• 03 Te Rimu sculpture
  • 02 Great North Road Grey Lynn Mural
  • 01 Our Hood

Where Have All The Awnings Gone?

The Turing apartments by Ockham on Great North Road, Grey Lynn

The April “Apartment Special” issue of Ponsonby News set us thinking… How do the featured developments compare to the published findings of the Community-led Vision for Great North Road?

We released the findings and accompanying plan in March 2021 following extensive consultation with local residents, community groups, business owners, local politicians, Auckland Transport, Auckland Council planners, and architects. We also attempted dialogue with developers.

The ridge along Great North Road between Ponsonby Road and the Grey Lynn village is ripe for residential intensification, particularly on the Northern side where building height has less amenity effect. The vision plan is supportive of this outcome.

In consultation, it became clear that a number of good building design provisos were necessary to strengthen the amenity of residents and pedestrians and attract suitable business activity – always the lifeblood of a thriving community. These are…

1. Ground-floor business space

The Feynman apartments by Ockham, Great North Road, Grey Lynn
The Feynman apartments by Ockham, Great North Road, Grey Lynn

It is great to see the featured proposed developments in the magazine, being The Grey and The Feynman, both being high-quality designs incorporating ground-floor commercial premises.

The Turing apartments by Ockham on Great North Road, Grey Lynn
The Turing apartments on Great North Road, Grey Lynn

In contrast, a good (bad!) example of poor interface design that was widely panned by urban designers at the time is The Turing building on the corner of Ariki Street and Great North Road.

Instead of incorporating commercial premises into the ground floor for an active street interface, The Turing completely turns away from its prime location along the boulevard. The decorative concrete form is pretty, but comes across as a token attempt to bring some visual interest to an otherwise ‘street-hostile’ building.

2. Awnings

Neither of the proposed developments – The Feynman and The Grey – make meaningful provision for pedestrian weather protection in the form of awnings. The Feynman takes up the whole block from Harcourt Street to Ariki Street, where the Caltex Service station once resided.

We are pleased to see it incorporates ground floor business space, but disappointed to see only token awnings at three points along the whole block.

The Greenhouse apartments by Ockham, Cnr Williamson Ave & Pollen St
The Greenhouse apartments by Ockham, Cnr Williamson Ave & Pollen St

And yet The Greenhouse, Ockham’s ground-breaking development currently being constructed opposite the Ponsonby Countdown supermarket on the corner of Williamson Ave and Pollen St, has full-on awnings bordering the full extent of both street frontages, proving it can be done. We applaud the provision of weather protection for pedestrians in this development.

Conversely, the planned The Grey, the already completed The Crest, The Dylan, The North and 217 North, coincidentally all designed by Paul Brown and Associates architects on behalf of different developers, have similarly token provision.

The Paul Brown and Associates designed Eden View Apartments at 428 Dominion Road, on the other hand, is fully equipped to protect pedestrians against inclement weather – another example demonstrating how it should be done.

So, who to blame?

Auckland Council planners have no guiding statute that mandates awnings, as these are not town-centre developments. Maybe consultation on the proposed RMA changes gives our community an opportunity to enable planners to place granular conditions on qualifying high-rise developments?

Architects can suggest but ultimately are at the mercy of developers’ whims and budgets.

That leaves the developers who it appears, given the perceived high quality of all the projects discussed, are sinking funds into marketing to attract suitable residential purchasers and ground-floor tenants. They appear to be oblivious to the negative effect a lack of awnings or verandas have on pedestrian amenity, hence the environment they will create for the businesses they hope to attract into the ground floor premises.

Their building’s relationships with the streetscape and the sense of place that good design will bring to the Great North Road Community becomes even more important as it develops over time.

But done poorly, it will result in Great North Road remaining a bleak arterial sewer, sucking cars and buses in at one end and spewing them out the other. We fear it will continue to be an unfriendly space for residents and pedestrians alike.

It needn’t be this way. Let’s encourage the developers to show some community-building spirit.

– David Batten & Brandon Wilcox


  1. Bridgeg says

    Super great article, interestingly some precincts under the unitary plan do have requirements for canopies so this could be included along GNR!