Devonport Wharf opened

28 Jul

Marine Square creates a strong new connection between the ferry wharf and the Devonport village.

Last Friday the newly completed Devonport Wharf and Marine Square project was officially opened. A legacy North Shore project, this major infrastructural upgrade has been a long time coming. It was delivered jointly by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport. Taken together with the new library, this represents the most significant Council investment in Devonport for a very long time.


Devonport Ferry Terminal, 1955, shows the skewed connection with the town. Passengers arrived in a car park. Photograph by Whites Aviation.

In 1998 Isthmus prepared an urban design strategy for the town centre; the Devonport Centre Plan identified a number of interventions. A priority of the Plan was to reconfigure the Marine Square nexus between the town, harbour and ferry wharf. The functions of this transport hub would need to be resolved in order to re-establish the connection with the sea, Devonport’s front door. Car parking was eroding the qualities of the place; with increasing numbers of commuters using the ferry it would be important to encourage other forms of transport – bus, bike, etc. The heart of Devonport is oriented to the ferry wharf, however over time the main movement axis had become skewed, and the ferry building had turned in on itself, prioritising low-grade retail outlets over harbour experience.

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The earlier Victoria wharf connects directly to the town centre. The 1950s ferry wharf and building skewed that relationship.

The Centre Plan led to a design competition in 2004. The successful proposal, by Sills van Bohemen, combined the overarching prerogatives of transportation infrastructure, consultation, heritage and culture to establish a strong link from the Victoria Road main street to Devonport Wharf. This bold move led to a proposal for a new boardwalk to the east of the wharf building, a plaza area to the eastern end of Marine Square and a strong linear promenade linking the spaces.


Sills van Bohemen’s competition winning design.

Subsequently, Isthmus progressed the developed and detailed design of the project through the super-city transition, working jointly with newly formed entities of Auckland Council and Auckland Transport. The design objectives held strong to the competition-winning scheme, while layering on other programmatic demands and design opportunities.


The massive new timber balustrade and it’s weighty basalt ‘anchor’.

The works at Devonport have removed decades worth of urban and transport clutter and contributed a new infrastructure that floats above the sparkling waters of the Waitemātā. A meaningful and purposeful connection between the wharf and the township has been resestablished but, more than that, a coherent place has been created. Once the new hospitality tenants are installed – by Christmas, say AT – Devonport wharf will become a destination in its own right, not just a place to hurry through.


From some angles the balustrade looks solid. Viewed from the deck it becomes transparent, allowing views up the Waitematā.


The historic Esplanade Hotel bookends the new Marine Square.


The entire side of the ferry building has been opened up with full-height glass sliders. 


A generous, folded black aluminium canopy extends from the building to provide weather protection and connect inside with out.

Client: Auckland Council and Auckland Transport.

Architecture and Landscape: Isthmus

Engineering: Tonkin & Taylor, Traffic Design Group

Contractor: Downer



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