Transforming Auckland for the America's Cup

by Jeremy Hansen / 29 June, 2017
The team that designed Viaduct Harbour already has ideas for the America’s Cup.

These Auckland architects are already imagining what the city could look like if it hosted the next America's Cup.

“They were thinking about putting an IMAX theatre there to attract people to the waterfront. It seems incredible to even think of it.”

Architect Julie Stout is remembering mid-1990s suggestions for Viaduct Harbour as it prepared to host the America’s Cup. She and the team at Mitchell & Stout Architects masterplanned the redevelopment and, thankfully, managed to nix the IMAX idea. “We said, just put in good design, restaurants on the edges, places where people can sit and eat – people will come,” she says. And they did. “It really just started the whole thing moving along,” Stout says of the Viaduct’s redevelopment then. “It’s really heartening to see how far it’s come in such a short period of time. People started to get it, and now they’ve got it in a big way.”

Should Auckland host the next cup defence, Mitchell & Stout have ideas ready (see visualisation above). They also hope that holding another America’s Cup event here could “reinforce the vitality in the city,” Stout says.

“Hopefully any new development will include a mix of housing, to show us that we are a city, that we are a group of people who live together.”


They would begin this process by clearing Te Wero Island (between Quay Street and North Wharf, pictured above) of cars to create a public park leading to a possible cup base on an extended Halsey Street Wharf.

“At the moment,” says architect David Mitchell, Stout’s partner, “it has 50 metres of car spaces. Around the corner, in the next city block, is the Downtown parking building. On a recent Friday afternoon this Viaduct carpark was full, but the Downtown parking building had 434 vacant spaces. I asked a woman cleaner whether the building was ever full. ‘Hardly ever’, she said. ‘Maybe on a Saturday when people are going to Waiheke’. 

I went back on a Saturday. There were 515 vacant spaces. Once again, the Viaduct spaces were nearly full, with crowds walking round them to get over the bridges to North Wharf.

How can we possibly park cars on such a wonderful site?”

We agree. The park proposal looks fantastic. And we’re glad they’re not actually serious about that red sock.

Architect at Warren and Mahoney (and sailor) Mat Brown has a location in mind for an Auckland-based America’s Cup event.

There’s lots of talk about extending the Viaduct but for me there could be a way of doing it that is sustainable. If we want it back in the future there is somewhere the event can be held that could be a public space at other times.

The Alinghi base sat on the waterfront for ages as a workshop for boat builders. It would be nice to think if we lost it, that that space would be given back to the public or used for another use.

The current boats aren’t the same as the boats that went into Viaduct Harbour. They don’t need the same depth of water. Locating the America’s Cup base at Mechanics Bay or Ōrākei could be a way of activating the waterfront along there. The eastern side of the city might be another way of doing it rather than building another wharf.

If the America’s Cup was the catalyst for the Viaduct it would be nice to think this could be a catalyst again for something that could be used for more than just the America’s Cup.

I think it would be nice if there is some public space to the seaward side of Tāmaki Drive. It’d also be nice if it was designed without copious asphalt and once you take it away it became a public space. It could be a yacht club, it could be another opportunity for the Auckland public to get down and put their feet in the water without having to build a sea wall because they don’t need that for these boats. It might require some reclamation down there but wouldn’t it be nice if it linked back to a new stadium and that area of the city started to string together, rather than extending wharves and building spaces for super yachts.

The cup has changed since 1995 when teams would stay here for two or three years. The event is shorter, it’s spread around the world - it’s changed to be a bit more of a temporary thing. We should learn from how we are going to hold it in four years’ time and in 24 years’ time.

It’s designing something that is used for three and a half years by the people in Auckland and half a year by America’s Cup bases. We will see a much better infrastructure. The other thing to note is that because it’s going to be here for less time it kind of needs to piggy back off the city a bit.

When New Zealand won the cup in 1995, Auckland’s viaduct was ripe for development. We have seen so much investment in Wynyard Quarter I wonder whether the cup is going to increase it more?

Perhaps this is an opportunity is to try something for Auckland that would benefit the city in more ways than one.


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