Property editor of the NZ Herald

Auckland starts shaping aerotropolis

Dramatic gateway aims to link airport to history of Maori and European settlers

Spectacular entrance landscaping is part of a refocus of the airport's role in the region. Image / Supplied
Spectacular entrance landscaping is part of a refocus of the airport's role in the region. Image / Supplied

A big upgrade of Auckland International Airport's entranceway on George Bolt Memorial Drive has started and 9m high mounds of earth will soon be developed to create a dramatic gateway.

Peter Alexander, property general manager, said the earthworks for the landscaping project were underway at the northern area in plans designed by New Zealander and acclaimed San Francisco-based urban design adviser James Lord.

"This is to create a point of arrival because at the moment you don't really know when you've got to the airport," Alexander said.

"We really want to differentiate this place from the backs of warehouses and hotels that's occurred to the north of the airport."

The works starts at the Verisimo Drive roundabout and will finish initially at the northern edge of the airport shopping centre. But after that centre is upgraded, the new landscape pattern will continue through the shopping centre to John Goulter Drive, Alexander said.

The job is planned to be finished by October.

"Our land hasn't really been presented as a place. It's just the remnant of a farmland," Alexander said.

Over the next one to three years, the airport will also develop a new public park area featuring a major sculpture trail with local works, cycleways, a mountain bike trail, playground and playing fields.

It would also develop a second 24ha public park, about half the size of the Auckland Domain, Alexander said.

It also planned further development of its business centre to attract more commercial activity to the precinct, he said.

Ludo Campbell-Reid, Auckland Council environment strategy and policy manager, said the entranceway work would result in an "extraordinary landscape, cultural and environmental statement".

Lord had been working with the airport for some years and had travelled here quite often to give master planning and advice, he said.

"Airports, like waterfronts, are changing. They were once traditionally seen as a single gateway place, very much industrial sheds and where people just moved through with large over-sized buildings and wide roads," Campbell-Reid said.

"Planners have always struggled with airports and the focus has been to put them out in the middle of nowhere and Auckland's fathers decided that's where the airport should be," he said.

Airports were changing, with less noise due to changing engine technology, Campbell-Reid said.

"People's needs are changing too, as there's so many more people coming through airports," he said.

"The airport has looked at its role in the city and seen where it fits into the Auckland Plan and the two big ideas for the region are that The Southern Initiative and the City Centre Initiative are the two big economic transformation areas.

"The southern area is of such importance to the council that it has its own transformation initiative."

Changing the entry area was a local example of bigger plans by the airport management team who realised the airport needed to be a destination in its own right, Campbell-Reid said.

Alexander said the airport had a workforce of 12,000 people and had approved $225 million of development work in the last four years, including work completed, under construction and committed to.

This month the airport announced expansion and refurbishment of the airport shopping centre, on George Bolt Memorial Drive north of the terminals.

Alexander said future-looking airports were embracing the aerotropolis concept as major transportation hubs became urban growth areas with a significant impact on the wider economy.

Lord said the roadways would stay exactly the same but landscape parkways will connect an original waka landing site, Oruarangi Creek, with the planned new northern runway.

"So the backyard becomes the front yard and the new landscape avenues in the business park will visually connect with the waterways with the new runway," Lord said.

The 9m high mounds will be about 100m long and refer to Maori stonefields, he said.

"When the iwi arrived, they created the stonefields for their tropical fruit and kumera so their way of survival was to shape the land and line it with rock which heated up. At night the radiant heat kept the plants alive. These mounds recall the stonefields," Lord said.

"But running with that is when Europeans arrived, rather than shaping the earth we planted hedge rows and that was our way of creating the kind of environment we needed for the food that would sustain us so the new design is referring to both group's approach and makes a beautiful language of the landscape of New Zealand," he said.

"So we're using existing roadways and almost creating these axis off the curves with a double row of poplars which will grow very tall and frame the view and the earthforms will create the hugging or welcoming gesture." New hedging will be native plants and all the lawns now alongside George Bolt Memorial would be removed to create the new native landscape, he said.

Airport plans

•Expanding strip shopping centre.

•Redesigning northern entranceway.

•New 1.5km sculpture trail from office park to Abbeville.

•Second 24ha public park planned along Oruarangi Creek.

•Designed for bikers, walkers.

•Business centre to be expanded.

[Source: Auckland International Airport]

- NZ Herald

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