A clean-up, but we're still out in the wet

By Brian Rudman

It turns out that after eight years and $800,000 worth of agonising, Aotea Square is to stay much as it is.

Sure it will be a metre higher, the grass area will be formalised into three rectangular terraces and the exotic trees will get the bum's rush in favour of nikau and kowhai, but other than that, what's on offer is but a $25 million spring-clean.

Which to me is something of a relief. My fears of a bleak Red Square lookalike, good only for the annual march-past of consultants heading to city hall to collect their loot, have been allayed.

What is missing, though, is adequate shelter for a city where the winter rains coincide with the concert season, and the summer sun brings the risk of melanomas to one and all.

At yesterday's briefing, my call for canopies to protect pedestrians crossing from Queen St to the Town Hall, Aotea Centre and the city administration building was met with the suggestion I bring an umbrella.

Then what? Drip water on the marble floor so the next person slides over?

That squares in other "world class" cities don't have weather protection doesn't mean that down here in the wild Roaring Forties of the old sailing clipper days, we shouldn't. This is supposed to be Auckland's world-class square, not a Mediterranean piazza lookalike.

Eight years ago, at the beginning of this exercise, one of the winning design team, Unitech associate professor of urban design Dushko Bogunovich, proposed an array of shade/umbrella canopies based on Auckland's sails technology expertise, which would be computerised to respond automatically to rain or too much sun. He said it "would create a regular but unpredictable 'event' on the square, which people would come to watch".

We never heard another squeak of this zany idea. Obviously it was too unpredictable for the city bureaucrats. Which is a shame. Not only would it have made Aotea Square special. It would have kept us dry.

- NZ Herald

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