Architecture of the Basin

The Architectural Centre, having just put in a submission on the future of Wellington in the year 2040, where we had the pleasure of looking at the city as a whole, are of the opinion that in 30 years time the city will be very different from what we have now. Traffic needs of the city, currently throttling it to death in various places, need to be reassessed – and with a free mind.

Things like the Basin Reserve for instance, may not need to be continuously ringed with roads for traffic. Indeed, we are most concerned that the Basin Reserve is currently reserved mainly for use as a giant traffic roundabout – there are better uses for a Basin than that, and there are certainly better roundabouts. But what if the traffic was to go elsewere? While the traffic planners at Opus and the NZTA are crying “OverPass”, what if the traffic was to go in a tunnel?

Like just about any idea in the world, someone else has thought of it all before. The picture above, by G E Humphries in 1907 “Basin Reserve Improvement Scheme Shewing Level Raised to Allow a SubWay beneath – Providing for Markets, Stores, GrandStand, Pavilion, Miniature Shooting Gallery etc” has thoughtfully allowed a railway system chugging along beneath the Reserve, and of course the current traffic overpass had not been thought of at that stage. There are a few differences from today’s reality – the grandstand is on the other side of the Reserve, the memorial to Wakefield (the little domed structure erected at great expense by the people of Wellington over 100 years ago) is on Buckle St, and the Mt Vic tunnel has not yet been bored through the mountain. (Published in Basin Reserve by Don Neely and Joseph Romanos, pub Canterbury University Press 2003).

But overall, it is still trying to do the sort of thing we are doing now in an effort to solve its basic dilemma: a North-South local flow vs an East-West flow, and how to avoid a clash. There have been other suggestions: only a few decades ago, this was the proposal: bugger the Basin Reserve and put a large chunk of cloverleaf there instead:

I think we can collectively say that we are very glad that particular scheme didn’t go ahead now! The Basin Reserve is effectively ruined for all time. Or are there people out there that still think this is a good idea?

In case you’re living under a rock and haven’t seen the paper over the last few days, the NZ Government Transport agency, known as NZTA, is proposing once more something along the lines of this – or at least a fair chunk of it. The cloverleaf style overpass has not been included – indeed, nothing has been shown to the Wellington public yet, although a number of possible schemes already exist. Some people are very unhappy about the proposals, like Save the Basin, an offshoot from the Mt Victoria Residents Association. Meanwhile, the agency’s Wellington state highways manager, Rob Whight, said the project team was still working on developing plans for north of the cricket ground but public consultation on options was expected to be asked for by the end of February.

“We appreciate there is significant interest in the Basin Reserve improvements [but we] ask them to be patient while we prepare well considered improvement concepts to seek their feedback on.”

We’re glad they’re preparing well-considered improvement concepts – and wonder whether they would like to consider some more while they’re there?

These underground tunnels depicted here are one way, and should be looked at pronto, we believe. And there are other ways as well, as the Eye of the Fish has helpfully pointed out in one of its brilliant, if smart alec postings….


11 responses to “Architecture of the Basin”

  1. Fantastic! I didn’t know that existed. Good find! and thanks for the links – even if you think they are smart alec at times….

  2. Pictures are a bit wonky – sorry – but if you click on them then you can see the full size….

  3. Quizmaster Avatar

    You have to ask yourself if NZTA are really serious about exploring options with their plans announced so far for the “improvements” to the Basin traffic.

    By options I would be thinking of: one overground version, one underground version, one that resolves things at ground level by thinking differently, and one that looks at ways to cut car traffic and boost public transport instead. I look forward to public consultation at that level.

    But I fear that perhaps NZTA are thinking more on the lines of one with starburst patterns in the concrete, one with pohutukawa patterns, and one that’s cheaper cos it’s all flat.

    I pray that I will be proved wrong.

  4. It’s a great idea, but the words on the drawing are almost impossible to read. Is there a higher-resolution version?

  5. Lindsay, thanks for your comment. The original was sent to the WCC as part of the 2040 submission. We did photograph it before it was submitted, but the drawing was too big for the scanner. I may be able to post some enlarged areas. Any particular part you want to see ?

  6. katherine Avatar

    Hope the WCC takes notice of this. As a parent of a child who attends St Marks I am very interested in anything that makes the Basin Reserve safer. It is awful and the supermarket planned is likely to make it worse.

  7. Trish Janes Avatar
    Trish Janes

    Unfortunately NZTA has made it clear that they are not interested in receiving ideas from the public. A design competition followed by a workshop where a engineers explained why rejected proposals fell short for technical or cost reasons would have been a simple way of opening a dialogue and earning public support for the final proposal. There was a workshop between Transit/NZTA, WCC & WRC in 2008 behind closed doors – even the identified options are still secret. So now we have a “government knows best” approach because all the good ideas reside in NZTA.

    I will bet your suggestion never made it to the team working on the project. Nor the suggestion that the caryard should be bought and converted to a bus stop and dropoff for the school kids, exiting onto Adelaide Rd, so the current bottleneck outside the schools can be removed to allow traffic to flow freely without the need for a flyover.

  8. It’s quite nice to see that a few people have picked up on this at last. Scoop has a posting about this, as does the Eye of the Fish, and even the Save the Basin group too. Now Capital Times have written an article. Links below:

    Our comments on the Save the Basin website explain what we are trying to achieve here:
    Yes, we put this scheme out as a vision to try and help NZTA understand that there are other ways of tackling this problem, rather than just build bridges. Its a bit hard to see from the picture, but we’ve done a few things, such as:
    1 – make the road go around only 2-3 sides of the Basin, not all 4 sides. Very simply: this will actually speed up traffic, without doing anything else (judging by the results from the Trafalgar Square traffic replan in London, where they stopped off one side – reduced the amount of intersections, and so sped up the traffic flow.

    2 – lowered the ground level of the roadway around the rear of the grandstand / near the motels / student flats. A cut and cover operation, to lower the speeding traffic into a ditch. Result: a lot more peaceful for many residents, and more green space.

    3 – put the new Mt Vic tunnel underneath the old Mt Vic tunnel, not side by side. So then it doesn’t need an overpass. If they built the new tunnel big enough, they could just convert the old tunnel to pedestrians and cyclists. Wouldn’t that be nice?

    4 – Connected it all up from the Governor Generals house across to the Memorial Park, so that all the school children and all the university students and all the members of the public could walk from one side to another without fear of getting run over, without smelling car exhausts, in a park like setting. How good is that?

    Yes, we know that some of these ideas may be a bit hard for traditional roading lobbyists to grasp, but what NZTA need to realise is that there are other ways to do things without alienating massive amounts of the public. We’re hoping they have an open mind.


    Guy Marriage
    for The Architectural Centre.
    (established 1946, and still going strong…)

  9. Perhaps The Basin could be raised?
    Tunnel only half the required depth at ground level. Structural supports at present ground level to hold up a new Basin.

  10. K H : we’ve got a cunning plan. It will be unveiled in a week or two…

  11. Apparently the Basin was nearly bisected by an at-garde road between Kent?Cambridge and Adelaide Road around 1900:

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