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Architects outline clean, green, self-sufficient vision
Tuesday November 21, 2006
By Mathew Dearnaley

Architects of an Auckland waterfront stadium promoted it yesterday as a people-friendly and energy self-sufficient building fit to grace the postcards of every visitor to New Zealand.

Going all out to woo detractors of Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard's $500 million-plus waterfront dream, principals of Warren and Mahoney said Stadium New Zealand would probably be the world's first fully-glazed and "carbon-neutral" sports centre.

"It should be seen as a friend of the city and not the enemy of the people," said director Andrew Barclay, as the minutes kept ticking towards decisions on Thursday and Friday by the Auckland city and regional councils on whether the 2011 cup finals should be contested on the waterfront or a redeveloped Eden Park.

"So we are conscious the building should express the values of the New Zealand people - it should be open, clear and transparent," he said.

Although the visual impact of the 37m structure is uppermost in critics' minds, fellow director Graeme Finlay said by video link from Christchurch that it would offer a striking showcase to the world of New Zealand's environmental and technological leadership.

Mr Finlay, who is deputy chairman of the Green Building Council, said the 60,000-seat building would be largely self-sufficient in its use of energy and water, and in processing wastes.

Energy could be generated by roof-top solar collectors and windflow turbines in the sides of the building and stored in the national grid; rainwater could be used to flush lavatories and irrigate the stadium's playing field; and industrial composting could allow waste to be recycled on the site.

"It is an extraordinary opportunity to showcase New Zealand technology on a world stage, for it to carve out its niche in that growth market," Mr Finlay said.

Mr Barclay said the curvaceous glazed "skin" of the stadium would also do away with the need for mechanical air-conditioning, drawing air through the building naturally.

"This is now the topic of our generation and, if we are going to spend $500 million building any kind of stadium, we believe it should be an exemplar of Government policy."

He acknowledged public concern that such a large building may disconnect people from the waterfront, but said its transparent appearance would allow them to see in and out of it, and encourage them to approach it without feeling threatened.

It would be large, and people would not be able to see through its concrete inner platform, but its mass would appear less than if it were made of traditional materials.

"We are looking forward to it behaving differently in terms of how it will allow people both at ground level and at every concourse level within the stadium to have direct connections with the waterfront."

Those not entering the stadium would gain access currently denied to them by port operations to a large forecourt and promenade on its western side and a boardwalk right around it, and to a beach below the historic Admiralty Steps.

He admitted that his firm shared the preference of many others, including Auckland City Council urban design champion Ludo Campbell-Reid, that the stadium be built further east on Bledisloe Wharf but said it was "not in control of that decision".

Mr Mallard has accepted Ports of Auckland's view that an eastern site would jeopardise too much of its business, but he will face growing public pressure for a rethink when he returns from Canada on Thursday.

The architects believe the choice between the waterfront and Eden Park will be a very close call, but Mr Barclay said that, if the two councils gave it the green light, he expected stadium platform contractor Fletcher Building would want them working on it at the coming weekend.

Institute of Architects urban issues group member Ken Crosson welcomed the new details about public accessibility and sustainability but said Auckland should not give up hope of pushing the project further east so the stadium would not block views from the Britomart precinct.

Noting that the port company would gain 5ha of reclaimed land at the Fergusson container terminal by early next year, with plans for further additions later, he believed it could afford to relinquish some of Bledisloe in what would be "a great gesture" to the people of Auckland.

Port company spokeswoman Karen Bradshaw said $5 billion of goods were imported or exported each year across Bledisloe and the company was concerned about losing water space as well as land, and about access difficulties for container trucks if Quay St were closed to traffic on match days.

The deputy head of Auckland University's architecture school, Diane Brand, said a stadium would be a large and unattractive edifice wherever it went on the waterfront and no amount of "window-dressing" could change that. "If it's in the front row of your city, it's a problem," she said.

Green Party MP Keith Locke, who organised a protest meeting against the stadium on Sunday with Act leader Rodney Hide, said he supported any move toward energy-efficiency but making that a feature of such a large blot on the waterfront risked discrediting the cause.