Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The revamping of Totara Ave, New Lynn

 I visit Totara Avenue regularly, mainly because the Whau Local Board have their offices there, and I attend the monthly meetings to keep abreast of what's happening in the area. I forged through the Somme-like environment of trenches and temporary bridges over clay mud that was the avenue while the construction of the new "shared space" went ahead earlier this year. This week, with daylight saving, was the first real opportunity for a few blog shots.

This is from March, as work was beginning. All the buildings you see in the image, aside from one extreme left (former BNZ building) are up for demolition as part of the new "Merchant Quarter" in New Lynn.

They've added art to the revamp, which is great, and used the works of ceramic artist Peter Lange

I have seen his "Curmudgeon" piece before at Corban Arts Centre in Henderson (above) -- but at that time couldn't see the two additional "Tut tut" pieces of the full work.

 Looking towards the end of the avenue. Do they still call the far grassy area Todd Triangle?

Well, that's as I know it, even if not. Here on Todd Triangle, they've removed the cool painted control box I waded through the brush to photograph at the end of the triangle back in October 2009 (although Derek Battersby of the WLB, when I mentioned it, said it had been saved and relocated ... somewhere ...). But, they've stalled Peter Lange's brick artwork. I can forgive them.

Above, and below is -- a tent. Part of his "Tokens from the game", made from bricks, epoxy and steel.

 Camera. My favourite piece, this.

A dodgem car. Also serving as a likely rubbish receptacle, inadvertently ...

And .. a bell.

Just to finish this off -- I do like the bike by the bike stands. But the ones in Hastings are funkier.


  1. These brick sculptures are neat. I remember the story about Swan's Bridge- that's what it reminds me of. I never stumbled across the real thing but last time I was in Auckland about five years ago I noticed they'd done a big sculpture of it - an elaborate arch - kind of sinking into the ground, along Henderson Creek where there was a grassy corner on Central Park Drive (I think, it's been about twenty five years since I have spent any time in that area so I am a bit vague). I bet it's by the same artist. A cursory search for info on it has turned up nothing. I don't actually think the bridge that Henry Swan built out of found bricks was around there, I spent many years as a youngster up and down that creek, and I am sure if it was around there I'd have known about it. However just off Central Road nearby there is a "Swan Lane" so maybe I am was always a bit of a mystery as to exactly where it was. I remember my father talking about it and kind of wanting to find it and getting quite excited when he thought I'd stumbled on the remains of it along Henderson Creek in the section about halfway between Sunnyvale and Glen Eden. It wasn't, it was something else - maybe the site of an old shoe heel factory - I think it has a plaque marking the site now but then quite overgrown.

  2. From here:

    "Swan's Arch

    The last remnant of the hiding place and refuge of Henry Swan, an eccentric who ostensibly sailed his boat the "Awatea" off from Auckland in 1898 and was discovered years later living on his boat deep in the upper reaches of the Whau River. He planted fruit trees and lived on board as a recluse for the rest of his life. He built the Brick arch in 1909 and the underground shelter was used mainly for fruit storage.

    Where to find it
    Swan Arch Reserve, Central Park Drive, Henderson."

    And here:

    "The lawyer Henry Swan bought land here in 1898. In 1904, telling his friends that he was embarking on a solo journey around the world, he sailed the "Awatea" here, planted fruit trees, and lived on board as a recluse for the rest of his life. He built the brick arch in 1909; the underground shelter was used mainly for fruit storage."

  3. Yup.

    "Swan's Arch stands today marooned in a sea of well clipped grass, like a Victorian English garden folly. Nigh on a third of the stucture is now beneath the earth, including a flight of steps that led off the curved abutment. Partly buried and bereft of the water it once spanned, the Arch has a curious air -- one is unsure whether it is an archaeological fragment or a work of art, like West Auckland artist John Radford's architectural sculptures in Western Park, Ponsonby." (Robyn Mason, "A Man of Comfortable Means and Leisure", West of Eden, July 2009, West Auckland Historical Society.

    Peter Buffett led the charge to recognise and preserve it. Until the 1980s, it did indeed once span a tributary of Henderson Creek, until the area was redeveloped. It's apparently registered with NZHPT.

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  5. Might have been. Even Mason in her article described it as having a "curious air", seemingly like an artwork, but actually quite real.

  6. The whole story is just bizarre. Well, it's bizarre anyway, but I really did a lot of research into the Henderson Mill and that whole stretch when I was a teenager. It was my first proper "project" I suppose. Plus we lived around there for many years. I'm having a hard time coming to grips with the fact the it was there, in situ, the whole time when I spent so much time in that area. I never saw it. Nobody knew where it was. everyone had heard about it. It was thought to be collapsed or destroyed- but either way gone. My recollection is that it's a bit of a distance from the creek and him parking the boat up a tributary probably means that since there isn't one, it was filled in. I wonder if it was somehow hidden for a number of years? That might make sense since obviously heaps of earth has been moved around.Or maybe by a garden or something. To me the story doesn't make sense.

  7. Here it is!

  8. oh dear I only live up the road and I haven't ventured there yet -
    going from your last few posts I wonder how long before they decide these shared spaces aren't a good idea and replace them with high rise glass buildings.
    I didn't know the buildings were up for demo -
    I AM proud/happy/pleased with the changes in New Lynn over the past 12 years I've lived here

  9. Hi Cat,

    Yup -- that Totara Ave block is destined to be some kind of retail/multi-storey carpark thing. The New Lynn library had models of "before" and "after" on display for a while.

  10. Well those are awesome! I'll add those on to the 'must see' list. Funny I recognised where you were talking about straight away from the buildings in the background. Not too much on that side of things has changed. Looks great the new area. Can't wait to get there and see it sometime over the summer (I hope!)