The site is challenging as it is situated in Myers Park, Auckland City Centre, near the Mayoral Drive underpass. The area has had difficulty shaking its perception as an unsafe space after a series of unfortunate activities. It’s also the bottom of a stormwater basin that prevents flooding of the area between Myers Park and Aotea Square.
In 2015 a design for the space was endorsed; however, it was put on hold due to escalating costs and potential construction issues. Boffa Miskell was bought on board in 2020 to support engineers GHD in developing three options for the site. The three options were presented to Mana Whenua engagement groups and the Local Board, where a preferred option became apparent. In May 2022, the final renderings of the artwork and areas surrounding the overbridge at the north end of the park.
Created by Graham Tipene (Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei) with input from the wider project team, this unique artwork aims to offer a multi-sensory experience of the taniwha Horotiu – the kaitiaki (guardian) of the Wai O Horotiu stream.
The sculptural form of Horotiu is achieved with rows of more than two thousand moulded scales hanging from the underside of the overbridge – illuminated in gold light and moving with the breeze. Graham worked closely with the Boffa Miskell team to further develop the narrative of Horotiu on the angled ground plane elements, says project lead Peter Whiting.
“Earlier iterations of the design had a series of benches within the ramp sequence so that the public could sit and enjoy the artwork on the soffit,” Pete explains.
“These were removed after concerns were raised about the seats being used by rough sleepers and the possibility of the area becoming less inviting despite high light levels to deter sleepers.”
New stairs connecting Myers Park to Queen Street and Mayoral Drive corner are a significant element of the improvements. Artist Tessa Harris (Ngāi Tai Ki Tāmaki) developed a pattern representing pātiki (flounder), once found in the tidal area not far from this point. The stairway connects the Mayoral Drive and Queen Street corner with Myers Park.
“The lightweight steel balustrade system on the steps is used with the patiki pattern to allow some visibility on to the stairs from the approach from within Myers Park. The stairs leading from Myers Park to Queen Street are timber treads and risers fixed to a steel frame,” says Pete.
This method was chosen after extensive investigations on the existing Mayoral Drive overpass determined that additional loadings imposed by other stair systems such as MSE walls would place too much load on the foundations of the crib walls.
The Boffa Miskell team approached the landscape design with sensitivity, acknowledging the heritage of the site but creating a space that meets the future vision for this city park.
An overall upgrade to the soft landscape includes with native planting and a new timber boardwalk. Low growing species, commonly found in wetland and riparian areas, but capable of being dry, have been specified within the lower stormwater bowl within the park.
“These plantings recall the species that would have been present when Waihorotiu was an open stream,” says Pete. “The low stature of the plants is also a CPTED consideration so that sightlines around the path network are not compromised.”
With the area being developed into the Arts and Entertainment centre of Auckland, along with the CRL station nearby, the route through Myers Park will become a more widely used path.
“We did not know for certain what may be built immediately to the north of the park (on the other side of the overpass),” explains Pete. “We have retained flexibility in the design to accommodate whatever may eventually by programmed for that space; of course, the Horotiu artwork, being interactive, will draw its own audience!
The Myers Park underpass upgrade work began in early May. While the construction will mean changes to some of the park’s access points, the park will remain open for the public to enjoy throughout construction. Wayfinding and hoardings will provide clear directions for people using the park while the northern end and underpass are temporarily closed off.
Myers Park Underpass | Auckland, New Zealand | Boffa Miskell
Landscape Architect: Boffa Miskell
Design Team: Peter Whiting, project lead; Monica Bainbridge; Sho Kasuya; Kieran Dove; Alex Smith Sarah Heritage, planner
Client: Auckland Council
Images Credit: Boffa Miskell