Wellington Scoop

Blocking another viewshaft


The Transport Agency keeps trying to pretend that the visual calamity of a massive flyover alongside the Basin Reserve can somehow be “mitigated.” But it’s not pretending about the effects of its plan to build a new pavilion at the Basin. A technical report released by the Agency says the new pavilion will obstruct the familiar urban view and “in conjunction with the flyover will completely close the viewshaft.”

Completely close it.

Viewshafts from the harbour to the hills are one of the unique features of Wellington’s urban design. They make a major contribution to the city’s character. It’s startling therefore that the Transport Agency is planning to obstruct one of the most iconic of them. All to protect the sensibilities of a few cricketers who might be distracted if they saw traffic on the overhead road.

The Wellingtonian reported last week that work could start on the new pavilion by the end of next year…. It said the Agency and the Basin Reserve Trust have settled on plans for a new $12 million pavilion on the northern edge of the Basin. The pavilion, designed by Athfield Architects, will be three storeys high and 65 metres long.

Its purpose is to “mitigate” the impact of the proposed flyover. There’s that word again.

The Transport Agency’s technical report states bluntly that the pavilion represents a significant change in the scale and bulk of this point on the Basin’s northern boundary. And it’s not a building for the public to use. It could be described as a pavilion for cronies – “lounges and facilities for players, their families, game officials and other selected groups”. All apparently to be paid for from the government’s roading budget. With the public kept out.

In the mass of documents that have been delivered in support of the resource consent application for the flyover, the pavilion isn’t the only plan that was developed to protect the cricketers. There are four other less bulky proposals as well: a 45 metre long building, a 55 metre long building, a 45 metre long wall, and a 65 metre long wall. But the Transport Agency (encouraged by the Basin Reserve Trust) is supporting the biggest and highest and widest and most expensive of them all.

There are, of course, two ends to the vanishing viewshaft. Twenty years ago, when Fran Wilde was Mayor, the Wellington City Council allowed a supermarket to be built at the other end – blocking the northern end of Cambridge Terrace. The decision is now universally judged to have been a bad one which needs to be fixed. Yet 20 years later, the Transport Agency wants to compound the damage with a flyover and a pavilion to block the southern end of the viewshaft. If construction goes ahead, it will be seen to be just as bad an obstruction, and one that will – one day – have to be fixed.

Designed to block the view
Basin Trust welcomes new pavilion, supports flyover
Pavilion will screen flyover from cricketers
They’re tearing down flyovers all over the world


  1. Traveller, 18. July 2013, 2:43

    Surely that design is not by Athfield Architects? Would they really design such an ugly structure?

  2. Maximus, 18. July 2013, 5:28

    What do you mean? Athfield Architects have for years specialized in designing ugly structures! Think of the Church of Christ the Scientist in Willis St, deliberately ugly and humpbacked with a staring eye. Or the decrepit octopus shaped, trellis covered restaurant up by the cable car? Even the badly mis-shapen Library building in Central Wellington, with the sunken columns of the colonnade, the ugly black central box that is to be demolished, and the (some say) tacky row of Nikau palms. Athfields specialise in buildings that mildly shock. This stand, of all their work, may be one of the most pleasing yet…

  3. CC, 18. July 2013, 7:26

    Traveller – Yep. Look at some of the other rubbish around Wellington that they are responsible for.

  4. JC, 18. July 2013, 8:19

    What viewshaft are you talking about here? The one from the middle of the basin pitch down Kent Terrace?

  5. Trish, 18. July 2013, 10:12

    Why is priority being given to a pavillion instead of building the second tunnel which would actually improve traffic?
    Why am I as a tax and rate payer having to pay for a cricket pavillion?

  6. John Clarke, 18. July 2013, 21:59

    Trish – the reason you’re being stuck with the bill can be summed up In two words: John Morrison.

  7. Traveller, 20. July 2013, 22:50

    The pavilion is going to displace one of the Basin’s best open-air “lounging” areas – the North Bank. The public will be shunted off to less attractive parts of the ground, while officials and their friends occupy the huge new (public-excluded) building.

  8. Nick, 21. July 2013, 12:55

    Yep, we’re paying $12 million so the changing rooms can be moved into a new stand, and to get some private viewing lounges, that the public won’t be able to use.. The new stand really needs to be atleast 150 metres wider to block out the flyover

  9. Phil C, 24. July 2013, 23:42

    I think the Church of Christ, Scientist building is one of Athfield’s better works. The real travesty came when his firm was engaged to do the ferry “Arahura” in the 1980s. I saw her when she arrived and she was a symphony of restrained yet colourful Scandanavian design; a class act. Athfield stuffed things up right royally, with materials ill-suited to a marine environment and the loss of lovely leather seating and decorative murals, amongst other things. Cheap, tawdry and temporary, representing much about NZ in the 1980s, as it happens.

  10. IS, 27. July 2013, 8:27

    This will also stuff up the tram “tunnel” option heading to Newtown that could be built under the east bank. But they are determined to kill that one off anyway – and I bet it was not even considered.