Toss the carpark vistas, designer urges Hamilton

One of the best views in Hamilton is from the top of the Wintec carpark building and it's not a claim to glory, according to a top urban designer.

"The landscape is stunning but I just got the most amazing view from the top of the bloody carpark, now why is that?," Ludo Campbell-Reid said at a Property Council event on Monday evening.

"Hamilton is actually quite a flat city so as soon as you pop up you can see the landscape.

"There're amazing mountain ranges here in the Waikato - you need to open up vistas. Every time I look at a vista, there's a f...... car park in front of it, or a wall, or a McDonalds."

Campbell-Reid, Auckland Council's urban design champion, has the job of transforming Auckland into a liveable, desirable and accessible city.

The aim of the talk was to hear urban designers' thoughts on how the CBD can be made sustainable. 

"Auckland was one of the most unattractive cities I have been to; dull, grey, boring, under-performing.

"That was 11 years ago and now, it's smashing it with its amazing cycleways and beautiful open spaces, its waterfront and art gallery."

Campbell-Reid said Hamilton's biggest asset is its river and it is under-utilised.

"Where is it? The river should not necessarily be just physically visible but philosophically visible. It's like a blue spine of your human persona, which is your city.

"Not only can't you see it, I wouldn't even know it was there. 

"The land and the city haven't married very well. It's like having a child and then giving it away - they're not really taking care of the landscape."

Campbell-Reid did say that it wasn't just Hamilton, most NZ cities were not built very well.

"People say, what's the value of good design? But when you walk into a place that's been badly designed - you sure know it.  "Streets that are badly designed, you feel really unsafe.

"This is not a country of great city-making. You've had a really poor private-sector-knows-best, laissez faire approach and what we need to do is get back a little more partnership with the private-sector."

New Plymouth is a good example of this.

Campbell-Reid said he and his family
spent $1000 on rollerblades and
skateboards to take advantage of the
cycleway there.

"New Plymouth has got this wonderful
little cycleway on the water-front and
that's one of my favourite things in
New Zealand - it's incredible.

"It's an economic strategy - urban design -
it's not about making it look pretty.
It's functional and it's a huge thing.

"Wellington has done it - its waterfront and it's art and wide public spaces. There's some good bits but it requires deliberateness."

Campbell-Reid said he was in Los Angeles at the weekend to pick up an international award for architecture for the hot-pink cycleway he designed in Auckland.

He said it's about turning liabilities into assets and finding the "innate beauty of a place". 

"It's visible from space. It's like I chose a hot pink sexy lipstick, rather than the engineers who want the green cycleway.

"If you could turn your city inside out you'd start to see a more confident city, a city that could compete in a tourism point of view and start to attract smart, hardworking people."

He said one of the most important things is to change the focus from designing for private cars to designing for people.

"The private car has the best view. We need to make the streets more convivial.

"The Hamilton Gardens is a great point so it's about linking all the other great moments in Hamilton. You don't want to drive to them, you want to link to it. 

"This is what happens when engineers run cities; they're designed for rush-hour traffic and not people."