Concrete Island: Lost Sites and Hidden Heritage
In cities like Auckland, suburban sprawl has led to the introduction of extensive elevated motorways that create barriers and cuts across the ordering elements of the city. Urban planner Roger Trancik refers to the areas beneath and adjacent to these urban motorways as “lost sites”, considered ‘unbuildable’ even though they occur within the central business district. This research investigation looks at how architecture can help return a sense of place identity and cultural significance to otherwise placeless zones defined by elevated urban motorways. The central Auckland site for this design-led research is the Central Motorway Junction (CMJ), commonly referred to as ‘spaghetti junction’ — a site physically and environmentally inappropriate for housing development, but large and high profile enough to contribute significantly to Auckland’s ‘cultural hub’. The proposed programme for this investigation is a new facility to house Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa’s stored collections. Arguably New Zealand’s most valuable cultural holdings, only 3% of Te Papa Tongarewa’s collections are on display at any time. The rest of the museum’s stored collections are completely hidden from public view within its back of house facilities and warehouse structures in Wellington. Due to Wellington’s location on major fault lines, studies are underway to permanently move the stored collections to Auckland, where they will remain removed from the public eye. This design-led research investigation proposes that once these collections are relocated to Auckland, if they are made visually accessible to the public, they could provide a vital extension of the cultural hub for the city centre. The investigation proposes to architecturally inhabit one of Auckland’s most prominent lost sites, the Central Motorway Junction, in a way that celebrates its iconic elevated motorway as a viable urban context capable of actively contributing to urban re-vitalisation and cultural consolidation. The thesis investigation examines the city’s motorway infrastructure as a framework for a new typology for architecture that actively uses the ‘motorway typology’ to establish architectural and place identity. Simultaneously the investigation explores how expansive elevated motorway sites can provide significant footprints for new public buildings to enhance the cultural identity of the urban centre.