Award for Auckland's City Rail Link

New Zealand’s largest transport construction project, Auckland’s City Rail Link (CRL) has been judged the leader in delivering sustainable infrastructure. It recently won the 2018 Deloitte Energy Excellence Award Large Energy User Initiative of the Year.  The award is for outstanding energy-related initiatives that have delivered significant benefits, carried out by large energy users.

The CRL is a 3.45km twin-tunnel underground rail link up to 42 metres below Auckland city centre transforming the downtown Britomart Transport Centre into a two-way through-station that better connects the Auckland rail network.

The project has established a carbon foot printing programme on its first two contract packages to identify opportunities and actions for reducing energy emissions. City Rail Link Limited has been working in collaboration with its construction partners Downer NZ and Soletanche Bachy JV and Connectus (McConnell Dowell and Downer JV) to deliver significant carbon savings.

 An elevated view looking south towards the city. A large art work/cultural marker is proposed at the northern end of the plaza.

An elevated view looking south towards the city. A large art work/cultural marker is proposed at the northern end of the plaza.

From replacing diesel generators with grid-connected transformers, to training haulage drivers in fuel-efficient techniques, CRL’s initiatives are expected to reduce energy emissions by over 2,000 tonnes – a 29% reduction. The  project is on target to achieve its goals, while also reducing costs and saving time.

CRL’s CEO, Dr Sean Sweeney, says sustainability is a cornerstone of CRL thinking where the aim of everyone involved is to build the project without using unnecessary resources.

“The CRL will ultimately deliver a sustainable transport option and we want to make sure we are sustainable during its delivery. Our sustainability story also includes social outcome initiatives like providing employment and training opportunities for young people not already in jobs and addressing the construction skill shortage.”

 View south towards Commercial Bay – The abstract expression of the waves of the Waitematā wash over the northern extent of the plaza.

View south towards Commercial Bay – The abstract expression of the waves of the Waitematā wash over the northern extent of the plaza.

Jointly funded by the Government and Auckland Council, the CRL is on track to be completed in 2024.

Landscape Architecture Aotearoa put some questions to Simon Lough from City Rail Link Limited, and Evan Williams, the C1 and C2 Urban Realm Design Lead, who works for Jasmax.

What's your project brief?

Jasmax are members of a Professional Technical Advisor team (PTA) including Aurecon; Mott Macdonald and ARUP working towards delivering the City Rail Link (CRL) in central Auckland. Jasmax’s integrated design team of landscape architects, urban designers and architects are leading the design and delivery of the early works Contracts C1 and C2, which includes the Britomart Station surrounds and Lower Albert Street. The team has also prepared a Reference Design for C3 contract works, which encompasses the remainder of the public realm within the CRL projects planning designation. Due to the range of spaces and varying requirements the focus of this Q&A will address Queen Street and the Britomart Station surrounds.

We were commissioned to develop the design for the urban realm, which has been developed in partnership with Mana Whenua representatives and key stakeholders from Auckland Council and Auckland Transport. The Auckland City Centre Masterplan (CCMP), the DownTown Framework Plan and the Te Aranga Design Principles provided the basis for which the designs were developed.

 View north towards Queens Wharf – The abstract expression of the Waihorotiu stream meanders through the southern extent of the plaza.

View north towards Queens Wharf – The abstract expression of the Waihorotiu stream meanders through the southern extent of the plaza.

What are its key aims and drivers?

The city’s brief for Queen Street was to create a cultural and civic heart, an arrival space that integrates with, and enhances, the public transport hub.

 The network-wide strategy aligns closely with the CCMP’s vision for a city centre that is:

●      More family friendly

●      More pedestrian friendly

●      More environmentally friendly.

 The transformation of Lower Queen Street into one of Auckland’s premier public spaces was driven by the need for:

●      A cultural heart – a place that has a distinctive character reflective of New Zealand’s unique cultural history.

●      A civic heart – an open gathering space for celebration, formality, events, ceremony and demonstration.

●      An arrival space – the harbour gateway to the city and a place for visitors to be welcomed.

●      A public transport heart – a movement space where people come together and walk, cycle and use buses, trains and ferries.

 An elevated view looking north towards Queens Wharf.

An elevated view looking north towards Queens Wharf.

 What's your narrative?

The Britomart site is a gateway to millions of passengers and tens of thousands of visitors every year. It sits on reclaimed land in the bay beyond the historic shoreline where the Waihorotiu stream meets the Waitemata harbour. The site has been a place of gathering and trading, and traditionally was a place of foraging for seafood. 

 The whakapapa and mahi toi associated with the location became a key driver of the visual expression of the space. Manaakitanga (hospitality) is integrated through the creation of Auckland’s atea in the centre of the space. A whāriki design demarcates the extent of the atea that conceptually floats over the merging of the Waitemata with the Waihorotiu stream as a symbol of unity.

 Where did you draw your inspiration from?

A cultural masterplan was developed that identified places of significance from both a geographical and cultural perspective. The inspiration for the design was drawn from the many and varying discussions with mana whenua at weekly hui. The visual language seeks to bring together contemporary design vernacular with traditional aspects of Maori design. The stream and wave patterns, for example, are created through abstract use of paving coursing design with the whāriki pattern co-designed by mana whenua weavers.

 What will set its design philosophy apart?

The design partnership established by CRLL has created an example of how clients and designers can work together with mana whenua and key stakeholders to create integrated design solutions that are unique to Auckland and New Zealand. Auckland City is currently embarking on an ambitious programme of works ahead of APEC and the America’s Cup, with many of the processes and relationships established by CRLL being carried forward. Over time, we are confident that collectively we can continue to build on what we have achieved to improve our processes and working relationships and ultimately helping to realise the city’s ambition of moving from ‘Auckland to Tāmaki Makau Rau’.

 What challenges do you have to overcome with a project like this?

Working within the central city has many varying challenges ranging from competing stakeholder interests to technical challenges associated with the urban environment. 

Including but not limited to:

●      Multiple demands on this very popular space.

●      Creating something new, with the elusive wow factor in design terms, that is site specific, that can be culturally engaging and can be managed to enable the desired functional programming required while looking good now and into the future.

●      Delivers on the expectations of mana whenua so that the narratives they have agreed are evident and powerfully expressed within a limited scope of materials and the wider scope of expected uses. 

●      The location of the site on reclaimed land has unique stormwater requirements due to the proximity to the harbour and low-lying nature in relation to the wider city centre. With the real threat of more regular inundation from the sea and larger stormwater events careful planning was required to protect some of New Zealand’s most valuable land and properties from flooding.

 How are you overcoming them?

The success of a project hinges on teamwork and a commitment to delivering outcomes that all Aucklanders can be proud of. Being able to listen, interpret varying requirements, stakeholder inputs and prepare design and technical responses that seamlessly integrate solutions was a focus for our team.

 Outline the benefits of this project?

The CRL has created a once in our lifetime opportunity to transform Auckland into a city for future generations. Areas that were once dominated by cars and buses will be transformed into unique, high-quality spaces that will accommodate the increasing number of pedestrians. The design strategies and processes developed in partnership with mana whenua will be physically represented through the new public spaces created. And the successful working partnerships that have come out of this will be carried forward through future programmes of works.

 What are you proudest of with this project?

The partnership that was established by CRLL and the design team with mana whenua has resulted in a meaningful, authentic design that was a privilege to work on. The relationships and trust that were established have resulted in unique design and project outcomes that are now used as a benchmark that others are adopting for their own projects

 Where's the project at?

The design and technical documentation are complete with construction scheduled to commence in the near future.

 The waters of the Waihorotiu and Waitematā converge on the ātea which is defined by a whāriki co-designed by Mana Whenua weavers.

The waters of the Waihorotiu and Waitematā converge on the ātea which is defined by a whāriki co-designed by Mana Whenua weavers.