On the morning of September the 4th, Christchurch was hit by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. Fortunately, no-one died in the quake, but the city has sustained major damage.
In the days, weeks and months to come, people who work and live in the central city will be assessing their places or work and living. Many are already condemned or destroyed. A number of buildings that are still standing will turn out to be too damaged to occupy.
The damage to the city, and the rebuild that follows, are a once in a generation – or even two generation – chance to shape a city for the century ahead. This is an opportunity, not only for Canterbury, but for all of New Zealand, to consider how we want to live, how our society will be shaped, and what the influence on society of buildings can be. Christchurch has a proud architectural history, with beautiful Gothic buildings such as the Museum, Arts Centre and Cathedral – though we also have a great number of Brutalist, modern buildings, which are often overlooked. Though they polarise people, the town hall, the University of Campus at Ilam and the High Court are examples of this style of architecture, and provide a strong contrast with the older buildings.
What I would like to see is a city that is designed for central city living, with sustainable, environmental innovations wherever possible, which encourages communities to develop and flourish. In the wake of the earthquake, there will clearly be a focus on safe, strong buildings. While there will be money coming in from the government and from insurance companies, I worry that if the authorities maintain a laisez-faire, hands-off attitude to the rebuild, we will do serious damage to Christchurch – and possibly the final nail in the coffin for the central city. So here on this blog, I want to elucidate my ideas on what could happen to the central city, to bring together links to innovative, creative urban design ideas, and to try and influence the people who are going to lead this reconstruction effort.