41 Wharf Street Developments

The main purpose of this blog is to talk about Dunedin and the things that make it a creative city, but sometimes in life we come across things that are so bafflingly oppugnant to us and our values, we just have to take a deep breath and remind ourselves what we believe in.

Now the proposed hotel development on Wharf Street has been a major concern of mine since the news first broke last May, and was initially believed to be a very belated and misguided April fools joke (original article). However, when it became apparent that it was, in fact, no laughing matter, each new development in the story just became more frustrating.

I have absolutely no issues with modern developments, I am a designer, it’s sort of what I do. I am not opposed to increasing tourism opportunities. Although I was recently lucky enough to attend a workshop on Science Communication run by Elizabeth Connor, and during the workshop she showed how tourism is actually a non sustainable industry in New Zealand. I have no issues with Dunedin having a 5 star hotel. I have no issues with revitalising the harbour/waterfront area.

What I do object to, is a design that is completely insensitive to our cities architecture, character, skyline, community needs, harbour view, surroundings and local environment. The proposed structure is 28 storeys high. Twenty-eight. It will cast a shadow over areas that benefit greatly from the sunlight and harbour views.

Below is a video of the proposed hotel development on the Dunedin waterfront

The What If? Dunedin … blog featured a passionate and eloquent diatribe of the new development by Grahame Sydney (found here) where he covers a few inconsistencies with the video as well.

In response to this, sculptor artist Shane McGrath organised the Gelber LuftBallon, to provide Dunedin with an accurate representation of just how high the proposed building would be by flying a bright yellow zeppelin in front of Customhouse Quay (article and images here). This was followed by an open invitation to attend the Gelber LuftBallon (Dunedin Research Project) exhibition at the Blue Oyster Club, with a talk by McGrath on the final day of the exhibition. I had intended to go down and catch the end of the exhibition and McGrath’s talk but sadly was unable to attend.

So then today turned out to be a Snow Day! I had time to check my news feed this morning, and what greeted me was this article. So either way, it seems there is going to be a development on the waterfront. Coming in at a whole 25 storeys less than the original site usage proposal, and with the intention of being mainly offices, you have to seriously wonder: Just what do the people behind the proposal actually want to achieve? Quite honestly, I have no idea what they are up to, and that worries me more than anything.

The decision on the hotel is only a few days away, so until then I can hope that common sense prevails and the proposal is rejected. Otherwise the belief held by my friends and family will be wholly accurate, that I live in Middle Earth, as I will inevitably end up looking at the Dunedin equivalent of Mount Doom on a daily basis.

I Missed The 24 Hour Book Sale!

This past weekend (well, Friday through Saturday) was the annual Regent 24 Hour book sale. This year marked the 33rd consecutive year the event has been held, with profits going towards the Otago Theatre Trust who run the Regent Theatre.

Sadly, due to one part forgetfulness, and one part other commitments I was unable to attend the event. However, a few of my friends were able to make it down, and I know that even around 11pm the Regent was still pretty busy. There was even live music, which was meant to be on for the duration of the sale.

With a huge range of books, from gardening to science fiction, there really was a book for everyone; and over half of them were available for just $1. It reminds me somewhat of the car boot sales I grew up with in England, except those were always outside (and it was England so it rained 9 times out of 10), and there was definitely no musical accompaniment either, unless you included the various attempts at haggling going on all around.

I was also unaware that the event is the biggest sale of secondhand books in the Southern Hemisphere! Quite impressive really, that Dunedin holds an event of that scale. Only in Dunedin would we hold a 24 hour book sale in a theatre! Makes you wonder what else we could have quietly going on down here.

The Regent Theatres description of the event can be found here. The claim about being the biggest sale of secondhand books in the Southern Hemisphere can be found here.

Public Screenings

I really love e-tickets, I think it's the personalisation.

I really love e-tickets, I think it’s the personalisation.

So this evening I went along to the Otago Museum with my friend, and we watched this rather wonderful little film. Coming in at around 90 minutes long it’s not by any standards a short film, and despite being about design it was not an art house film, rather a snappy modern documentary.

Before the film started there was a brief introduction to it by Matthew Ellingsen of Empathy where we learned how the film was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and made for $18,000! Which when I consider how slick the film seemed, it is honestly remarkable.

So, Design & Thinking, during Matthew’s introduction he talked about how everyone takes something different away from the film. Personally, I found the film gave validation to how I find my work process as a designer, all the frustrations I have when trying to interact with others who have a preconceived notion of designers, and putting names to faces of all the literature I have been perusing over the course of my degree.

I enjoyed how divergent the people interviewed were, it reinforced how the methodologies I have been learning about, particularly strategic and participatory design, are applicable in so many areas, and coincidentally how useful and effective they were.

The screening itself was packed, over 150 people turned up to watch the film. I don’t know why I am always surprised by how busy these events are. I suppose when I am working on a project I tend to be alone or working within a small group or community, I never get to interact with the greater design community we have here in Dunedin, which is a huge shame. We are so lucky here to have a vibrant design community, I hope that the longer I am here the more I will get to work within that community!

So I guess what I took away was that design maybe a globally undervalued process, but it’s a vital tool in helping to shape our future. That instead of just accepting the preconceived ideas people have of design and the design process, we should be making a concerned effort to alter them.

If I have sparked an interest to go see Design & Thinking it is showing again in June, tickets can be bought here. (Although I have recently found Rialto’s website to be rather useless and would recommend ringing them if you do in fact wish to get tickets.) And I highly recommend going along to see it!

Also, further information on the film can be found on the Design & Thinking website.

Open Talks

As I mentioned in the previous post I was fortunate enough to attend a talk on Dunedin’s adaptive reuse of buildings last night. The talk was given by Michael Findlay, who I was lucky enough to be taught by while earning my degree at Otago.

A rather full Burns Hall, First Church audience.

A rather full Burns Hall, First Church audience.

I really appreciated the talk, especially the prehistory about the formation of Dunedin. I had no idea The peninsula was actually an ancient volcano, or that there were so many fault lines around Dunedin. The condensed history lesson at the beginning created a firm grounding for the rest of the talk and provided an insight that I hadn’t received from my previous attempts to learn about Dunedin.

Michael also showed us the original layout for the city drawn up by the surveyors, accompanied by some wonderful original photography of the area as it was built and developed from the invention of photography until the late 19th century. It was wonderful to see how the city has evolved and developed, despite this happening before most of our lifetimes, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for the images of those grandiose and ornate buildings of yesteryear.

He then displayed some of the work currently being done towards restoring some of our original building stock, and how they were being made fit for reuse. It was great to see the original, before and then after pictures. Some of the buildings were completely unrecognisable. I struggled to recognise the ones I walk past regularly!

The conclusion was an explanation of the planning of the tentatively named ‘Warehouse Precinct’; and the projects aim to essentially reclaim what is currently a ‘traffic island’ into a more pedestrian friendly area that people want to explore and potentially live in.

I particularly enjoyed the questions, I found out that we actually have a circus in Dunedin! There were obviously some very passionate people in attendance with a keen interest in heritage buildings, I met some really interesting people and had a few brief but insightful conversations.

The talk was arranged by the Southern Heritage Trust, more information on them can be found here. While the DCC revitalisation project currently called the ‘Warehouse Precinct Revitalisation Plan’ can be see here, the plan itself can be viewed and downloaded here.

Where House?

I was lucky enough to be able to go along to this last night. It was fascinating to learn about Dunedin’s architectural heritage, and how the city was planned from the very beginnings!

What if? Dunedin...

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Where House ?
Adaptive reuse of buildings in Dunedin’s warehouse precinct

A presentation by Michael Findlay –professional practice fellow in Applied Sciences, University of Otago

When: Tuesday 14 May 2013 at 7:00 pm
Where: Burns Hall, First Church, Moray Place, Dunedin

All welcome

Hosted by Southern Heritage Trust –enquiries 03 471 8265

The Otago Branch of New Zealand Historic Places Trust recently merged with Southern Heritage Trust.

IMG_6784a1SHT logo 1

Images and Post by Elizabeth Kerr

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Their Place In The World

Parading down Stuart Street

Parading down Stuart Street

It’s mid Autumn, meaning that here in Dunedin it’s Graduation time. For me this meant taking pictures of my two flatmates who both graduated on Saturday. Unlike my graduation in December last year, they were lucky enough to have a beautifully clear day, with azure blue skies and crisp autumn foliage.

It also marked some of my classmates graduation, meaning that the last Design Studies students from the University are now graduates. I’m pretty proud of us, the last Design Studies class, we certainly had an interesting experience, but we came out the other side and now have degrees!

As I  wasn’t graduating, and technically working as a photographer, it was really lovely to see how everyone’s friends and families were there for them. It was hard not to get caught up in the day with my flatmates and their families.

Graduation is a big tradition in Dunedin, and everyone chooses to celebrate it slightly differently. For me it was a personal dinner with my family, but walking around Dunedin in the evening it was evident that everyone else had their own interpretation of how best to celebrate.

So congratulations to everyone who graduated and will be over the next few weekends. If anyone is in need of a photographer, I’m free!

Jon Thom and Insiders Dunedin

So the most recent Insiders Dunedin video is on Jon Thom. Originally from Central Otago, Jon runs his own company Moodie Tuesday here in Dunedin, his works are mainly done in charcoal.

I was lucky enough to go see Jon being featured in the Artists Room here in Dunedin last year, it was a great opportunity to see his work in person. The textures his work contains are stunning and provide a wonderful feeling of depth to his pieces.

I was also able to attend Undone and Moodie Tuesday’s  Fashion Week Showcase for iD Fashion Week here in Dunedin. My favourites from the showcase were a pair of skull paintings that glowed due to the fluorescent lighting used at the showcase. Found here on Moodie Tuesday

Jon also works with Motion Sickness Studio (who made the above video), which has been open less than a year and already has contracts around Dunedin.

So basically, go look at Moodie Tuesday, Motion Sickness Studio and support one of our own if you can!

Jon’s personal website is also here.

Heritage Festival

Hi there internet!

So I should probably explain what this is all about. Firstly I should probably say welcome to my blog, Spark Dunedin, thanks for dropping by! This blog is a space for me to talk about creativity, my home (Dunedin) and how the interplay between each other results in what I like to believe is a creative city.

Enough about me though. This ANZAC weekend coincides with Dunedin’s Heritage Festival. This year marks the festivals fourth run, and lots of interesting events are scheduled for it, ranging from a ghost tour of Port Chalmers to a tour of the city’s Police Station.

I think this is great, one of the first things I really noticed when I first moved here was the vast amount of heritage building stock all over the city, from the Exchange area to the Octagon, to the Botanic Gardens Greenhouse! The majority of the tours do not require booking so I strongly encourage you to wander down and learn a little about our architectural history.

The Heritage Festival also allows me to mention the recent purchase of the Athenaeum, the new owner Laurie Forbes has stated his desire to provide creative spaces in the building, which is fantastic news for everyone in Dunedin. the Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute in the Octagon is one of the largest Athenaeum’s in New Zealand and offers a wide range of literature. The building itself is an architectural gem. I was lucky enough to recently be given a tour of the building with my classmates, it has an old theatre at the back!

And I think I will leave it there for now, further information and a list of events on offer this weekend for the Heritage Festival can be found here, and the article on the Athenaeum purchase here.