water works

With a masterplan that incorporates a pioneering harbour lock, Melview Developments' Lighter Quay takes urban design right to the water's edge
An exterior view of the lighter quay apartment architecture, building, city, condominium, corporate headquarters, dock, harbor, marina, mixed use, real estate, reflection, sky, water, water transportation, waterway, teal
An exterior view of the lighter quay apartment complex located on the waters edge of the Aucklands viaduct harbour

With sightlines back to the city as well as across the water, and a location that links the already-developed eastern part of the Viaduct with the Tank Farm to the west, the site that now accommodates Melview Developments' Lighter Quay had long been thought of as the jewel in the Viaduct's crown. However the development conundrum facing Nigel McKenna, Melview Developments' Managing Director, was not simply how to make best use of this axis, but how to do so on reclaimed, polluted land. The story of its creation as a pioneering urban design project is one of persistence, inspiration and innovation.

Having sought the design schemes of leading architects from around the world, McKenna remained unconvinced that anything he had seen really resolved the site, a former log farm and more recently home to the America's Cup bases. To hold the edge' a key urban design strategy when developing a square site, which essentially requires developing strong forms out to its extremities almost every scheme ended up resembling a donut by default, with a redundant space in the middle.

Eventually McKenna warmed to a grid of four' approach. However when dinner party companions literally poured cold water over this more formulaic scheme, it was time to farewell the guests and let inspiration take flight.


An exterior view of the lighter quay apartment architecture, building, city, condominium, corporate headquarters, dock, harbor, marina, mixed use, real estate, reflection, sky, water, water transportation, waterway, teal
An exterior view of the lighter quay apartment complex located on the waters edge of the Aucklands viaduct harbour

Aware that the true value of the project lay in its waterside location, McKenna arrived at a concept that would see the creation of a waterway through to the heart of the development. A fantastic theory, but one fraught with difficulty given the site's history and contamination. Seventeen different consents were required for a scheme that would hinge on the creation of a world-first harbour lock, with some consents having to be renewed as others took so long to be issued. But McKenna's persistence serves to underline his commitment to creating a world-class development fitting of its location.

An exemplar of sophisticated urban design, providing an intelligent approach to higher density living through a residential/commercial mix and underground parking, the Lighter Quay project is not the work of just one architect. Within McKenna's overall concept, four different architects have been appointed for the four individual components the already completed residential complexes of North, Stratis and Halsey and the soon-to-be-completed Westin Hotel. Each came with a different brief specific to the needs of their audiences.

The result is a series of structures that complement one another without appearing uniform and, through careful detail and choice of material, don't encroach on or dominate the public environment. The provision of different residential levels and price points also serves to encourage a broader demographic of resident another key consideration of urban design.

An exterior view of the lighter quay apartment architecture, building, condominium, facade, mixed use, water, gray
An exterior view of the lighter quay apartment complex located on the waters edge of the Aucklands viaduct harbour

Ludo Campbell-Reid sees Lighter Quay as an iconic beginning to the development of a sophisticated new quarter for Auckland. "A changing of the guard" that will see exciting new architecture stretch to Westhaven Marina and Wynyard Point to create a genuine, world-class, waterfront city.

Apr 06, 2007
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