Sohole

This was a brief note I wrote earlier this year for Architecture NZ about the Soho development in Ponsonby (it bears little resemblance to the text that was published in my name). Predictably, and not in any way sadly, the development has ground to a halt.

Currently a spectacular and expensive pit, Soho Square (aka Chancery 2: Electric Boogaloo) is slated to become an eclectic enclave at the south end of Ponsonby Rd.  Construction of this mixed development of apartments, offices, and retail has been slowed to a halt by the suddenly unfavourable market conditions, although the developers insist that work will recommence any day now.

Much is made of 25% of the development being allocated to public spaces. The project adopts the credible strategy of establishing a pedestrian network through the site, but this network turns out to be a set of fairly modest shopping alleys leading to a central court. Essentially, the public space is one of the new generation of malls you have when you’re not having a mall. Predictably, the project is claimed as a blend of tradition and modernity; a marketing strategy to maximise saleability. From the renderings and marketing images, Soho appears to make some fairly cursory and superficial gestures towards the local architectural stock, but this seems to be aimed mostly at breaking down the visual bulk of a hefty development. Say what you like about Christopher Alexander and Leon Krier, but they bring a rigour to their nostalgic urbanism which is missing here.

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