway to Adelaide Rd, an area which has been identified as a growth node and appropriate for revitalisation and medium density mixed use development. The provision of appropriate transport infrastructure will be critical.
Option X designates an uninterrupted public transport corridor for buses or light rail. Overseas examples demonstrate how roads can be designed to accommodate space for passengers to safely alight from whatever public transport option we choose in the future.
Wellington needs the Basin Reserve to function better across a complex range of needs. The discussion we have today will determine how well the Basin meets these demands well into the future. Option X means that a real discussion can take place.