Overlooking Waitematā Harbour, Te Komititanga forms a new cultural and civic heart for Auckland City’s downtown and waterfront precinct. Framed by some of the city’s most significant heritage and commercial buildings, including Commercial Bay, Auckland Ferry Terminal, the Chief Post Office (CPO) and Waitematā (Train) Station, Te Komititanga provides a major public forum and a revitalised place of welcome and arrival into the city. The plaza is located at the bottom of Queen Street, which was built in 1840 and is one of the city’s first roads to the harbour, providing vital trade connections within New Zealand and to the world beyond.

The design reflects the site’s unique setting and cultural heritage as a place where people, water and the land converge. Key to its success was an authentic co-design process, resulting from extensive consultation with the Mana Whenua Forum, a group of indigenous iwi (tribes) maintaining historic ties and interest in the area. The plaza’s name was gifted by this group and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and means “to mix” or “to merge” in te reo Māori. The unique paving pattern represents the convergence of the Waihorotiu Stream, flowing beneath Queen Street, and the Waitematā Harbour, over which is laid a whāriki (fine woven mat) demarcating a major gathering space, an ātea, expressing both welcome and unity in front of the CPO. Considered the most esteemed woven item within Māori culture, the whāriki traditionally reflects chiefly descent and is an expression of mana (status and nobility).

Urban Design

Situated on reclaimed land, and over two newly constructed underground rail tunnels, the project was highly complex to construct, but a critical piece of the puzzle to unlock a wider, long-term vision being carried forward through a range of city-defining plans and programmes of work, including the realisation of major land development opportunities surrounding City Rail Link (CRL). This is a new underground rail network which will revolutionise public transportation into and through Auckland City when it opens fully in 2026.

Combining paving with judiciously located shade trees and street furniture, Te Komititanga accommodates events, temporary activations, and major celebrations, while remaining a strategic gateway supporting the flow of people in and out of adjacent transport nodes. The plaza has been embraced by Auckland residents and visitors alike. Its transformation from a bus terminal to a pedestrian environment has unlocked the potential of the downtown precinct as a multi-functional destination for tourism, commerce, and leisure.

Bicultural Process

The project’s success is owed to key stakeholders involved over many years of planning including: Auckland Design Office, Waitematā Local Board, Auckland City Centre Advisory Board, Auckland Urban Design Panel, Auckland Unlimited, Auckland Transport, Auckland Business Association. The project brief was developed by mana whenua, Auckland Council’s former Development Programme Office and Auckland City Rail Link Limited.

The intricate centrepiece to the paving design, the whāriki, was designed in collaboration with mana whenua weaving experts during a series of hui (meetings). The proportions correspond to the scale and form of the majestic CPO frontage. The patterns chosen by mana whenua weavers include the Niho Taniwha border pattern to acknowledge the unity provided by the Kīngitanga (Māori King). The central pattern is the Poutama, symbolising learning and achievement. To the north, the waves of the Waitematā Harbour and to the south, the meandering waters of the Waihorotiu Stream are depicted, referencing the meeting of the two waters before the area was reclaimed in the 1880s.

Sustainability Considerations

CRL works necessitate prolonged lifecycle requirements to meet sustainability targets. Basalt was specified for the 137,000 pavers due to its strength, quality, and longevity. The varied colours (red, white, and grey) enabled the design team to deliver what mana whenua envisaged. Custom designed furnishings were implemented utilising Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified hardwood timbers and marine grade stainless steel frames and fixtures to withstand the harsh coastal environment and demands of public use.

The site’s proximity to the Waitematā Harbour and its location on reclaimed land required special consideration and several unique challenges to overcome. Large planting troughs have been installed below ground to sustain shade trees in the plaza as the ground conditions were not suitable for planting. Furthermore, the site sits within the inter-tidal zone where the stormwater system is inundated each day by seawater necessitating backflow prevention to prevent sea water impacting tree growth.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Jasmax

Location: 8/10 Queen Street, Auckland City Centre, Auckland 1010

Design year: 2017

Year Completed: 2020 [north-western portion of Te Komititanga will be completed in 2024]

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