Westhaven Promenade Showcases the Evolution of the Waterfront Landscape

By Mai Nguyen – Westhaven Promenade Auckland, by ASPECT Studios, Architectus and Landlab, in Westhaven, Auckland, New Zealand.

The publicly accessible waterfront of Westhaven Promenade, completed in 2015 by the collaborative team of ASPECT Studios with Architectus and Landlab, is an important part of the development of Auckland’s public realm. The project provides 1.5 kilometers of shared pedestrian and cycle promenades connecting the marina and the city.

It is hoped that the project will stimulate additional economic growth in the area. With its sensible design using human scale, appropriate materials, and thoughtful space arrangement, the project promises to be a noticeable contribution to the development of the Westhaven Marina waterfront.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade

A Sensible Combination of Material, Color, and Shape

The promenade features about 600 meters of timber boardwalk and 900 meters of concrete path. The timber deck was made from spotted gum hardwood, one of Australia’s premium native hardwoods, noted for its high natural durability and strength. Since timber usually creates a warm feeling, it provides a friendly atmosphere for users.

The light gray color (quite close to the color of beach sand) helps blend this manmade structure with its natural surroundings. The light color also helps to visually “soften” the promenade.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Although the promenade consists of segmental parts aligning with the shoreline, it evokes a feeling of strength, stableness, and harmony. Indeed, the appropriate combination of materials, color, and shapes creates an attractive atmosphere for users without relying on inordinate inserts.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Another plus to this design is the use of lighting that not only enhances the strong shape of the design, but also enriches the night landscape experience. By using lighting only on one side of the walkway, the illumination creates a comfortable atmosphere for visitors.

The shimmer of the lights’ reflection on the water is undeniably romantic. A strong awareness of site conditions is always useful in the progress of enhancing a landscape design.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Proper Scale for Better Atmosphere

Another noticeable aspect in the design of the Westhaven Promenade is the consistent use of 5-meter width. This dimension is just wide enough for a shared path for pedestrians and cyclers; it ensures the necessary safety while managing to avoid having too much empty space. In other words, the general atmosphere created for this shoreline path is “busy enough” to encourage people to come and enjoy the marine views.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

It is not too abandoned or too suffocated. In landscape design — and especially in the designing of a promenade — it is important to provide an appropriate width for the walkway in order to provide an encouraging atmosphere.

In the case of the Westhaven Promenade, the space is wide enough for small groups of two or three people to walk safely with one or two cyclers. Therefore, even in an inactive period, the space is not too empty, but inviting and attractive.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

The sensible design and arrangement of public amenities also plays a factor in the project’s success. Timber seating has been placed at locations that offer attractive views. The seats and timber kick-rails ensure safety and suggest pausing points for the best enjoyment of marine views. Moreover, the designers purposely integrated Maori Whakatauki and Waka stories within the precast concrete terrace steps .

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

This enhances the cultural connection of the local site and the harbor landmarks. The precast concrete steps embrace the natural topography and create some visually amicable scenery. The color of the concrete also matches the general color of the promenade and other elements of the design.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Responsive to SLR

Another interesting fact about the design of the Westhaven Promenade is the raise of the 300mm decking structure to accommodate anticipated tide events, sea level rise, and storm surges for the 30- to 50-year lifespan of the promenade . Sea level rise has always been a “hot” issue, especially in marine regions. By taking into account this feature, the design will allow users to experience the chronological evolution of the landscape.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

In other words, throughout time and changes in sea level, the landscape experiences of this design will also be enriched by the transformation of nature. Instead of trying to confront or stubbornly ignore an unavoidable phenomenon such as sea level rise, the designers have embraced it and harmonized it with other components of the overall design.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

To sum up, the Westhaven Promenade in Auckland is an exemplary reference illustrating the impact of a landscape design on urban development. With a comprehensive understanding about the site — including tangible and intangible elements — the team has created a responsive design that not only connects the existing the city with the water and the people with nature, but also encourages further development of the surroundings.

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

The three aspects mentioned above are not the only elements contributing to the success of this project. But they can be seen as the main framework orienting the style and evolution of the design. Indeed, appropriate forms, scale, and awareness of the natural impact are crucial foundations for any landscape development project.

What are other fundamental elements for an urban-scale landscape project?

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Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Westhaven Promenade. Photo credit: Jonny Davis

Full Project Credits For Westhaven Promenade Auckland:

Project Name: Westhaven Promenade
Location: Westhaven, Auckland, New Zealand
Client: Waterfront Auckland
Landscape Architect: ASPECT Studios, Architectus and LandLAB in association

Project Team:
ASPECT Studios, Architectus and LandLAB in association (Collaborative design team)
JAWA Structures (Structural and Civil Engineering)
e3BW (Lighting design)
Traffic Planning Consultants (Traffic / Transport Engineering)
Rewi Thompson Architects (Cultural Advisor)
MPM (Project Management)
Photography: Jonny Davis
Year: 2015
Budget: NZ $7 million (stage 1)
Length: 1.5km

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