Not to touch the Earth

Ok, misquoting The Doors’ Jim Morrison in his song by the same name from the Waiting for the Sun album, or indeed alluding to that architectural maxim of ‘touching the earth lightly’, there has been criticism of the new stadium designs by some that “The revised ‘building’ is a large ‘tent’, there’s no other word for it.” {Ian Smith, renowned old codger}. Others have suggested that the new stadium blocks the people from the Water of Leith and Waterfront, and for this alone it’s an affront to the people of Dunedin (whom apparently have this close connection to industrial landscapes and concrete encased waterways).

From the start I must remind you that the original intention for this blog, was to be critical of the design with the hope that they will come up with something more stunning. I was hoping that the likes of a Lord Foster could be tempted here to take up the design challenge – and then my cat awoke me from my daydream. I’m still not a huge fan of the design, but it has come a long way from the original renderings, and despite what others say, it does not destroy the connection to the Leith that others allude to. It is what it is, a sports/entertainment complex, with some nice subtle touches and appropriate dose of brutality giving a stadium what it should have, a sense of enormity and occasion.

So let’s have a look at the current surrounds of the two areas and buildings. What is so special about the two that one requires the virtual preservation of an ageing make-piece stadium, while a hands-off attitude to a polluted and inaccessible stream is deemed good for the people of Dunedin at the other site.

One an industrial wasteland where decrepit and bygone go hand in hand with walls and barbed wire fences, the other… well it’s exactly the same.


It’s a nice start at least, great graffiti near Carisbrook brings life to a very drab post industrial wasteland where scrap is gold, for both the Railway yards and the scrapyard, unfortunately not for the Otago Rugby Union.

Ok, that’s not fair, a railway over bridge is hardly Carisbrook’s fault. So what about the current stadium is worth keeping…?



Some have suggested that fuel storage tanks near the new stadium could serve as a target for terrorism. How about the huge substation within the grounds of Carisbrook, they make one heck of a mess if blown up, and I can’t see the flimsy wooden palings holding out much of a resistance.


Still it could be worse, there could be massive great factories with hollowed out shells of train carriages for the patrons to view.


If they need a bed after the game, the current site is more than accommodating.


Nobody could tell me that the current building is a picture of architectural brilliance that should be saved.


If only this was the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, alas.


There’s some nice shrubbery around the back (if you are a colonialist that is and gorse is your thing).


Still if the staircase to nowhere isn’t your thing, there are the doors to nowhere. These are both historic and an art installation, or indeed like the Tardis, if you could get through the incredibly small openings you’d be treated to the vast emptiness of under the stand.


They are quite cool really and are a link to the past.


People must have been much slimmer back in the day…


They are great though aren’t they…


There’s a little bit of architectural symmetry at the end of the stand.


Someone slapped on a pretty ugly impenetrable massive wall all the length of one stand. Yet another architectural add-on to the mishmash that is Carisbrook.


And yet another stadium style.


And another, I like this pic, could be any old grey English football stand from the lower divisions.


Still it’s important to see the advertising from across the stadium and in the railway yards.


Of course there’s the surrounding areas that aren’t industrial wastelands, there’s residential buildings.


So that’s the current rugby stadium, what about the new stadium’s surrounds and the current access to the Water of Leith. Remember many have criticised the stadium for showing a massive ugly back to the Leith, this is insulting to the people of Dunedin. So if you were to walk down the opposite bank of the Leith and look to where the stadium will be, this is the back you see at the moment.


Yeah these are so inviting and vibrant at the moment. Like the way they lightly touch the earth, they mould into the surrounding location and speak to the stunning architectural heritage that is Dunedin.


Looking at what will be the back of the stadium, at least this building plays with some iconic kiwi materials.


They have a shed out the back with a working toilet though, that’s handy…


There’s a pile of interesting rubbish, I like the cross-stitch Pluto dog.


You could even find parts for that troublesome motor of yours.


Some buildings only need a lick of paint here and there, and some wall panels, and a door not scorched and some glass, but that’s cosmetic really.


A little unfair I know, so back to the connection by the people to the Water of Leith. Presently if you were to travel down past Anzac Ave and turn into this area, the closest you get to the Leith here is via these walls. You can actually see right through if the doors are open.


Still it could be worse, there might just be massive concrete walls between the street and the Leith…



There’s somewhere to keep your ice-cream cold…


and more utility buildings with barbed wire…


some don’t quite speak industry or architectural heritage, somewhat utilitarian in their construct…


some speak a little more to the industrial area


some really speak to this…


some not only speak to the industrial past of this city, they come with smell-a-vision in the form of sheep-o-rama…


Actually this building has a proud history and has served the Otago region proudly. This is however the face it presents to the Leith…


There’s a nice wall to place some modern art on…


At least it’s facing the Leith, rather civic-minded of them to have that art facing the river.

I do like this view though.


The infamous connection to the Leith and the Waterfront is even stretched a little by the local yacht club. Nice views of the Peninsula Hills though….


Some have objected to the ‘University Creep’ that they see worrying. Looking back up the Leith, this is how the University and Polytechnic look and connect to the Leith. At least it’s more alive.


There’s some classic University buildings that at least speak to the concrete architectural heritage of the New Zealand modernist movement.


Not all the buildings surrounding the Leith speak to the surrounds, however they have become target practice for the Giant Albatross that make Dunedin such a famous tourist trap. This is what you see if you were walking to the new stadium across the Leith. Some buildings just talk to the surrounds more than others eh?


Others have just been peppered by smaller seagulls…


There’s a reference to the transport history of Dunedin…


and reference to a bygone era of industry.


But in the end it too is a none too hospitable industrial landscape and not the mytical connection to the Water of Leith or Waterfront that we have been warned that will be lost if we build the new stadium.



Could be worse, the stadium could be destroying thriving industrial land.

Posted by Paul Le Comte


Filed under Architecture, Design, Inspiration, Site, Stadiums

3 responses to “Not to touch the Earth

  1. Peter Entwisle

    Oh dear. What a lot of straw men.

    Paul, you say: Others have suggested that the new stadium blocks the people from the Water of Leith and Waterfront…

    I’ve never heard anyone say this. What some have said is that the realigned state highway 88, given the design for it presented by the city would restrict access from the city to the harbour.

    You then flog the dead horse that because it’s been classified people think Carisbrook is a building of great architectural merit which must be entirely preserved. They don’t. Carisbrook has been classified because of its historical associations, not its architectural merit. The parts of the building suggested for preservation are few, little more than the old brick ticket booths.

    Regarding the stadium and the Leith, there’s no denying the proposed building would overshadow the walkway and the promenade beside it. To overcome that you’d have to move the stadium significantly to the north which might then reduced the amount of sun reaching the pitch which is necessary if natural turf is to grow there. In short there are real design constraints whose likely resolution would be a usually overshadowed waterside esplanade – hardly a plus.

    One could say more but the chief weakness is that Paul is attacking claims no-one but he has made.

  2. Elizabeth

    Paul, I look forward to debate on this thread, will add some things anon re design. Having some difficulty with your photos downloading, could be just my dial-up (awful I know)…
    But what I can see of them (mostly just top section of each photo showing, yet browser says “Done”) look promising – if ‘hard edge’ industrial vernacular of the Dunedin kind…then one or two are a contemporary design inspiration in themselves. Excellent.

  3. Peter, I’ve seen it in the paper (letters to the editor from concerned of Kaikorai Valley etc, the river will be cut off blah blah…), and I can’t find the direct quote from Ian Smith but it was something along the lines, ‘no building I know of’. In one of those awful “why I oppose the stadium” history lessons which involve numerous trips to the Romans or Greeks and some bizarre references to civilising nature of classical music – my god they are awful, and I thought I was verbose (well I am, but I’m trying).

    Sorry about the images Elizabeth, as a web designer, more or less up until last year I took into consideration those on dial up in the sites I made for clients, but then not one has that requirement any more, still I don’t normally throw that many images in at one bash. But I couldn’t resist have a trip in the car one day with the camera just to see what is what in the two areas.

    Peter I appreciate the ‘symbolic’ nature of the Heritage status of the current Carisbrook, and I do genuinely love the old turnstile entrances (were people really less than two bricks wide, me Gran obviously never got to Carisbrook), but myths aren’t sacred and it doesn’t hurt to look at the place. What I was trying to show is that both are neglected areas, and I seriously can’t see any amount of money thrown at the present stadium doing anything to improve the area, the scrap metal yard and railway workshops will still be there, as presumably will be the substation?

    As much as a sports boof head that I am, there are no sacred cows in my books, that stopped when the old Wembley was torn down, and Lord Foster opened my eyes to the power of stunning architectural application to new sporting needs (the new Wembley has more leg room for the Minions than the old one did for the Queen, yet every person to the very back seat is closer to the action – I love that stuff).

    I’ll try and post some pics of my fav Stadiums I’ve been too (yes boring holiday pics for some), the languages employed by the differing cultures and clients is quite astounding. This is possibly where we come closest to agreeing on things, I still don’t like the building, but it’s a heck of a lot better than what was first proposed.

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