Placemaking in Howick
Placemaking is a much talked-about solution for the demand for sustainable urban development within the constraints of the current economic squeeze.
Placemaking New Zealand adopted several principles to guide placemaking, including: Locals are the experts; Create a place not a design; and It’s not about the money.
Howick’s Village Town Square project successfully demonstrates how these principles are applied and have been warmly received by the local community. A collaborative design, this was initiated by the Howick Village Business Association, led by Auckland Council’s Economic Development group, and designed by GHD. The Business Association provided ideas for what needed to happen and the design team made it work. The design progressed with a collaborative decision-making process that involved all parties, including the Local Board, Auckland Transport and TSL Contractors. GHD’s design team took the approach that good urban design is created by a range of specialists working together with the community collaboratively to deliver the community’s vision. This approach allowed the locals to take the lead and one of the key reasons for the project’s success.
The project was driven by community needs − flexibility, more space for the existing market, improved access across the square, inclusion of a new performance space, and increased safety and lighting. Also of great importance was respecting the heritage and history of the Howick area while making the space a ‘peoples’ place’.
These needs were incorporated into a simple and clear layout, which removed clutter and rationalised spaces to make them adaptable to a range of events. It wasn’t about creating something fancy or flashy, new materials introduced reflected Howick’s character, and existing pavers were cleaned and re-used to maintain the feel of the square. The stage design was kept simple and easily constructible, and easy to use. The cost-conscious development of the design resulted in an affordable outcome which achieved the Business Association’s vision.
The construction phase took place over stages in winter to minimise disturbance to the community. The relative ease of the construction was due to continued communication with the locals, a straight forward design, and inclusion of TSL Contractors in the collaborative process.
The results speak for themselves. Repositioning abandoned seats into sunnier sheltered locations has resulted in 70 per cent occupation during daytime hours. Rubbish and undesirable waste is no longer being left in the gardens. The market has seen a huge expansion − another 22 stalls are accommodated. This means more revenue, more people, and more produce on offer for the locals. New loading areas for the markets have also reduced congestion.
Finally, the extension into the rear courtyard has resulted in a building upgrade by the adjacent building owner. This in turn has resulted in a new and highly successful café owner moving into the location.
The project officially opened in October 2011 and the result is a friendly atmosphere for all ages and a place where social and commercial exchanges are made − successfully created by the application of Placemaking principles.
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