Ideas to Remember

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Published on: August 16, 2014

It strikes me that the terms of reference for the CERA earthquake memorial project almost entirely miss the point.
http://cera.govt.nz/news/2014/site-confirmed-for-canterbury-earthquake-memorial-12-july-2014

Why are we limiting proposals to the location selected?

The riverside site represents a number of quite profound social and architectural deficiencies and lost opportunities for any disaster memorial of international stature.

The worst is that the result will be tidied safely away from the psychic ‘epicentre’ of the event, and away from day to day street life. Very much robbed of any visceral power it might otherwise have if integrated into the urban fabric of the new CBD.

Hiroshima while rebuilding managed to preserve a poignant ruin of a whole building in the middle of what was left of their city, and Pompeii, by preserving many entire streets of buildings has huge resonance for visitors today.

Pompeii

Why would the organisers of this event conclude that for a memorial installation commemorating the earthquakes that effectively obliterated our city, with the profound rift and disconnect between our past and future built environments that this loss represents, that it would be inappropriate to preserve at least some of the ruined fabric from the old CBD? Would this really be too confronting or difficult for the people of Christchurch to achieve?

Why can we not preserve even a whole streetscape in it’s ruined state – for example the remaining portion of High Street (for which redevelopment is not likely soon anyway)? This would bring home the raw impact of the event to our descendants and visitors in a way that no secluded memorial sculpture can capture, and will represent a significant and dramatic tourist attraction to offset the draw of the heritage fabric we have lost.
This part of town, in its ruined state, now possesses extraordinary architectural richness, power and value – a state we are never likely to recapture deliberately.
We have urban fabric here with hard earned ‘patina’ that would otherwise take perhaps a thousand years of hard living to replicate. How is it that for such a young country we do not see the value and importance of this resource?

Beyond preserving this street scape, surely we should be endeavouring to capture and preserve ruined walls, foundations and other artifacts right around the CBD, and integrating these into our new built fabric in any number of ways? Expanses of ruptured and buckled paving left as is; small alleyways between shattered brick walls embedded in modern concrete as a retreat from the day to day hubbub of 22nd century street life , perhaps leading past some poignant spot (perhaps with poetry); Old foundations visible through the surface of new paved plazas; ruined columns framing small green spaces where office workers can eat their lunches; old damaged facades facing new buildings …

Perhaps a sense of overwhelm is behind the current desire to sanitize, and why we are so apparently unconcerned with preserving visceral traces of the event? Or is it just oblivious insensitivity to the extraordinary yet rapidly vanishing resource and opportunity we now have?

The desire expressed by many to ‘move on’ from disaster is restricted to the current generation only – our children and their descendants will very much regret the loss of this tangible and rich patina that could otherwise enliven and inform their built environment.

Paul King Architect | Christchurch | New Zealand | (03) 383 4592 | www.prime.net.nz

Christchurch ’48 Hours’ Competition

Christchurch Architects were put to the challenge recently, with a design competition to address the earthquake ravaged city centre.

Starting at midday on 1st July 2011 and finishing an exhausting but exhilarating 48 hours later, 15 teams comprising over a hundred Architects, architectural designers, landscape architects, urban designers, engineers and students gathered together at Lincoln University to compete in the 48 Hour Design Challenge. Teams were assigned one of five earthquake damaged sites within Christchurch’s central city, and tasked to propose innovative Architecture that would address the reconstruction opportunities presented by each site, as well as wider economic, environmental and social themes.

There were four sites within the Red Zone: Cathedral Square and BNZ Building; 160 Gloucester Street; the Orion NZ Building at 203 Gloucester Street; and 90 Armagh Street, including the Avon River and Victoria Square. The fifth site, which sits outside the Red Zone, is the former Christchurch Women’s Hospital at 885 Colombo Street.

The supreme award was allocated to the designers of a scheme for the 15000m² Orion site, situated near the Avon River in central Christchurch.

The winning solution proposed salvaging the structure of an existing car parking building to create a new and exciting mixture of retail and office spaces, affordable housing, a covered market and an innovative community space in the form of a 30 meter timber lattice framed floating ‘drum’. The design created a landscaped public square with pedestrian links to Latimer Square and the river, acknowledging multiple layers of connection with time & place, weaving in memories of earlier waterways, wells and flora, and the indigenous pre European occupation and food gathering activity associated with the Avon.

The winning team, named after its sponsor ‘NZ Wood’ consisted of:

Jason Guiver, team coordinator & sponsor, NZ Wood Timber Design Advisory Centre
Paul King, Architect and 3D visualiser, Architecture Prime Ltd
Jasper van der Lingen, Architect, Sheppard + Rout Architects Ltd
Di Lucas, Land scape Architect, Lucas Associates
Dr Jackie Bowring, Professor of Urban and landscape design, Lincoln University
Chris Speed, Structural Engineer, Dunning Thornton Ltd
Ben Carter, Civil Engineering Student, University of Canterbury

“Though there is only so much that can be accomplished in 48 hours, this outcome vindicates a strongly design led collaborative approach rather than a planning rule driven approach to rebuilding our city, and shows what can happen when Architects are actually allowed to do their job” said Paul King, one of the winning Architects.

More coverage on the competition can be found here:
in this 3 News video clip.


Images by Paul King, Architecture Prime Ltd

Paul King Architect | Christchurch | New Zealand | (03) 383 4592 | www.prime.net.nz

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