Sunday, 29 January 2012

What I'd like for Christchurch

As you all know, over the last year or so, Christchurch has changed, a lot. A few months ago I moved into a cottage on the edge of the CBD and since then, I'm starting to care a whole lot more about the rebuild of our once lovely city.

The old Press Building
I'm definitely in two minds about it though. Part of me just wishes they'd hurry up and get all the buildings demolished, so they can get building again. My workplace was once in the CBD but since February (and for periods before that too), we've been working in a cramped temporary location in the middle of nowhere. We have a new building that we were due to move into the week after the February quake, that survived much better than our old one (above), and I'm eager to get back into the CBD. I'll be able to walk to work from my new home, and I'm looking forward to having things to do at lunchtime and just enjoy the vibrancy of a city again.

From the Central City Plan
A larger part of me though, just wants them to do it right; to put time and effort into public consultation and research to make Christchurch even better than it was. Here are the five key changes identified in the Central City Plan to be critical to ensuring the Central City becomes a strong, resilient, vibrant and economically prosperous city again:
  • A greener more attractive city, supported by a wider and upgraded Avon River corridor, a greener Cathedral Square, new street trees throughout the Central City, 500 new green-rated buildings, rain gardens, surface stormwater treatment and a new network of neighbourhood parks.
  • A lower rise city with safe, sustainable buildings that look good and function well, supported by urban design controls, new regulations and incentives, strengthened heritage buildings with adaptive reuse, new lanes and courtyards and precincts of distinct activities, character and culture.
  • A compact Central Business District supported by business incentives, new regulation, well designed streetscapes, a redeveloped Convention Centre, new regional and central government offices, ultra-fast broadband and free WiFi.
  • Making the Central City a great place to live, work, play and learn, supported by high-quality inner city housing options and demonstration projects, residential incentives, improved access to a wide range of schools, new metropolitan sporting facilites, a new Cntral Library, new public art and performing arts venues and playgrounds.
  • A city easy to get to and around, supported by excellent walking and cycling paths, high-quality public transport, short-term free parking, a network of green two-way streets and an efficient and attractive ring road for traffic.
And you know what, I'm actually really impressed with those statements....but I'm still a little sceptical that it's going to be rushed. 

The winning design. Photo from here.
The Council also put together a 48-Hour Challenge where architects and designers were invited to redesign parts of the Central City. The winning design was The New Zealand Wood team's redesign of the Orion Site, displaying adaptive reuse, innovative architecture and civic landscaping. For a 48 hour task, they did a pretty awesome job. I'm loving those strips of trees and the raised buildings, very nice.

Conceptual art of Cathedral Square. Making the city fun - via The Pop-Up City.
I suspect that a lot of businesses that have moved out of the CBD have taken up leases in the suburbs, and won't bother moving back into the city. I guess that means there will be more spaces for parks and non-commercial buildings, which is great, but we need those people for the their vibrancy. So, we need to make the inner city a place where people want to come to - where they can relax and have fun. It used to be a sea of concrete - Cathedral Square was a drab open space with not much going for it... I much prefer this conceptual idea. And to make it fun... check out The Pop-Up City for heaps of cool, fun ideas, like having swings, or a 'transfer accelerator' (slide) instead of stairs. Seriously, who would take the stairs if you had the option of taking a slide?!

An idea for wider Christchurch that I heard at the last Pecha Kucha night we went to was from Kyle Lewis, who did a presentation titled An Urban National Park in Christchurch. His idea is to make a walking track that starts at the airport and does a loop of the city. Christchurch is the perfect place for this - it's super flat and has a diverse range of landscapes including beaches, coastal areas, tussock grasslands, parks and gardens, rivers, wetlands and forests. It would be pretty cool to be able to fly in and experience everything a city has to offer on foot, don't you think? I'd also like more cycle paths around the city, one's which aren't on roads, but tree lined paths connecting different parts of the city, that would be safe (the reason I don't cycle now is because I'm scared of getting hit by cars - so many cyclists do around here). Having a bicycle sharing system, like many European cities would be great too.

Of course, above all else, I want this city to be safe. Making a building cool, sustainable, fun or anything else means nothing if it isn't safe in this shaky place. 

If you're from Christchurch, what do you want for our city?


  1. As someone who witnessed ugly, characterless highrises devour the historic buildings in Auckland in the mid 90's this is my biggest fear for Christchurch's rebuild, that we simply build without thought, prioritizing filling a space or need. I would like to see a city that has an identity, and architecture we feel passionately positive about for years to come, that others admire us for, and look to as inspiration for their own cities. I love the idea of further reinforcing our reputation as the garden city, so green spaces win points from me. As a recent convert to this wonderful world of cycling, more cycle paths certainly appeal too! I would like to see us balance out modern convenience, with a respect to our heritage, and sensitivity to our environment.
    Thanks for this post Emma, I had not actually realized how emotionally invested I am in the rebuild, or how passionately I felt about it until now.

    1. I completely agree re: ugly buildings and building a city with identity.
      I didn't realise how invested I was with the whole situation really either, until doing some research for this blog post. I hadn't even looked at the Draft City Plan other than a quick glance at what come in the mail ages ago, but am glad I took the time to have a read.
      Fingers crossed for the right people making right decisions for Christchurch's future!

  2. I love this post - it certainly has given me plenty to think about, but I don't have any answers....other than I would love a city that you can walk and bike around - where there are more trees than cars and in which I feel safe to take my wee girl. I've been wondering lately what it was like living through the Napier quakes in the twenties and what sorts of public consultation was undertaken at that time - surely we are a lucky bunch to be given a clean slate and a chance to create some sustainable wonderfulness. Not to downplay all that we have been through, but there has to be an up-side to this eh?

    1. Yes, there definitely has to be an up-side!
      I'm sure that in the twenties they weren't given as many opportunities for input as we have/will have.
      Thanks for the comment! x


Thanks for your comments, they make my day!
Em x