Does Auckland need a new museum on the waterfront? The latest proposal is for a waka-shaped museum dedicated to "legends" of local history, conceived by Auckland environmental consultant Warwick Pascoe and designed by Lindsay Mackie at Archimedia. But that "LegendNZ Centre" is not the first proposal and nor is it the best.
In 2011 veteran cultural consultant Hamish Keith chaired an expert advisory group to look at creating a Te Papa North. They proposed a four-storey building to show the Te Papa collection, with almost as much exhibition space as Te Papa itself.
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It would sit in a park on Wynyard Point and have a "distinct architectural presence of national and international standing", following a "carefully managed" competition. Remedial work would future-proof it against the impacts of the climate crisis and strong links would be established with Auckland's other major museums and galleries.
A concept illustration from the time shows a rectangular box covered in a spectacular display of whales and other wonders.
We're not short of good ideas about this. There have been many proposals for a major cultural centre on the waterfront, including one from Ngāti Whātua, which owns much of the land on the south side of Quay St and has ambitions for the port land too.
I've put up my own proposal, more than once. Tangata Moana, a museum devoted to the "people of the sea". That's us, all of us: the maritime history, varied cultures and extraordinary technologies of all the peoples of this country, from Kupe to the America's Cup and beyond.
Dushko Bogunovich, formerly professor of architecture at Unitec, has another view. He says "the world hardly needs more museums", although you could say "need" is a misleading word. We hardly need another cricket match, either, but they seem to make some people happy.
Bogunovich wonders if "the entire global civilisation is on track to become a museum, considering our complacency over the threat of climate catastrophe", and he has a point. "However," he adds, "a museum which addresses precisely this matter might be a worthwhile endeavour."
He suggests we stop thinking about telling the world "our story" and instead tell the world "its story, but from our angle".
"What makes us unique is that Aotearoa was the last major land mass to be discovered and settled by humans. We are uniquely positioned to tell the last chapter, as well as the entire story, of human colonisation of Earth."
He'd call it a Museum of Humanity's Future.
This is the point at which we really should be saying: who else has a good idea? What are we going to do with Wynyard Point? The existing leases run out between 2022 and 2026 and council agency Panuku, which controls the site, says it will be subject to "arguably the most important regeneration in the city over the next 20 years".
So, a message to the mayor: Let's get the debate up. After the America's Cup, what do we want to put on the most prestigious site in the city?
Curiously, some people answer that by saying it should just be a park. The existing masterplan proposes a park on the east side and blocks of apartments and commercial buildings to the west.
Those buildings are important, because they'll pay for the rest – just as new buildings are funding some fabulous public spaces in the rest of the Wynyard Quarter. It's a model that keeps the burden off ratepayers.
That quarter also points to another reality of urban design: smaller public spaces like the Quarter's Silo Park and the North Wharf promenade have great human scale. It's true big parks near the central city are vital, and we're blessed by the beauty of many, including the Domain, Albert Park and Victoria Park.
But turning the entire Wynyard peninsula into one open park risks it becoming barren. Have you noticed Auckland's big summer secret? It's incredibly windy. Almost every day.
Wynyard Point needs a biggish park and commercial development, and also a major public building. Something to celebrate, commemorate, educate and entertain; something to draw visitors, from the world to Auckland and from the rest of Auckland to the Point.
There are also those who say that's a frivolous idea when poverty still exists. But public buildings like museums aren't luxuries for the well-off. They're for everyone, and the good ones are visited and valued by everyone.
And the big truth about that is, while stadiums are important, museums are even more so. We love our culture more than we love our sport, and visitors love the culture even more.
It's not even close. If you built a national stadium, used it for rugby, league, football, short-form cricket and more, added a string of concerts and somehow managed to attract an average 20,000 people every single week, you'd get a little over a million visitors a year. Auckland Museum right now attracts almost a million, and it's out of the way.
Te Papa welcomes around 1.5 million visitors a year, a number that hasn't changed too much in 20 years. As Hamish Keith's group noted, that's three times the population of greater Wellington, and it's made up of both visitors and a lot of return-visit locals.
Extrapolate the Te Papa numbers to Auckland and a major museum might expect 4.5 million visitors. Maybe that's me being optimistic. But imagine what even half that number would do for the city.
This phenomenon, by the way, has occurred all over the world: big new cultural venues are among the most popular attractions on the planet.
All of which makes the LegendNZ Centre proposal for Wynyard Point slightly odd.
I love the architecture, I really do. But if we want to learn about ourselves or project ourselves to the world, it's misleading to do it through the bland admiration of heroes or "legends". Especially if they're drawn largely from the fields of sport and warfare, and are nearly all men and are overwhelmingly Pākehā.
You could say, thinking about society in general, that viewing our history and identity like that is what got us into this mess in the first place.
The proposal's instigator, Warwick Pascoe, has not seemed especially alert to this: his reference to "our greatest soldiers of the Māori Wars" is a clue. They're the New Zealand Wars, or the land wars, as Herald columnist Brian Rudman has pointed out. Pascoe says it was a mistake and has apologised.
A bigger issue lurks. If you reduce warfare to the exploits of the "great", you profoundly misrepresent what warfare is.
History, of all kinds, is about far more than winning and it's not something just heroes do. Everyone makes history. It is forged in hardship, failure, conflict, oppression, social movements that achieve progress through struggle, and it is always messy.
It creates stories not just on the frontline but among those left behind. They also serve who only stand and wait, as the poet John Milton said, putting to rest the "great men" theory of history a mere 350 years ago.
Our identity as a nation is grounded in all of this. Let's start talking about what we could do to build on it.