The revamped Aotea Square was jumping with activity on Saturday as part of the opening festivities. The sun was shining on a beautiful space full of people enjoying the free entertainment. The City Vision team was also there spreading the word to vote. One visitor, however was very unimpressed with the number of skateboarders checking out the new surfaces. He complained very forcefully to us that it was a disgrace that they were “allowed” to be there. The complainant and Aucklanders may have to get used the idea of the square providing for a range of different uses who feel at home there. But guaranteed there is now going to be a big debate about who is welcome to use the square especially as the word is out about how perfect the space is for BMX riders and skateboards.
As Tim recently blogged on Cycling in Auckland “Aotea Square is one of Auckland’s most iconic BMX/Skate spots that have been shredded for years and was temporarily under reconstruction. It’s been around a 2 years since being first closed off and is back and pretty amazing. The council has out done themselves with what could be now NZ’s best street spot.“
It made me wonder how David Engwicht, place maker extradionaire and urban thinker, would respond. He was recently in New Zealand talking about the Art of Place Making. He shared a number of his design secrets for creating vibrant public spaces and building community. As he says “all design has paradoxical outcomes”. This is exactly what we are going to see in Aotea Square following on from the unintentional design of the perfect urban park (unfortunately the $80m spent on the Square didn’t extend to materials that will withstand constant shredding by skaters). However, the skaters don’t need to deter other users from enjoying Aotea Square especially once the grassy areas have opened and there is more shade.
The Auckland City Council should be congratulated on redeveloping Aotea Square as a vibrant urban space that appeals to a wide range of users- I just wish there was parking in the square for my bike!