This is a guest post by Sam Duncan, an Urban Development student at Queensland University of Technology. Sam grew up in Auckland.
Recently, the results of the C40 Students Reinventing Cities competition were released. In the competition, student-led teams each selected one site out of a collection from 18 cities across the globe. This year Auckland City Council had nominated a site in the North Shore suburb of Northcote to the competition. Northcote Town Centre is currently in the planning phase for urban regeneration through council-owned organisation Panuku.
Our Brisbane-based team’s plan for Northcote Town Centre won the Auckland section of the competition this year. My having grown up not far from Northcote may have helped with understanding the context of the site.
The general focus of the competition was on sustainability and enabling Auckland to meet the climate goals outlined in Te Tāruke ā Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan. We took the bones of the Panuku master planned development and tweaked various elements to achieve a less car dominated, more pedestrianised space. In doing so we proposed innovative waste management solutions like the underground pneumatic tube network. The project also introduced a bus station into the development, a community hub, extensive greenways and active transport centric design.
This post will summarise some of the key aspects of our entry and share with you our vision for Northcote.
Shifting traffic from Lake Road to College Road
Pedestrianisation of Lake Road to improve Northcote’s particularly pedestrian-hostile design. Buffering and change of materials on this road will provide better links to Greenslade reserve which will also be upgraded as part of this project. If maintaining Lake Road’s arterial function is desired, a green bridge was also explored in the proposal.
College Road becomes the main vehicle access to the Town Centre. Improvements to College Road include the creation of dedicated bus lanes.
Facilitating multi-modal transport
A new bus terminal is integrated into the development at College Road to service the estimated 2000 new dwellings in the master plan. The bus terminal includes end-of-trip facilities like lockers and secure bike compounds for those arriving by bike.
Walkability is a key focus of the development, which heavily draws from the pedestrian network centred around the reclaimed Awataha Greenway that runs through the spine of Northcote. Separated cycleways are integrated throughout the development. Bike parking on the edges allows pedestrians to feed into the centre via laneway-inspired urban design.
The development features a pneumatic tube waste network, a concept which originated in the 1980’s and has been implemented in places such as Sweden, Barcelona, Norway and Denmark. The chutes use pressurized air to transport waste to a central collection point. The system can have smart phone capability to offer incentives and encourage good behaviour through education and rewards. This network reduces carbon emissions through correct waste disposal and recycling and less frequent collection trips from garbage trucks.
Higher density housing
Proposed housing ranges from mixed use developments and 6 storeys apartments in the centre, tapering out to low-medium density housing on the perimeter. This type of development density needs to take place in Auckland to address the housing shortage. The design includes built-in allocations for affordable housing options.
The library is an essential part of the hub. It will help to revitalise the neighbourhood, offering an attractive, functional, community-focused space. It is a space that preserves history and provides cultural links to Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara. The collection of resources at the library can grow based on specific community needs. The library is a wide-open space to promote inclusivity, with clear separation of children’s areas, quiet sections, and study spaces to account for the differing age demographics.
One of the main features of the hub is an educational research facility and interactive experience in collaboration with the Department of Conservation that promotes active education on climate change understanding and research. This is designed to help both adults and children learn about global warming and climate goals in Auckland, whilst inspiring the future generations to make a difference in their city. This hub will include educational resources on climate change, the Auckland Climate Plan and what Northcote Town Centre has done to meet present climate change goals. This will include reference to the pneumatic tube system, passive housing, and active transportation throughout the development and how these measures aid Northcote to fulfil its part in reducing emissions and meeting climate goals.
Reflecting on the project
It was great to receive feedback from Auckland Council’s Chief Sustainability Officer Matthew Blaikie who said:
“Utilising their skills across architecture, town planning and landscape architecture, the Brisbane Designers’ project stood out for its strong visual presentation and well-considered approach which built off Eke Panuku’s Benchmark Masterplan.”
“The C40 Students Reinventing Cities competition has provided an excellent opportunity for cities and academia to collaborate and for students to further increase their understanding of how neighbourhoods can be planned and designed to support a low carbon, resilient future.”
Personally, as a future transport planner, my biggest takeaway in this experience is the importance of having a multidisciplinary team to achieve the best outcomes. Working with other students from complementary areas allowed ideas to be explored more convincingly through renders and visual aids to support what we were writing. I hope to return to Northcote in the future to see what Panuku do with the space. It would be fantastic to see some of our ideas realised in the development, and to see Northcote’s current and future residents get a truly sustainable Town Centre.
Our full design report and presentation can be found on the C40 Students Reinventing Cities website. These provide greater detail on many of the proposed interventions and go further into our vision of Northcote, along with many other details not touched on in this post.