Auckland and the little things

Auckland is at once the same and radically different from cities in South America. It’s not the overarching categories of things that are different; there are still roads, cars, restaurants, parking lots, houses, parks. But how they look is radically different compared to South America. Gone is much of the roughness, the sensation of that the city is unfinished and in flux. Auckland instead resembles the coastal cities of the United States, with a static polish over everything. There are things under construction, but they’re politely hidden from view and fenced off by perimeters of cones and fences. All of the roads sport the glossy sheen of asphalt and sidewalks are formed by immaculately poured concrete. And the buildings form neat little units, sized and proportioned to match each other even when they differ in appearance.

But even in the static polish of Auckland, where you could for a moment mistake yourself in Seattle or San Francisco, there are little things that stand out as different. It’s the details that make a place, and here in Auckland these little things take on a form of whimsy we’ve come to associate with New Zealand.

A city block in Auckland, which looks much like a city block in Seattle or Los Angeles.
A wooden arch erected in a park for summer festivities with Maori-inspired designs. Here in Auckland, the differences are in the details.
A community garden space in Auckland. The city maintains 42,000 hectares of parks and open spaces. Compared to Los Angeles (9,700 hectares) and New York City (11,300 hectares), Auckland has more than ten times the park space per resident in the city.
Mushrooms grow at a park in Auckland. One benefit of so much parkspace is a panoply of nature is always only a few steps away.
A house in an Auckland suburb. Like most cities in the Western world, Auckland is a city center surrounded by a massive sprawl of suburbs.
An grocery ad at a bus stop. The switch in gender roles here would be nigh unprecedented in U.S. advertising, which promulgates the myth that most men can’t cook.
A coffee shop mascot near University of Auckland. Even the monsters here are polite.
Guide signs in a warehouse grocery store in Auckland. Dinosaurs are really cheap this week…
Chinese for lunch: Nearly 22% of Auckland’s population is Asian, and the city boasts an amazing array of restaurants specializing in Asian cuisine.
Election signs erected in a park in Auckland. There are nearly 10 different candidates you could vote for in this election.
“The Sound of Rain”: A miniature bronze house commemorating New Zealand’s transition from a colony to a dominion.

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