Urbis magazine has named Wynyard Quarter as the best public space of 2012, and given what the new waterfront precinct has done for Auckland, it's hard to disagree.
"What did we used to do? Where did we used to go? Aucklanders, starved of inner-city contact with their waterfront for so long, now have a taste of how good it can be. And it can be very good.
"Wynyard Quarter, the reclaimed land on the western edge of the waterfront, is not one but a number of experiences. There are places to eat, drink and play; places to sit, watch and walk. There are monumental edifices, historic and new, alongside more subtle moments. The greatest design moves? Well, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, but the decision to retain and enhance the existing fishing and maritime industries was a good starting point. Slotting in a great playground wasn’t a bad idea either, and letting people get down and put their feet in the water was inspired."
It wasn't until August 2011 that Wynyard Quarter first opened to the public ahead of the Rugby World Cup, so it's been less than two years.
Stage one of the design-led transformation – one of the largest waterfront urban renewal projects ever undertaken in New Zealand – was six years in the making, the culmination of 35 resource consents, 45 building consents, two district plan changes and a cool $120 million price tag.
Wynyard Quarter encompasses the Gordon Moller-designed Viaduct Events Centre, a pedestrian bridge linking it to the eastern side of Viaduct Harbour (Wynyard Crossing), new restaurants and bars at North Wharf, a revitalised Jellicoe Street and Silo Park, a new inner city park with westward views of Westhaven Marina and the Auckland Harbour. Silo Park in particular has blossomed, expanding to hold markets and outdoor film screenings.
Other heritage touchstones include trams that travel on a 1.5km loop, cement silos from the industrial days, and shipping containers re-purposed to house toilets, an ATM and a visitors centre.
That's not all, though. Over the next 20-25 years even more of teh area will be transformed in stages into a harbourside community with parks and plazas, apartments, shops and offices alongside the traditional marine and fishing industries. This is just stage one.