On Saturday, the Herald ran a fascinating piece from Simon Wilson looking at the design of the City Rail Link stations. This was interesting for a few reasons.
- It gave some great new insight into the design process as well as a couple of new images of the stations.
- The Herald have largely ignored the CRL up to this point unless it’s a story they can try and generate some outrage over.
- It’s not just new stations we’re getting but some new station names are proposed too.
It’s the proposed station names I want to talk about in this post. Before I do that though, I wanted to highlight one small section in the post about advertising.
I was there late last year when the mayor, Phil Goff, visited the ALT studio to get a briefing on the project. He marvelled at it. He called it “a rare opportunity” and said, enthusiastically, “this really makes a statement”.
We discussed the lack of advertising, and he approved. “You wouldn’t put advertising on the outside of the art gallery,” he said.
He got it. Commercialism is everywhere and it has its place, but it doesn’t have to be every place. “There’s not much left in our city [unsullied by advertising, he meant], so let’s take a moment.”
Poole said to him, “It’s identity expression, not just art.”
What he meant was, it’s not an ad-free zone because it’s art, but because it’s a place to explore and express who we are, and that is done, in part, through art.
No ads. In fact, the artwork shows almost no signage at all. One discreet LED service display in one image. It won’t be quite like that. We will still want to know when our train is due to leave.
The idea of no advertising feels idealistic and perhaps somewhat naive. The stations may well start out that way but how long before it changes? One just needs to look at what Auckland Transport do at Britomart to see it’s unrealistic. The stairs and the concourse area at the Queen St end of the platforms are often covered in advertising, as to are plenty of other surfaces and there are now giant LED billboards covering the lift shafts.
Onto the station names. I find my views on the proposed station names changing as you move from South to North, from complete support to opposition.
I think changing the name of Mt Eden station to Maungawhau is a fantastic idea. As well as remaining relevant to the area and stations current name, I think it usefully reduces any confusion that it serves the Mt Eden village, which is about 1.5km down the road. For the station design, Wilson says:
“The threshold begins,” says the official blurb, “with an open civic space that radiates out from the station.” It’s a community space, a performance space, a forecourt that holds the people in it as if in the palm of a hand. As you enter the building itself you discover a space defined not by its ceiling but by a wall of carved basalt, curved in form, layered with niho taniwha, shimmering with water running down its face.
This is the volcano, tamed but never tamed, the curves derived from the cone and the pa terraces on the true volcano above. It’s an immense rolling facade of stone, alive in its sense of movement, like eels writhing, like monsters of the deep. You are in the lair of a taniwha.
We saw the basalt wall mentioned back in November
Karanga-a-hape is a name that has defined this awesome, unique part of Auckland for so long that I’d be surprised if we were to call the station anything else.
For images, we get a new one showing the what it is expected to look like just inside the station entrance. I really like the scalloped ceiling
You cross the threshold. You arrive at the entrance to the station, step inside and find yourself in a great public space. In one of the stations, that means you’ve passed beneath a wall that provides a massive street frontage, symbolising the separation of Rangi and Papa. You’re in a vast vaulted space now, the ceiling an “ascending series of scalloped voids”, as though a giant has taken scoops from the ceiling, each one higher than the last, as you walk further in. All of them are patterned with niho taniwha, the teeth of the taniwha. The acoustics are as in a cathedral. If someone is playing a guitar by the wall over there, the sound will drop down above you in the middle of the concourse.
Welcome to Karanga-a-Hape, named for the karanga or call of Hape, who magically raced ahead of the earliest voyagers from Hawai-iki and called them in to land. The entrance to Karanga-a-Hape is a hall of sound and light; the station itself will be the third and deepest on Auckland’s new underground rail line.
Unfortunately, there’s no news on whether an entrance at Beresford Square will yet be provided in the plans like it should be. Wilson states “What is a railway station? A place to transit through, efficiently, safely, enjoyably”. The Mercury Lane entrance will be none of those things to somebody in a wheel chair or has difficulty walking.
The name Aotea has long been given for the proposed station. It has been listed as that on all documents since at least 2010 when the current proposal began, possibly earlier. Aotea may be familiar and easier to pronounce but that’s obviously not a reason it has to keep it for a station that could last centuries.
I think that most Aucklanders would consider Aotea to be the fairly narrowly defined part of town consisting of the square and adjoining centre that bears the name. However, Council planning documents such as the City Centre Master Plan break up the city into quarters (below) and the station sits mostly within the Aotea Quarter. But the station also serves other adjacent quarters too which include the two universities and some of the densest employment and housing areas in the country. Perhaps Aotea isn’t the most appropriate name.
At the same time, I’m not convinced that Horotiu is the best name for the station. It might be the name that was originally given to the area before Europeans arrived but most people don’t associate it with that now. I get that’s part of the point of doing it but I feel like it shouldn’t be the CRL team deciding this in isolation. It is something that should be reflected through all of council’s planning documents to describe the area. Perhaps one way to think about it is how people will use the name on a daily basis. Is it “I’m catching the train to Horotiu” or “I get off at Horotiu” or will they use something else.
I also wonder if the name might be more appropriate for one of the light rail stations that will need to be built in the area. At least it would be more in the valley than Albert St is.
Overall I guess overall I’m a bit agnostic about the name Horotiu. It’s certainly a lot better than something dull like Midtown or City Centre.
As for the station design, we originally saw this image back in November but Wilson puts some more details around it.
In another of the stations, there are multiple entrances but the same attention to the sense of a threshold. A physical sense, not simply of rocking up to catch a train, but of arriving at a place and then of stepping in. In this other station the ceiling also provides a sculptural form that defines the space, this time, with hundreds of rods, some wooden, hollowed, cut to different lengths so that you’re walking beneath a shimmering, undulating blanket.
This is Horotiu, in the heart of the central city, the access point for two universities, the midtown workplaces and the arts and entertainment precinct of Aotea.
The light will change, by day appearing as if seen through the raupo in the stream; by night, a constellation of stars – sculptural possibilities in a constant state of renewal.
The rods represent the upward growth of crops, and also a great population and an abundance of wealth. Many will be notched, the light on the notches creating a pattern that simulates the flow of water to the sea. There’s a lot going on in that ceiling.
Horotiu is the valley. Waihorotiu was the stream that flowed through it, a hunting ground for catching eels and birds: Queen St today.
Horotiu is dedicated to Rongo-ma-Tane, god of kumara and cultivated foods. These stations commemorate the life that was lived, the wairua of the place. The tukutuku on the walls, like the rods on the ceiling, represent the stars and also the great wealth of people, those living here in the great cornucopia of the isthmus in days gone by and those living here now.
In the official description, it says, “The rods wax and wane in length, rippling as you move through the threshold, creating a spatial memory for the visitor and an identity for the station.”
Horotiu, therefore, is a cathedral of light, a celebration of the harmony of people and place, a monument to our better natures.
I’m not convinced at all of the merits of changing the name from Britomart to Waitemata. Wilson notes:
Choosing new names is a part of that process, and it extends to Britomart too. The Creative Studio proposes renaming it Waitemata – the elemental theme of the station is, after all, water. You didn’t know that? Take another look.
The silvery colour scheme, the sense of being in a great chamber hollowed out by water, the gleaming smoothness, the invitation to look up, to the light, through the great skylights, lined with silver and light, it’s as if you’re looking up through water to the air beyond.
I get that the station is located on land reclaimed from the harbour and its watery design but at the same time the station acts a bit more like a boat, holding the water out. And that’s quite appropriate given the history of the name. The station was named after Point Britomart, a prominent headland next to the fledgling city that was later quarried to provide fill for the reclamation that the station now serves and allow the rail line to be built. The name for the headland comes from a British ship that surveyed the harbour.
Our colonial history is not always great but I’m not sure we should be so quick throw this piece of it out.
Even if we were to do so, is Waitemata really the best name? Stations are about serving a specific area but Waitemata is also the name given to the entire harbour whereas Britomart is now a specific location on that harbour, served by that station. Even more so than Horotiu, saying “I’m travelling to Waitemata” could mean going anywhere. As well as the harbour, it’s also the name of the local board, one of Auckland’s health boards and a range of other organisations. It’s certainly not a name that’s been forgotten.
In the article, one of the people behind the CRL designs, Rau Hoskins, is quoted as saying “We wanted stories that bring us together”. Why can’t Britomart could be part of one of those stories. It’s the ship anchored in the harbour at the foot of the city.
What do you think of the proposed station names and the new images?