Toward a humanistic city plan: Moving beyond forbidding monoliths to civic value and placemaking

Viona Basota

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The faces and characters of many cities are changing in scale and use of urban land under the pressures of speculative land development. Roger Trancik, a renowned academic and urban designer relates this to an approach inspired by the modern movement in urban design and development. This approach treats buildings as isolated objects placed on the site, rather than elements of the greater fabric of streets, squares, and feasible open space. Therefore, what emerges in most environmental settings is unshaped ‘lost space’. The characters of lost space are ill-defined without measurable boundaries, and fail to connect elements in a coherent way. This problem has become more complex and has led to a loss of identity through the increased density of cities.


Auckland City symbolises some of the ways in which these changes have occurred, and Aotea Square is an archetype of the outcome. Aotea Square is known as the site of a civic centre, projected to be the focal point of civic life. It is the one place able to be called the ‘heart’ of the City. Designed in the mid-20th century and despite intentions, Aotea Square has however resulted in a dismal and unused space which remains an unsuccessful urban place to this day.

Detailed site plan of Queen St - Mayoral Drive junction

The idea of ‘finding lost spaces’ is the incentive of this thesis. Spatial development and social ecology of Auckland have been manoeuvred by the design of standalone buildings and accommodation of cars. 

This thesis implements the theoretical grounding of academics like Roger Trancik and Jan Gehl, as well as Ewing and Clemente, accordingly to the scale of Auckland City.

Masterplan Drivers
Masterplan Drivers

Reflecting upon a distinct spectrum of disciplines, this thesis aims to comprehend how the unparalleled shift of Auckland’s civic centre has led to lost spaces. These areas have poorly prioritised public spaces, pedestrianism, and the role of the city space as a meeting place for urban dweller. As a result, we have seen the start of a process that erodes conditions necessary for people to engage in city life.

Mainpers X
Urban living room
Aesthetically pleasing setting

This thesis promotes theories and principles of urban design as a stimulus for designing successful places. It provides a degree of reliability and validity to measure and understand how a place functions as a successful urban space. Thus, it suggests a speculative urbanism that aspires to encourage positive settings between the buildings.

Positive environment
A relaxed atmosphere
Interest stimulating route
Legible route