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Phoebe Falconer answers your questions about Auckland

Ask Phoebe: Bright orange walls 'an eyesore'

By Phoebe Falconer

Artist Jeff Thomson fixes his artwork to a noise wall. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Artist Jeff Thomson fixes his artwork to a noise wall. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Are you able to determine why the new Hobsonville motorway extensions feature orange barrier walls? An example of this has been built on the western side of the Upper Harbour bridge. This contrasts with the very tasteful wall with murals on natural timber on the eastern side. Is there any special reason for the orange colour? Tim Johnston, Greenhithe.

And from Vicki Frewin: Regarding the development of SH18, what is up with the hideous orange noise walls that surround it? I note on the NZTA website: "The walls are made of wood which will be painted a burnt orange colour." There is no reason listed as to why; the colour is more primer orange and it is a real eyesore in the otherwise reasonably pleasant landscape. Other areas of Auckland with recent motorway developments have been graced with concrete walls with sculpted decorative works and are nicely planted. We out West get stuck with orange plywood and in some places, no planting in front of these walls. It is particularly awful as you drive up towards the bridge near Monterey Park. Where once you gazed upon Herald Island and the yachts moored in the bay, you now don't get a view of the surrounds but feel enclosed by a half-finished, cheap looking temporary fence.

Rob Garrett, Auckland Council's manager of public art, says this is a work in progress involving his team, the NZ Transport Agency and the HEB/Jasmax design team. As well as the bold orange colour, several sections will have artwork by Jeff Thomson applied. The colour was approved by the former Waitakere City Council which also initiated the public art component of the project.

Mr Thomson's concepts for the artwork were approved by the former council, and are in the final design stage.

The artwork takes the orange colour of the noise walls, which is a reference to the history of working clay in the district, and overlays that with tyre trails and tread patterns that reflect the activities of people and machines in transforming the landscape, and the histories of rural and construction activities on the land. The tread patterns also call to mind the malleable and impressionable properties of clay, which forms the substrate of the landscape.

The orange colour is striking and bright and it has attracted both fans and detractors. Over time, as the new planting in front of the wall matures, it will soften the visual impact of the noise walls. However, the colour was selected because it creates a bold counterpoint to the surrounding landscape and the design team believes that in time it will be embraced as a dynamic and distinctive feature in the highway environment.

Beauty, as always, is in the eye of the beholder.

From next week, the Ask Phoebe column will be devoting its energies to matters involving the Rugby World Cup. If you have questions you would like answered (where to park, how to get to venues etc) send them to

- NZ Herald

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