In recent years, Waka Kotahi has been quietly funding small projects across Aotearoa that aim to make our streets safer and more accessible. When it came time for Whanganui to get involved, the city council called on Patchwork Architecture. Charged with creating a space where the community could gather and connect, Ben Mitchell-Anyon tells us how they were given 15 car parks, a tight deadline and less than $130,000 to make it happen.
What did the council ask for?
The idea was to remove some car parks and replace them with something that would help to reduce vehicle speed and provide amenities to the public. The council identified the car parks we could remove and had initial thoughts about what areas could be focused on, but other than that, it was pretty open.
How did you approach the design?
The project covers quite a large area, and we had a pretty tiny budget, so it was important we didn’t spread the work too thin. We decided to create two focal points using the shelters and place a large communal table under each. We could then use cheaper interventions – planters and seating – to claim the other parks.
Let’s talk about that sawtooth roof.
It was nice to design something that wasn’t a house! Habitable structures have to perform so many functions; all these structures have to do is keep the rain (or sun) off your head. Without the need for wiring, plumbing or insulation, we could design something really simple. The sawtooth roof was a way of integrating structure and surface; the folded plate does both. Also, I’ve always had a soft spot for industrial rooflines...
Why table tennis?
Why not?! Concrete table tennis tables are also hard to steal and don’t blow away.
What challenges did you come up against?
Mainly the timeframes. We had about six weeks to draw it up and six weeks to make and install everything.
How do you hope people will use the space?
The spaces are already really well used, especially on a Saturday, as they are close to the riverside markets. The Rutland Street shelter is directly outside Article cafe (the best coffee shop in Whanganui), so lots of people grab their coffee and sit outside when the weather is nice. A sourdough bakery and an ice cream shop are also opening up on Drews Ave. Hopefully, the space will benefit these businesses too. It’s been pretty cool to see kids playing table tennis and the communal table full on a Saturday morning.