A Puff Store selling legal highs in Hamilton’s main street became a gathering place for unruly and occasionally intimidating streeties and drunks in Embassy Park, the adjacent pocket park. The disruptive character spurred neighbouring shop owners, the City Council and the retailers association to collectively - with the streeties, retailers, advocacy groups and a range of designers - consider the problem. An initial workshop catalysed a volunteer working group to develop a community design-based strategy to invigorate Embassy Park.
Embassy Park had been the home to the Embassy Theatre, and the street-front barbershop alongside the theatre entrance was the workplace of a young Richard O’Brien, creator of the Rocky Horror Show. The theatre was demolished in the 1990’s and a park created in its place.
The Working Group took an approach of activating the space to improve the appeal, function, and safety of the park as an enjoyable and popular public space for the whole community and tourists. Building on the association with Richard O’Brien and the capabilities of the group, a new Rocky Horror-themed park, pavilion, elements and gardens were created and installed, all through donated funds and work.
Local metal sculptor Marti Wong, The Trons robot band creator Greg Locke and ACLX Lighting's Aaron Chesham contributed their skills to the creation of gargoyles, Frank N. Furter's Gadget Box and the chandelier. A wall painting by muralist Jeremy Shirley depicts the old Embassy Theatre and the Rocky Horror stage set. Another, by Paul Bradley, succulently portrays the iconic lips. The landscaping was a Wintec landscape student design project, implemented in conjunction with Hamilton City’s Parks and Open Spaces group.
Paua Architects – in a pro-bono capacity - took a leading role with design and organisational guidance to the working group, and designwork for the site and pavilion.
NZIA Awards 2017
This necessary urban intervention has opened up and occupied a once neglected city park, demonstrating the positive role of the architect in community initiatives. While this pocket park is yet to be fully realised, it establishes a framework for long-term reinhabitation, and provides a model for future stages and wider projects within the Hamilton CBD.