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Highbrook's high-brow concept takes shape

By Campbell McIlroy

Friday 31st March 2000

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READY FOR TRANSFORMATION: Waiouru Peninsula in East Tamaki, Auckland and (right) a three-dimensional cross-section of the proposed business park
The former Ra Ora Horse Stud on the Waiouru Peninsula in East Tamaki is to undergo a transformation at the hands of one of the world's leading landscape architects.

The 193ha owned by the estate of Sir Woolf Fisher, co-founder of Fisher & Paykel, will be transformed into a commercial and light industrial business park designed by US landscape architect Peter Walker.

Mr Walker has been involved with the development of Homebush Bay Park next to Sydney's Homebush Olympic Stadium.

He has redefined the concept of business parks over the years with projects like the IBM headquarters in Solana, Texas, the Sony Centre in Berlin, and the Novartis campus in Basel. They all combine elements of the natural environment within the design of the buildings.

Mr Walker said companies were increasingly concerned about the people who worked for them and with trying to be good corporate citizens.

That trend had led to greater integration of natural surroundings allowing both the employees and the public to take advantage of the environment.

For the last two years Mr Walker has been working on a design for the Highbrook site. His working drawings were unveiled this week.

The site will include 60ha of public parks on a scale to rival Auckland's Cornwall Park.

The park includes 15km of trails and bike-ways along the water's edge and aims to develop the feeling of a country park instead of city park.

Significant historical Maori sites in the area have been marked out for inclusion in the trails.

Detailed plans are still being worked out but the park may include stables for horse riding, tennis courts and a health club - all open to the public as well as the estimated 10,000 employees the business park will accommodate.

The business park itself will cover 110ha with a total 500,000sq m of building area.

McConnell International development manager Richard Stilwell said Highbrook would be 30% larger than the North Harbour industrial estate in Albany.

Size of floor plates and final building configurations are still uncertain as the developers are concentrating on land and infrastructure issues.

Each building will be constructed within distinctive belts of trees, similar to the wind breaks on farms.

The aim is to develop view shafts of the water and Auckland's significant landmarks, such as One Tree Hill, Mt Wellington and Rangitoto Island.

The design features reflect Mr Walker's love of formalist and minimalist design. The original hedgerows of the farm, and Mr Walker's base in San Francisco, were the inspiration for the tree lines which will follow the typography of the area.

San Francisco was originally laid out on a grid plan by cartographers in Chicago without an appreciation of the hills of the area. The happy result was staggering harbour views from almost every street in the city.

The terraced typography of the Waiouru Peninsula will enable views of the Tamaki Estuary from almost every building in the development.

A trust called the Highbrook Park Trust is to be established to oversee the development and administer the park land, as well as ensuring design controls for the buildings are adhered to.

The trust will comprise four members, two elected by the Manukau City Council and two by the developer, McConnell International Property.

Mr Stilwell said the first resource consents had been obtained and infrastructure issues should be resolved by the end of the year, with construction due to commence in late 2001.

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