Pukeahu landscape and architecture

18 April 2015
Park vision now a reality
Despite the problems created by a dry summer the vision for Pukeahu as a landscape that
evokes, supports and hosts commemoration has come to fruition for the parks lead
designers landscape architect Megan Wraight and architect John Hardwick-Smith.
Working together as the joint venture company Wraight Athfield Landscape and Architecture
their team won the Stage 2 Memorial Park Competition in 2007 and have since then
successfully turned their winning plan into reality.
Key principles of the design were to create a landscape for memorial that ‘evokes, supports
and hosts commemoration’.
The plan was developed by using the site’s topography as a starting point, with the carillion
as a focus on top of the hill and the former crèche building creating a bookend at the eastern
entrance. Between are the terraces running up to the hill where spaces for memorials have
been created.
The terrace spaces are an important link to the past as this is where Māori developed their
gardens for the pa site on the hill above. As well the spaces have been created so they can
be used on a daily basis by people visiting the park and also on a larger scale for
commemorative events.
Moving through the spaces easily was also vital to the overall design. Essentially ‘rooms’ for
reflection they were designed with no one entrance or exit so people can move from one to
another in an explorative way.
Walls contain and support the terraces as they step up towards the central ceremonial space
in front of the carillion. Edges provide steps, seats, and walls to define movement and frame
future memorials.
The tunnel is formed from folded down terrace walls. People driving through the tunnel catch
glimpses of trees, the carillion and the two new gateway pavilions via the steps in the wall
between the terraces, engaging them with the park from their vehicles.
The pavilions at the main gateways in Tory and Taranaki Streets provide shelter and a place
to become orientated from street to park. The inverted wing canopies gesture toward the
carillion, guiding movement into the park. Their copper roofs are in keeping with the roof
structures of the carillion and museum buildings and textured totara eaves and columns
beneath reflect the craft and patterns of the pacific.
With the city boulevards of Taranaki Street and Cambridge Terrace joining the eastern and
western flanks, Pukeahu will be a place for people to walk and cycle through as well as take
time out for their own reflection about war, peace and sacrifice. Lawns for sitting, relaxing,
picnicking and playing are also part of the overall plan.
Pukeahu also connects well with the city by providing a new space at the southern end of
the capital with views out to the harbour and beyond. The Australian war memorial, the first
to be built, provides a new foreground to the city vista as seen from the steps to the National
War Memorial.
Planting the park, which can be hit by both the southerly and the dominating northerly wind,
has been a challenge. This has taken shape with natives, including Pohutukawa, northern
Rata and Kowhai planted on the eastern flank and imported species, such as Chinese elms,
olives and a single Gallipoli pine on the western flank.
The focus for the central area has been on two events with red tussock and flax lily mixed
with red carpet roses flowering during autumn chosen for Anzac celebrations and white
flowering rengarenga lilies and Chatham island forget-me-nots chosen for Armistice Day in
Around the lawn terraces tussocks, ferns, New Zealand iris, hebe, low manuka and creeping
fuchsia are amongst the chosen plants. An orchard of hardy heritage fruit trees – apple, pear
and plum, has been planted as a tribute to Mother Aubert besides the former crèche
Flexibility on the plantings means countries, with the agreement of Wellington City Council,
will be able to bring in plant species to complement their own war memorials.
Megan, John and their teams have worked hard to create a park which will be as current in
50 and 100 years’ time as it is today.
“A key challenge has been to shape a space that supports and reflects commemoration,
while also creating a great robust urban space for everyday use, that can develop and grow
with the city around it,” says John.
Both agree that the seven-year journey from concept to creation has been some while,
however working in partnership with the combined design team has ensured the essential
elements of the design and the integrity of the project have remained in focus.
“We can all now see the vision formed – the permanence of Pukeahu and what it will mean
as a national war memorial, making it a very special place for all New Zealanders,” says