The 1980s saw Auckland’s city centre change considerably. It was then that much of Auckland’s architectural history was demolished, with many of the towers that dominate the skyline today sprouting up in their place. Of course some sites, like that of the old Royal Hotel, are still empty to this day.
This video from 1985 is a fascinating look at the city’s tower developments from the middle of the boom.
In this 1985 Kaleidoscope edition, reporter Terry Carter meets many of those behind Auckland’s 80s construction boom, and examines a cityscape where old landmarks are rapidly being demolished and replaced by mirror glass high-rises. Interviewees include property developers of the day like Mainzeal and Chase Corporation’s Seph Glew; a councillor who argues that commercial interests are dominating; and architect Ivan Mercep and interior designer Peter Bromhead, who critique the buildings’ architectural and civic qualities and their “Dallas TV set” aesthetics.
Some of the things that stood out to me included:
- Some great old shots of many of the buildings that Auckland lost during that time period
- Through debates like the Unitary Plan I’ve never quite understood why some, mainly older people, have such a loathing for property developers. After seeing this it’s given me a much greater understanding of why this is. The developers behind many of the projects appear much more arrogant and smug than those we see today. They show only a thin veil of concern for the public realm, treating it mainly as something that gets in the way of their profits.
- Further, hindsight is a wonderful thing and knowing, as we do, that just a couple of years later the stock market and economy would crash makes the developers comments even more interesting.
- The design community were calling for an urban design panel to improve the quality of designs but the council’s head of planning was not keen because developers wouldn’t like it.
- It’s mentioned that the council wanted to see more residential developments in the city but that other than a handful of penthouse apartments, developers refused to build any apartments.
- A lot of the developments included substantial carparking with at one point the narrator saying
Car parks are something Aucklanders will see more of in the future, an indication of the city councils decision to back the private car as the major means of commuter transport. Earlier schemes of rapid transit and the upgrade of public transport, for the moment anyway, have been set aside.
If you’re interested in Auckland’s urban history and have a spare half hour I’d definitely recommend a watch.