Blunder or brainwave?
This is central Auckland as it appeared in one man’s mind more than 170 years ago.
The man who drew the design, Surveyor-General Felton Mathew, believed the new town should be laid out in a series of concentric circular streets radiating out from this hilltop hub which is now Albert Park.
It was a controversial idea. One critic, the landowner Dr. S. Martin, was appalled by the concept of a town in which the streets slanted and curved in a series of ‘quadrants, circuses, crescents...circles and cobwebs’. Indeed, he feared there would be ‘not a single square house in the whole settlement’. But Mathew argued that his plan suited Auckland’s volcanic terrain very well. What’s more, he thought the central ringed streets with their harbour views would be ‘a most desirable spot for private residents’.
The plan was approved by New Zealand’s first governor, William Hobson. But the layout of the design was delayed because of a lack of surveyors. Felton Mathew’s intent is reflected in the naming of some Auckland’s streets (for example, Waterloo Quadrant), but the circular hub never came to be. Practicality triumphed over artistry, and Auckland was laid out in more of a grid — cheaper to build and easier to subdivide for housing.