My Auckland: The Viaduct

By Elisabeth Easther

Central Auckland's recent rejuvenation has meant harbourside-dweller Tim Hooson is getting even more out of the city he loves, as he tells Elisabeth Easther.

Tim Hooson down at Auckland's Viaduct. Photo / Dean Purcell
Tim Hooson down at Auckland's Viaduct. Photo / Dean Purcell

My wife and I are devout city centre dwellers and have been for the past 30 years. Since we returned to New Zealand in 1993 we've never lived further than about three to four kilometres from the CBD, and for the past four years we've been living at the Viaduct, on the water's edge, at boat level. We bought two small apartments and made them into one, which I designed, and it's a wonderful place to live. Because we don't have children, in some ways perhaps that has given us the liberty to live in these kinds of environments. Although interestingly, one of the key things we've learned about the CBD is there's a newfound waterfront energy for families that we'd not seen in the past, which is particularly exciting and bodes very well for the future.

North Wharf is a real breakthrough for Auckland. I love wandering round that area, watching visitors, particularly kids, having their fun. Those large timber seating platforms are great, as are the speaking funnels where you can shout down one and the noise comes out another. The Wind Tree sculpture (by Michio Ihara) has brought real life and excitement to the area, as have the outdoor movies at Silo Park.

During the week, it's quite a different place from the weekends. We often take a morning walk down there, and do a little exercise. There's a bit of a secret club of people running the gantry at Silo Park. When I first saw the gantry being built I struggled to understand what it was, but we've found a use for it, exercise. Because it's kind of maze-like, you can assemble your own course, down and around and all over it. It's like an adult's jungle gym.

There's a great diversity of opportunities at the water's edge and having the city and the water combined is fantastic. Auckland is blessed in that respect, and there's such easy access to our newfound cultural energy.

I love Q Theatre and the diversity of the performances they put on there, it holds a real warm spot in my heart. And the Auckland Art Gallery is such a good venue, architecturally, the way it relates to Albert Park. We were down there recently and it was just so busy and energised. We like to hunt out the Len Lye pieces, you get small crowds waiting at them for the acts of kinetic movement to happen.

The Marine Events Centre is a very successful venue, and The Cloud has made people think about what opportunities we have at our water's edge.

And then there's Britomart which is really coming of age. There's a diversity of food on offer there and the cafes we particularly love are the little French cafe, L'Assiette, Espresso Workshop, and Quay St. At those three places you get the best coffee in Auckland.

We really like the Britomart Weekend Farmers' Market where you can get very good Lebanese food and fresh vegetables and honeys. After we've been to the market we often go to Grand Harbour, we think it does the best yum cha in Auckland.

And I have to mention Motutapu and Motuhi Islands, barely 30 minutes by ferry from the CBD. Isn't it amazing that you can be this close to a major metropolis, yet see some of our rarest species up close?

I love waking up every morning and, from my pillow, I look out and see the water and the skyline of Auckland. We're half a block from the nearest road, so there is just the lovely hum of a city waking up, no vehicles and trucks rolling past.

And the water's edge - the wonderful thing is it's endlessly changing, the obvious movements of yachts coming and going, but also the water flowing in and out, and those huge steps down at North Wharf; it's a very special and soothing place.

Tim's picks

* Grand Harbour, 14-18 Pakenham St East, Auckland Central. Ph (09) 357 6889.

* Britomart Farmers' Market, Britomart Carpark, Cnr Britomart Place and Quay St. Saturdays, 8.30am-12.30pm.

* Quay St Cafe, 130 Quay St, Auckland Central, Auckland City. Ph (09) 337 0088.

* L'Assiette, 9 Britomart Place, Auckland Central. Ph (09) 309 0961.

* Espresso Workshop, 11 Britomart Place Auckland. Ph (09) 302 3691.

Architect Tim Hooson will be joining the crowd celebrating Wynyard Quarter's first birthday today. For programme of events see wynyard-quarter.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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