Pontoons, a pier, boardwalk and sand-covered beach are just some of the citizen-friendly interventions at Judges Bay.
Pontoons aren’t a common sight on Auckland’s waterfront but given the popularity of the floating decks at Taurarua Judges Bay, there might be an argument for commissioning a few more. They draw the eye – and bodies too – out to the water. A new pier constructed from marine-grade materials and Vitex timber has also proven its worth; on a late summer’s day, the bombing masses jostle eagerly for position.
Judges Bay has an intimate setting in a sheltered position at the bottom of the Parnell Rose Gardens. On one flank is the splendid Parnell Baths and it’s seaward hem is the concourse of Tamaki Drive, a reclaimed strip built in the 1920s with rocks taken from the cliffs that once stood on Auckland’s original coastline. That work created the tidal lagoon, which, over the years, suffered from a build-up of silt, contamination from road run-off which also caused erosion, and encroaching Pacific oysters on the rocks. Stage 1 of this project included resanding the beach and dredging the lagoon to remove around 20,000m3 of sediment. Stage 2, designed by Reset Urban in conjunction with Auckland Council, included low-impact solutions to resolve the contamination issues and more obvious beautification and activity-promoting devices.
In black and white, the key design concepts may sound dry, but as many a visitor will attest, this project is a gem. The concepts included the “formation of large-scale connections, working with the existing contours to minimise excavation, using stormwater treatment to cleanse and reveal, creating a central bayside plaza, introducing opportunities for healthy activities by opening up the engagement with the water, providing seating for events, and relocating changing facilities to a central situation.”
These interventions give clarity to the bay. Starting at the entrance, on Judges Bay Road, a speed table slows traffic, and a wetland swale runs the length of the road, providing all-important filtration of storm water. At the bottom of the slope, a Rewi Thompson-designed amenity block, with a perforated metal skin, is a visual anchor. The original, dubiously positioned, changing facilities at the western end were demolished and used as fill behind large, terraced steps that provide a vantage point over the lagoon. They also tie back to a track that links with the Swainson Lookout in Dove Myer Robinson Park, and yonder still, to the rose gardens above. In the east you’ll find another new set of stairs, which provide access to Martyn Fields Reserve. Next to the new amenity building is the most delicate of interventions: a Vitex platform, applied around an ancient gum tree. Holes for piles were carefully drilled around the root structure of this aged specimen. A new boardwalk tidies the fringe and provides opportunities for walking and running. Thanks to the pier, you can get over the water without getting in it.
Judges Bay is a place where history meets activation. It’s a place where you can interact with the landscape; it’s a place for self-guided history tours via clever wayfinding panels; it’s a place for bombs off the pier; and it’s a place for both people and bird watching. Kingfishers, in particular, seem to enjoy the refreshed littoral fringe.