The global design team behind the proposed new downtown stadium at Quay Park believe that the arena could one day become Auckland’s version of the Sydney Opera House.
On Saturday the Herald revealed the detailed plans for the 15-hectare precinct, also known as Te Tōangaroa, at the eastern end of Auckland’s CBD, which includes four hotels (among them an All Blacks branded hotel), bars, restaurants, retail, commercial office space, residential apartments, public plazas and green spaces.
But the standout of the pitch is the 55,000-capacity stadium – a radical and innovative design inspired by traditional Māori culture and historic features of the Auckland isthmus. The U-shaped arena also opens out at one end, allowing views of the Waitemata Harbour and Rangitoto Island.
An aerial image of the proposed new precinct at Auckland's Quay Park, featuring the Downtown stadium, hotels, commercial, retail and residential space.
It’s a concept that hasn’t been seen in New Zealand – or Australasia before – and could be polarising but the design team wanted to push the boundaries.
“We view every stadium as a unique opportunity,” HKS Australasia director Andrew Colling told the Herald. “Every city deserves a unique response and especially New Zealand. The last thing Auckland needs is another cookie cutter, cake tin solution that is imported from Australia or imported from Europe. We felt very strongly that this was an opportunity to take a fresh start.
“It reflects the unique context and backdrop and hopefully when people see the images they feel a strong sense of connection that yes, this is New Zealand, this is Auckland. That was the key driver; when you are in the stadium you can’t be anywhere else in the world.”
The design is distinctive, from whichever angle, in a massive departure from the standard coliseum bowl. The roof takes inspiration from traditional Maori culture – with its pattern and linework – while the overall structure almost defies description.
An artist's impression of the proposed Downtown stadium at Quay Park, flanked by All Blacks hotel.
“It’s a significant piece of urban sculpture, a big piece of artwork,” said Colling. “We hope it could one day be Auckland’s version of the Sydney Opera House, but in a sports stadium. It has been sculpted to fit a particular part of the city and tie together the various links that used to exist on that site, trying to embrace two different cultural heritages. Hopefully, it becomes an anchor on the eastern side of the city and plays a role in identifying the city as a whole.”
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HKS wanted to promote a visual connection to the surroundings for stadium spectators, rather than an enclosed arena, with views of the harbour and the Auckland cityscape.
“Putting an inward-looking stadium there isn’t going to do the city justice,” said Colling.
Backers of the proposal, led by former Warriors chief executive Jim Doyle, believe the precinct will drive a regeneration of the Quay Park area, the last in a chain along the waterfront, after Wynyard Point, the Viaduct, Britomart and Commercial Bay.
“Hopefully it becomes a catalyst,” said Colling. “A lot of it is about activating the eastern side of the city to catch up with the west. We wanted something that even when there is no game, no event, people want to go there because it is an activated part of the city and there is bars and restaurants. You can climb up the stadium roof and have a look out or go up the top of the All Blacks hotel and get a panoramic view.”
The view out on to the Waitematā Harbour from inside the proposed Downtown stadium at Auckland's Quay Park.
HKS was founded in Dallas in 1939 and has 27 offices around the world. Some of its signature projects include the Dallas Cowboys AT&T stadium and the US Bank stadium in Minneapolis, part of a precinct that has revitalised the surrounding neighbourhood. Its resume also includes the SoFi stadium in Los Angeles and Perth’s Optus stadium.
The Quay Park proposal is one of four bids under consideration from an Auckland Council working group, which will make a non-binding recommendation. The full council is then expected to confirm its preference for Auckland’s future main stadium later this year.
The other options are waterfront precincts at Bledisloe Wharf and Wynyard Point and a redeveloped Eden Park.
An artist's impression of the inside of the proposed stadium at Quay Park.
‘We hope that our design excites the community, shows what is possible and hopefully the momentum keeps going,” said Colling. “It’s a catalyst to look at the east side of the city a bit differently.
“We are conscious that we are pushing the limits of the design but we just felt it was such a unique opportunity. The city maybe missed an opportunity with the 2011 Rugby World Cup and we were trying to get the city excited, to not miss the opportunity again.”
Michael Burgess has been a sports journalist since 2005, winning several national awards and covering Olympics’, Fifa World Cups and America’s Cup campaigns.
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