How urban design shapes the character of a town

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What could have been a standard BP service station in Wanaka has become a carefully considered design that fits in with the town’s distinctive character.

Working for Queenstown Lakes District Council as an expert urban design reviewer, Reset recently had the opportunity to provide input into the application for the new service station in the Three Parks development in Wanaka. After considering the requirements of the Three Parks Structure Plan the location’s surroundings, and Wanaka’s unique identity, we recommended several changes to the standard BP corporate design of service stations. The changes were made, the application approved and the end built result was a structure that fits in with the surrounds and adds to the character in the area.

Having one of our offices in Wanaka, and working on other projects that will help maintain and enhance the character of this popular resort town (including the redevelopment of the lakefront), it is satisfying to contribute to improvements on a range of development opportunities.

Wanaka is unique in many ways, but one aspect that really stands out is the low number of prominent corporate structures. Walking through the township you’ll notice the absence of most fast-food chains, and locals run many of the small businesses there. Like most places, there is a need for some corporate companies, like service stations. However, that doesn’t mean they need to look like large ‘anywhere’ type developments – with the right design, these can fit with the environment, and compliment their surroundings.

Common design themes in Wanaka include:

  • A low height of freestanding signs
  • Gabled roofs on buildings
  • Smaller signs on buildings with less corporate colours
  • Larger use of schist stone and timber on facades
  • A low number of self-illuminated signs.

Our priority in this review was to make recommendations that would ensure this new service station fits within the context of the local landscape.

Urban Design Review

BP has a standard design for its service station complexes - one that you would recognise when travelling along any major highway – a forecourt with 8-lane canopy structure, a retail shop with an adjacent precast compound, a carwash structure, and an internally illuminated 6m by 2.28m sign structure.

However, in the context of a BP in Wanaka, there were a number of fundamental issues which were concerned with the corporate identity on signage, material and colour scheme, the character of built form and landscaping, forms of roofline and shop frontage, and pedestrian and cycle access into the facility.

Through the process of an urban design review, there have been a significant number of urban design refinements made that positively respond to the issues noted.

Next time you’re in Wanaka, check out the new BP service station on Sir Tim Wallis Drive and let us know what you think.

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Practice Tikanga

At Reset Urban Design, we offer a broad scope of services within the specialist areas of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. We also actively engage in research and have contributed two published books on the history of design in New Zealand.