While some view Queens Wharf solely as a physical space for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, this viewpoint is reductive. Of course, Queens Wharf is a physical space; it is a tangible part of Auckland and it is a place people occupy. Physicality is still an important aspect of Queens Wharf, as we cannot separate this from how Queens Wharf functions. However, if we employ other modes of thinking in addition to physicality we are able to gain a deeper understanding of how Queens Wharf exists on its own, within the city of Auckland, and within the world. If we view Queens Wharf as a temporary city, we see how Queens Wharf is imaginative: it shapes how people view the world, and it allows people to imagine a better future. The concept of a “temporary city” is lent to us by anthropologist Sophie Houdart in her essay “A city without citizens: The 2010 Shanghai World Expo as a temporary city.” According to Houdart, in order for something to be a temporary city, it must be bounded by place, time, and action, all of which Queens Wharf is (Houdart 133). Queens Wharf sits right in the middle of Northern Auckland, so while we cannot physically separate it from Auckland, we can still think about it as its own individual entity. In terms of time, Queens Wharf was purchased in 2009 with the intention of turning it into a recreational space, and later in the same year it was decided that this space would be designed as Party Central, a party zone for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The design competition was launched and also concluded (arguably unsuccessfully) in the same year. In 2010, The Cloud, a multi-purpose event space which would become the World Cup party hub, and the Cloud itself was only built to last for twenty years. And during the World Cup, Party Central was open for a set period of time: from early September to late October. Lastly, when for the action piece, we have plenty of action to draw from at Queens Wharf, two examples of which are the design competition and Party Central.
However, there is still one more key feature of a temporary city. Houdart explains how the World Expo highlighted “Shanghai as a city within China, and China within the world” (Houdart 133). Here, Houdart clarifies that the World Expo was itself its own world and its own city, but that this function of the Expo is not separate from how the Expo also shaped and showcased how Shanghai was seen within China, and how China was seen within the world. She also states that the “scaling the Expo…cannot be comprehended outside the scale of China that hosts the Expo” (Houdart 128). This analysis can also be applied to Queens Wharf, Auckland, and New Zealand. As the place, time, and action components suggest, Queens Wharf operated as its own city and as its own world. Moreover it also functions within Auckland, shapes how Auckland functions within New Zealand, and therefore how Auckland functions within the world. One of the main goals of the design competition was to have a place in Auckland that promoted and displayed New Zealand’s culture. So, having Queens Wharf in Auckland increases Auckland’s cultural significance within New Zealand. Additionally, the Rugby World Cup was an opportunity for New Zealand to display itself as a its culture culture to the rest of the world, and using Auckland (which houses Queens Wharf) as the beacon. So, if we look at Queens Wharf as a temporary city, we understand how it functions on its own, and also how it functions within Auckland, New Zealand, and the world.
But why do we care? How does this view of Queens Wharf broaden our understanding of the space? Temporary cities are, to their core, imaginative. They shape how people view the world. Of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, Houdart argues, “one can find embryonic pieces of Shanghai to come,” and the same can be said for Queens Wharf and Auckland (Houdart 130). The design competition was imaginative: citizens were given the opportunity to literally create their own visions for how the wharf space would be used, how Auckland would exist within New Zealand, and how New Zealand would be presented to the world during the World Cup. Additionally, the fact that the purpose of the space was mainly for recreation and given a name like Party Central demonstrates the utopian ideals surrounding the entire project. We can see the “embryonic pieces” of Auckland to come in each individual design proposal, in conversations about the design competition, in news reports about the design competition, in The Cloud, and in all the events and parties that occurred during the World Cup.
When talking about Queens Wharf as a temporary city, it is also necessary to discuss who this imagination is for and who this imagined future is built for. In this sense, Queens Wharf is both a perfect and imperfect representation of Auckland. Queens Wharf is a perfect representation of Auckland because it perfectly reflects the city’s sociopolitical climate. One of the main themes throughout the course of the semester has been the lack of Māori representation in Auckland, and this is reflected in the events of Queens Wharf. Even though the design competition was open to all, Māori voices were not heard, and Māori people were not represented in the designs nor were they involved in building Party Central. This lack of Māori representation at Queens Wharf perfectly parallels the lack of Māori representation in Auckland. On the flipside, Queens Wharf is an imperfect representation of Auckland because no model is perfect, and Queens Wharf does not feature every single aspect of Auckland. It does not have neighborhoods, it does not have a rail system, but more importantly Queens Wharf is also imperfect for the same reasons it is perfect. What’s the point of creating a space for imagination if not everyone is allowed to imagine? What is the point of imagining the same version of Auckland over and over again? The city commissioned a utopian view of Auckland, but this utopia was meant for the people who were already being represented. However, none of these designs ever came to fruition: the design competition was cancelled, and The Cloud was built as a temporary placeholder. And it is in this space, the space where the competition was cancelled and no designs were chosen, where Queens Wharf as a temporary city has its hinge, and it is where we see the future. Viewing Queens Wharf as a temporary city allows us to see this hinge space, and this hinge space allows us to use Queens Wharf’s successes and shortcomings to consider not just certain imaginations of the future, but all imaginations.
By Ari Katz