Archives for posts with tag: Urban Design

On Tuesday evening, Canadian urbanist Charles Montgomery gave a couple of lectures about his thoughts on Christchurch. I wasn’t there – it was cheap Tuesday date night* – but it sounds like he had some good things to say. The headline was the Convention Centre:

Putting a convention centre in the middle of Christchurch’s city centre is a mistake, Canadian urban experimentalist Charles Montgomery says.

“If your interest is in creating rich, social, connected enviroments in your core you should be very wary of plans to drop mega structures into that fabric. Convention centres are notorious, because of their architectural requirements, for killing street life around their edges,” Montgomery said.

The response from CCDU director Baden Ewart is straight from the CERA play book. He also had some interesting thoughts about residential density:

Montgomery said Christchurch should be encouraging higher density housing and aiming to have far more than 20,000 people living in the central city because that would increase opportunities for people to connect socially, which was the most important ingredient for human happiness. Within the central city core and the eastern frame, there were tremendous opportunities to create the kind of density people loved, he said.

“Young people want more freedom. They don’t want to spend their lives mowing a lawn. They want more freedom to spend time with their friends and families, to go out, to access the riches of the city. How do you get that? By moving a little closer together.”

This is all great stuff and I’m glad to see it getting some attention. But it does bring up a point that was raised to me by former mayor Garry Moore a few weeks ago – Overseas Expert Syndrome. Moore described how when he was mayor, people were far more likely to listen to someone with a funny accent coming here and telling us things, than we are to listen to our own experts. Which I’m sure is a thing worldwide, but we New Zealanders, with our sense of inferiority of place, seem more susceptible to this sort of approach.

The irony of which is that one of our very own experts, Gap Filler co-founder and Once in a Lifetime editor Dr Ryan Reynolds, is currently in Copenhagen, where he is lecturing on urban design and activism. Maybe when he gets back off the plan, we should listen a bit more carefully to what he has to say.

* I went to see Dior and I, which was very enjoyable, much of this was due to the performance of Raf Simons. If you would like to come and see another suave european named Raf, then tonight I’m hosting a debate with council finance supremo Raf Manji on asset sales. It’s at 5:30pm at the EPIC centre. Free to come along, and hopefully informative! More details here.

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Time magazine have published an excerpt from an upcoming book about the fall of suburbia in America:

In 2011, for the first time in nearly a hundred years, the rate of urban population growth outpaced suburban growth, reversing a trend that held steady for every decade since the invention of the automobile. In several metropolitan areas, building activity that was once concentrated in the suburban fringe has now shifted to what planners call the “urban core,” while demand for large single-family homes that characterize our modern suburbs is dwindling.

Now I know that this isn’t the first time such ideas have been discussed – but the discussion seems to have eluded Christchurch. The immediate demand for rehousing people displaced from the east seems to only be possible by spreading west and north across the plains, into the endless suburbia that America is starting to pull-back from.

On Monday, I went and saw a lecture from Dr Susan Krumdieck, on her plan for a new, dense Riccarton. Some of her talks are up on her Youtube channel – though the one from Monday isn’t yet. She argues for an intensification of housing, and has selected Riccarton as an example. While I think it’s a great idea, I’m not sure how it’s going to happen. I’d suggest situating the project in the CBD – say, where the stadium is meant to go – rather than bulldozing a suburb to rebuild a new one. 

Last week, I disagreed with Johnny Moore’s column on Moore Roads. While I don’t always agree with him, today I’m back in his camp. This morning’s column is not so much a defense of the Cardboard Cathedral, but a call for a little perspective.

What is sometimes lost in the discussion is that the cathedral is on private land and paid for by private money. I believe the church asked the council for money but didn’t get any.

While you’re free to comment away on the council and Government spending your money, the church is spending its own money on its own project. So whether you or I think it is a waste of money doesn’t matter – it is their money to spend how they want.

You can have an opinion on the Cardboard Cathedral, sure. But don’t expect your background in talkback radio to convince me you know what you’re talking about with architecture and design. 

Everything about this story makes me feel wrong.

Speaking at a Ministry of Awesome event in Christchurch yesterday, Gough said: “I’m sorry, Urban Design Panel, it doesn’t fit your mould. I’m not Westfield.”

I don’t want to be one of those guys who tells the media how to do their job … but aren’t you meant to provide some balance in your stories? What did the Urban Design Panel do to provoke this imbecilic outburst? Because if anyone involved in the Christchurch rebuild needs some aesthetic guidance, it’s Anthony Gough. Judging from the quote above, he didn’t actually say it to the Urban Design Panel, but to the Ministry of Awesome (who have so far proven themselves to be nothing more than a meaningless slogan looking for a pre-loved pile of jargon in which to make their home.)

Sadly, this story represents one of the most detailed discussions of building design that we’ve seen in the rebuild.