As anyone who has lived in, or travelled though, the USA -- watching nightly television “news” (such as it is) or reading mainstream papers -- will attest, every new day will throw up a new blazingly bold-type headline: deaths in Iraq! a Letterman controversy!! “Balloon Boy“!!!
So it goes . . .
The cumulative effect is that what was important yesterday (was it Letterman or Iraq?) disappears behind another diversion, smokescreen or -- in rare cases over in the US of A -- “real” news.
I’m getting the uncomfortable feeling something similar is happening here: every day a new distraction . . . so previous stories, especially important ones, aren’t given the legs and longevity they deserve.
At the end of last week I was convinced and confident the absurd proposal for “party central” on Queen’s Wharf (and thanks Herald for using the quotes to remind us where this base, populist John Key cliché came from) was on its last legs.
The public was indifferent if not outright damning; ARC chairman Mike Lee said the final eight designs were “lacklustre, under-whelming and mediocre“; Auckland mayor John Banks was wavering; and Herald columnist Brian Rudman was taking his typical, uncommonly good sense into a vacuum of defeatist Auckland. (Aucklanders, used to being defeated by people lacking in vision -- or worse, those having “the vision thing” -- I think resigned themselves).
Even that most rare of breeds, The Seldom Seen, Rarely Spotted Auckland Architect (usually as scared of the light as the kiwi) were coming out of their dark holes to note the flawed process, not to mention the pathetic designs . . .
All over bar the applause when the ill-conceived wharf plan was scrapped, I thought.
Because I have been boring on this previously I just kept quiet.
But this week . . .?
Well, it has gone worryingly silent (more “news” came down the turnpike?) -- and in this instance I think silence will be taken as consent.
That endemic Auckland negativism I cited previously (we don’t deserve the best, so why expect it?) is now about the only mood you can feel in my hometown.
Over the weekend I looked at the wharf from various angles -- and the harbour from the top of the SkyTower with former Ak-family over from Melbourne who observed what a treasure it is -- and wondered about possibilities.
I don’t want to go into them again but bugger-it, I will. And I‘ll add a few more thoughts to the mix.
I believe we deserve something visionary for our harbour and city, and I reiterate I have no problem with an international architect (certainly our finest minds seemed lacking) being chosen to work their magic.
The (unapologetically) Biggest City In The Country deserves and requires something which enhances its waterfront and reflects the nature of our city and nation. (And maybe more specifically reflects upon -- in a design sense -- the Hilton/apartment building opposite).
This is not a project (like that insulting Mallard-like-it-or-lump-it waterfront stadium) which should be imposed by political will from Wellington or “above”.
As the Who said, “look at the new boss, same as the old boss”
There is no hurry to get this thing right forever (which is looong time): the haste for the 2011 rugby encounters are just a smokescreen. What gets thrown up there in haste we will regret at leisure. (Can’t haul down a $47 million project, can we? Huh?)
So . . . we must slow down and take a deep breath.
If it takes another few years to get our ideas in order (an international competition, let international architects come and consider us, we could learn something) then so be it.
Just one chance, one opportunity to get it right -- and it shouldn’t have something as crassly opportunistic and centrist/populist as “party central” driving it.
They aren’t historic, so they have to go. And no tears good bye.
As any architect will tell you it is the space you are given that you will look at. Get those damnable sheds out of the frame.
So: thoughts? A level for cruise ship reception for sure; a gallery of exciting contemporary art, that’s a given; you want to get your Museum of Rugby in there, then go for your life and make your case; and obviously cafes and bars at ground level and looking out into the harbour.
Some open space too -- but let’s not get obsessed with football-field sized parks “for families” because the place will be wind-swept and bloody wet most of the time. (This isn’t Cote d’Azur, folks, it‘s Auckland).
And . . .
Thinking caps on.
And, am I the only one who thinks it odd that in this city where the beautiful, genuinely historic and architectural jewel that is St James is being let to rot while some people (oh, “architects” among them?!) worry about a couple of old sheds?
Right now, if there’s $47 million to spare I’d rather see it go in preserving and restoring the St James (imagine what an exceptional sister venue it would be to the wonderful Civic) than some place where people gather to look at some rugby games on a big television for a wee while.
Frankly I think there should be an outcry which goes along the following, alarmingly simple, lines . . .
If “party centraL’ didn’t happen no one would miss it.
Most international tourists (65,000?) coming to the games will be in the park; locals will go to long-favoured local bars, pubs and sports clubs with their mates; and those who don’t care a fig about a transitory sports event which last but the blink of an eye in this city will probably go to see bands at the Kings Arms, stay at home or maybe tune in on the television out of some kind of curiosity.
But “party central”? We don’t need it.
I love Auckland for all it shitty problems, stupidity and self-aggrandisement.
I wasn’t born here, had no choice when my parents brought me here, grew up in this place, and it is my home. I travel as often as I can but I am always happy to be Home.
I love Auckland. It breaks my heart to see what a shallow political/sporting/populist agenda is doing to my city.
If you love it too -- or even if you are in another city or province and understand how The Rest of the World interacts with this country’s Gateway City -- you might want to send a signal to those who would railroad us all -- Aucklanders and the nation -- into this fatally flawed project.
Quickly: before another balloon boy, low-rent political scandal or car accident/weather bomb/outrageous crime commands our headlines
Just say Stop! In the Name of Love. “before you break my heart”.
Over to you now ................. Please
IN ALWAYS BETTER NEWS At Music From Elsewhere there are many musical diversions (the Brunettes, Wolfmother (!?!), that great Eighties band Wall of Voodoo and much more posted.
And I have two terrific DVDs written up: Gamorrah about the Camorra in Naples (where I have been recently and who have just hit the headlines) and a superb doco about Jack Kerouac (with music by Jay Farrar from Son Volt). They are both at Cultural Elsewhere .
I’ve also brought back to the foreground from the deep, deep vaults of Absolute Elsewhere a piece on Martin Scorsese’s doco on Bob Dylan (which screens on Sky this week) . . . as well as posting another Essential Elsewhere album which you really should have in our your collection (an album which has just popped up in iTUnes)
And there is much more (as always) by way of book reviews, anecdotes and “inform-amation” (as subscriber described Elsewhere in such a clumsy but flattering way).
Oh, and if you aren’t a subscriber (it is free here but you just missed the weekly giveaway to subscribers.
PS: Thank you for those favourable “reviews” and comments about my new book The Idiot Boy Who Flew (see below) which come at me via this direct link.
I appreciate it and, like you, I prefer my anonymity when it comes to saying what you really think!
Ho ho ho ho ho ho ho . . .