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Cenotaph Precinct Upgrade
Wellington, New Zealand

Project Team
Landscape / urban design: Wraight + Associates
Engineering: Aurecon
Quantity Surveyor: Davis Langdon
Lighting: eCubed
Contractor: LT McGuinnes

Project Summary:
Working closely with Wellington City Council’s Urban Design unit and Artist Joe Sheehan, WA led the team of consultants involved in the upgrade of this nationally significant site from design development through to implementation. The upgraded Cenotaph Square and new Parliament Stair are key components of Wellington’s nationally important Parliamentary Precinct. Dramatically altering both the appearance and functionality of this northern end of Wellington’s CBD, the provision of a cohesive urban square and generously wide stair/seating, has largely been an exercise in careful editing, mindful of the site’s considerable heritage value.

The new Square, a gently sloping plane of basalt paving accommodating new seating and lighting, frames a new ‘island’ of lighter coloured paving surrounding the Cenotaph monument – a direct reference to the historical triangular traffic island site on which the monument was originally erected. High quality finishes articulate this new urban space, a space that can much more easily support larger crowds on event days whilst providing amenity and ambience for everyday urban occupation.

Wai-piro Stream Artwork by Joe Sheehan, subtly expresses the site’s natural history, a sinuous line of pounamu and jade paving inserts trace a notional stream course that is brought to life by a series of secreted speakers from which the sounds of Wellington streams emanate. WA worked closely with Joe from the project’s outset to ensure Joe’s vision could be seamlessly integrated into the square’s design. Sensitive to the site’s history and significance, the artwork contributes a layer of engaging aural and visual intrigue that elevates the square from urbane plaza to experiential soundscape.

The new stair is generously scaled in proportion with the precinct’s highly valued buildings and heritage landscape. Inviting direct access from Bowen St up to Parliament’s forecourt plaza, the stairs are physical expression of New Zealand’s democratic freedom and the openness of its Parliament. Designed to provide prospect over the reconfigured Cenotaph Square, the new stair provides informal seating opportunities for everyday use as well as commemoration days and special events such as Anzac Day.

Project Relevance:

  • Collaboration with an Artist from design phases through to project completion to reveal the site’s heritage.
  • Rehabilitation of an historically significant site by employing a carefully considered palette of materials to articulate a new configuration of space and urban elements in which the site’s historically significant elements are centre-stage.
  • Working in a heritage precinct that physically and notionally connects to the city’s other heritage sites – eg The National War Memorial on Buckle St in Wellington.
  • Working with a Council client to develop a scheme that is sensitive to the site’s heritage, presents a contemporary user friendly space and simultaneously is an asset that can be maintained cost effectively.