Articles

Auckland vs European Squares

Having lived on both sides of the globe, we understand what draws people in either direction. After a four-week-long trip to Europe, we were really glad to be back in Auckland. We missed the ocean, the beaches, the people (so much less people!), the waterfront, the regional parks, … in short; We missed our city.

Being proud Kiwis (born and by heart), we are not ashamed to admit that there are certain things Europe has got right. One of those things are squares and plazas. Whoever has been fortunate enough to enjoy a cup of cappuccino sitting in the shade of a tree on a cobblestone covered plaza anywhere in Italy, or took a big bite out of a warm, crunchy croissant in a café in the centre of Paris, knows what we are talking about.

Absorbing the lively ambience around a good square brings a lot of joy and comfort, Gemütlichkeit as the Germans would say. And speaking of which, Germany has its fair share of cosy squares and plazas as well, plus the magical realms of Biergarten. All equally designed to allow guests to lean back, have a drink and some food while enjoying the oddly soothing comfort of being surrounded by strangers. 

Public squares and plazas are essential for great urban lifestyle and although Auckland has a lot of well maintained regional parks, city beaches and various squares, there are still certain areas that could do with improvement. I am looking at you Newmarket.

Walking past Lumsden Green on my work to and from work every day, I really like how busy it is. There are always plenty of people enjoying some food and a nice cold brew. A lovely and lively square. Now because I take the train, I also have to walk across Newmarket Station Square on a daily basis, and the picture could not be more different …

Newmarket Station Square - Empty

I know that it had a massive overhaul in 2010 but I find it very underwhelming. Something is missing and it seems incomplete. In particular after just coming back from Europe and having enjoyed those lovely squares over there. Surrounded by bistros, cafes and restaurants, some affordable, some expensive, some just outrageous and often with a fountain in their centre, there is a suitable place for everyone.

Newmarket Station Square is not surrounded by glamorous palaces and historic store fronts, instead enclosed in a grey housing block but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be turned into a cosy and inspiring place.

I think it was early 2017 when a survey was handed to passerby at the square, asking what they thought could make the square better. I remember filing out the questionnaire stating that a fountain and grass-patches could really help the square be more attractive. It certainly helped the appeal of the Takutai Square and Te Are Tahuhu Walkway area in Britomart.

Te Ara Tahuhu Walkway Britomart, Auckland Central - Street Photography Auckland

I know, I know. A fountain? There are just few things that attracts people more than water and in particular on hot summer day like we have right now. Transform the square into a place people actually want to congregate. Restaurants and cafes will follow. Give people something to enjoy, a little inner city refuge to recharge their batteries. It will be good for newmarket and good for business.

What is your favourite square in Auckland? Which one could do with some improvements?

Leave a Reply