Rejuvenating community investment
Travis Wooller and Matt Jones
Randwick Park is a 1970s suburban development on the periphery of Auckland. Although part of Manurewa, it is divorced from it by the Southern Motorway. Consequentially and possibly by oversight Randwick Park from the outset was devoid of a designated area which could be described as its heart, though a community building did for many years partly fulfil this role.
In 2008 the murder of a local liquor store owner by outsiders brought a wave of negative publicity which many felt was not a true reflection of reality in this multicultural community. As part of a community driven initiative for positive change in the area, the Local Board and Auckland Council got behind the redevelopment of Randwick Park as part of Auckland’s Open Space Strategy. The only community facilities on site were an existing skate park and an open expanse of grass which felt like the left over spoil dump for the subdivision. It advertised itself as unsafe and separated from its neighbours.
In early 2012, Isthmus was engaged to work closely with the local community to develop a Masterplan for the reserve. The community’s involvement in the planning and design beyond initial consultation conveyed their desire and drive to have full ownership of their place and their future.
The masterplanning process was facilitated by Damian Powley of Auckland Council in collaboration with Isthmus. The objective was to create an active space that would encourage participation, interaction and provide a positive space for the community. As such, a central space was indicated that would become the ‘Heart of Randwick’. The desire for the heart was to accommodate a pavilion building and various activity areas that were easily accessible (such as hardcourts, volleyball courts, rugby and league fields, expansion of the existing skate park, a playground, community gardens, market spaces and provision for an Early Childhood Centre).
The community was also interested in strong connections into and throughout the park especially connecting the northern and southern sections (along its elongated shape). Three main axis were identified to provide this connection through the site connecting Riverton Drive and Magic Way. The ‘spine’ access way through the centre of the site will serve as the primary axis. A network of paths from the multiple access points around the park edge will allow ease of use and attract residents from around the neighbourhood. Riverton Drive and Magic Way accommodate car parking to service the activities within the site and address street connection.
With feasible delivery of the community pavilion being identified as part of future works, the design team and Auckland Council were acutely aware of the need to keep faith with the community and momentum for the project through provision of aspects of the masterplan. With a keen community of skaters, fronted by local skater Walz Brown, the skate park upgrade (along with the new car park and hardcourts) was identified as an achievable goal. We were engaged to facilitate the skate park design and integrate it to the masterplan for the park.
Isthmus led the skate park development with Walz Brown and support from skating icon Chey Ataria. There was an understandable level of attachment to the existing skate park which, though run down, was a loved asset among the local youth; so a determination was made to keep and rehabilitate parts and build the new structure around them. Where loved elements were realigned or removed, exact measurements and angles were taken and lines were opened up to allow the retained elements to function better.
The new skate park design was very much facilitated by the community with the local skaters identifying the elements, locations and flow patterns that they wanted. These elements were modelled using 3D software and the design was tweaked (as it happened in Walz Brown’s lounge) to maintain the very high level of stakeholder ownership that the community sought after. This process nurtured the close working relationship that developed.
The local skaters wanted an all-inclusive park, with disabled access, public viewing areas and seating for the general public. Multiple level entrances were created with seating included on the park’s periphery to provide passive surveillance. The eastern edge was dropped flush with the adjacent paths and hard courts, and concrete finishes were used to demarcate the skate park without the need of physical barriers.
Passers-by are included in the design and the skate park is a success as evidenced by the huge community turnout on open day and the high level of political support and feedback received from the local board. Walz Brown is now employed part time as skate park warden and is the ambassador for the skate park to community and Council.
Completion of the premier and training fields is due for mid-2015 followed by the central axis and second car park and plazas.