Meet Auckland's design champion
Ludo Campbell-Reid is general manager of Auckland Council’s Design Office - a multi-disciplinary department of architects, urban designers, landscape architects, urban planners and place activation professionals with overall responsibility for spearheading the city’s design-led urban renaissance. He’s also a founding trustee of Sea Cleaners Charitable Trust (NZ) and former chair of the London Authorities Urban Design Forum. LAA asked him about his vision for Auckland.
LAA: Your work signature has you as "Design Champion for Auckland". What does that actually mean?
LCR : I was once described by Paperboy magazine as “Planner, Preacher, snake oil peddler”. Not sure about that one but in essence being a design champion for Auckland is about being a public advocate for a better designed city where I initiate, champion and help deliver projects, plans and policies that lead us towards the vision. Many say I’m a tall poppy and that is good because we need more tall poppies in Auckland. But ultimately my role is to lead a team that is spearheading the urban transformation of Auckland and to work across the sectors and professions to achieve this. Due to my public profile I am afforded the opportunity to speak out against bad design as I did on projects like the “Alien” tower in the Britomart Heritage Precinct.
LAA: What is your vision for Auckland?
LCR: Well the Mayor’s vision for Auckland is to be a world class city where talent and enterprise can thrive. Our urban design vision underpins that. But it’s primarily about a design-led city where pedestrians are king and Public Transport options are abundant. If you have great walkability then you have a prosperous, thriving, inclusive city. Without it you have an auto dependent nightmare. You have Auckland : the city of cars.
LAA: How far away are we from that?
LCR: It depends what you mean because for different parts of the region there will be a staggered achievement of this plan. In downtown Auckland, our city centre, I believe will realise this vision within 10 years. The last 10 years has been completely transformative in the downtown. The challenge now is to deploy the design led city thinking into the regions so that everyone benefits. Already massive strides are being made in PT patronage across the region. There’s been a 2500% lift in rail patronage since 1994 for instance. You can also see the urban renaissance that is happening in New Lynn, Takapuna, Hobsonville, Onehunga and Manukau.
LAA: What's holding Auckland back as a city?
LCR: Three things:
● A world class public transport system
● Money (but the recent ATAP funding of $28B is one of the most important announcements in recent decades). It changes everything.
● Attitude: The fear of change and our own glass ceiling: everyone it seems wants progress but no-one wants change when it affects them. I have often thought that built environment practitioners should be psychologists first as with cities we are dealing with people so urban transformation is really about behaviour change .
LAA: What role do landscape architects play in your vision?
LCR: Absolutely central. They are in fact the predominant skill set in my ADO. I often joke that we should have less, just to wind the team up.
LAA: Some officials think having a landscape architect involved in a project is a luxury - what's your thinking?
LCR: They must be in the thinking up front.
LAA: What makes a successful design project?
LCR: A great brief. The key question is knowing what the problem you are trying to solve is.
LAA: Is there a city you think we should model ourselves on?
LCR: Not one city in particular but steal the best ideas from the best: Melbourne, Barcelona, Helsinki, Bilbao, Seoul, and Singapore and some incredible cities not known by many of us such as Medellin.
LAA: What do you think Auckland will look like in 10 years?
LCR: In 10 years? The same but it will feel busier, more vibrant. There will be more choices: housing, amenities, transport and produce. In 20 years I hope to see another million people in Auckland. This will start to make the city feel and look very different with medium density mixed use corridors and tree lined boulevards springing up all over the city underpinned by a world class transport system with activities such as biking as simply an everyday thing to do rather than an adventure sport.