Student ideas on developing Onehunga's waterfront
How will the environmental effects of climate change affect the shape of our future cities? Panuku’s (Auckland’s regeneration agency) proposed development of the Onehunga Port in Auckland, proved a great opportunity for a joint Unitec landscape architecture and architecture studio project to explore this issue. Deborah lee Sang and Niko Elsen from Panuku were keen to work with Unitec to understand if waterfront development was still a viable option given the threat of sea level rise and pluvial flooding.
Over twelve weeks, the students working in architecture/landscape discipline teams developed a range of responses to the complex issues of making an urban development resilient to the effects of climate change, ensuring a commercial return, and acknowledging manu whenua.
One group connected to the large landscape of the Onehunga foreshore by acknowledging Te Hopua, a remnant volcano that has been sadly traduced by the motorway and the filling of the crater with rubbish.
Another group observed that it was no use having a new waterfront development that was subject to the discharge of contaminated stormwater from the Onehunga township. Their project connected the new wharf development to the existing Taumanu reserve via a new coastal wetland to clean stormwater from the Onehunga township.
Another group sought design inspiration in the ‘problem’ of the site, the muddy low tide condition of the Manukau and inundation of sea level rise . These conditions were transformed from a problem into a beautiful mediation on this liminal intertidal zone, always changing, always moving.
Other groups accepted the inevitability of coastal inundation with beautifully composed transects from sea to a new building programme. These transects were modulated with terraces, pontoons and planting interlaced with a complex social programme.
We were also joined by a number of distinguished critics during the twelve weeks ; including Henry Crothers, Orson Waldock Juan Molina Jess Fraser Georgina Dean, Christina van Bohemen, Cameron Moore, Ben Taylor and Paul Murphy. All agreed that combining the architectural and landscape programmes signalled to the students the importance of collaborative design work in the urban realm.
The Onehunga waterfront is small, only 4 hectares, yet it encompass so many of the complexities that landscape architects in Aotearoa NZ are grappling with. The most obvious one is how do we build on the coastal margin in the future? This historically is the zone of human habitation. Does our traditional urban response work anymore? Or, as the students demonstrated, is a landscape-based response now needed.
As this change in the urban development model becomes a necessity the design disciplines will have to collaborate more closely. This studio gave students a chance to learn about each others disciplines and helped them to understand how to expand the existing boundaries of their practice.