Initiatives for a Transitional City

What happens when you have a natural disaster, and you are handed the rare opportunity to reinvent large parts of your central city, whether you like it or not? Given the magnitude of the Canterbury earthquakes and the devastation wrought, long-term recovery cannot happen overnight.

Stepping into this void are a number of Transitional City initiatives for the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand.

The challenge faced by the designers of these interim cityscapes is that starting from scratch is extremely hard. The buildings that once defined the public spaces have been demolished and the bustling activities that surrounded them are now largely gone.

Tremendous vision, creativity and energy has been required to meaningfully recover and reengage the community with the central city, providing people with tangible reasons to stay, visit and invest in the city. Yet, all this has occurred when the design and implementation budgets have been extremely limited.

Adversity has stimulated a raft of initiatives, including the ‘ReStart’ retail core, ‘Greening the Rubble’ landscapes, ‘Gap Filler’ events, temporary streetscapes and artworks. These have evolved out of the imagination of individuals through to broad public/private stakeholder collaborations. Many are innovative and unorthodox, attempting to discover a freshness that overcomes the bleakness of disaster and to kick-start recovery. They have taken opportunities to explore concepts that positively respond to cultural heritage and environmental context, and to create a more sustainable future. Importantly, they provide a temporary platform to test ideas that will potentially be valuable for long-term recovery.

Almost two years after the first earthquake struck Christchurch, Tim Church will be able to share some of the early wins that have been delivered. Lessons can be learnt for a wide range of regeneration initiatives, where for reasons other than natural disaster, designers are faced with similar opportunities.

Mr Tim Church Principal Urban Designer at Boffa Miskell will present at the

5th International Urban Design Conference
– The Hilton on the Park, Melbourne, Australia from the 10th to the 12th of September – 2012

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