Christchurch Rising – Landscape Driven City

Following on from the 2015 X-Section article Reimagining a City: 21st Century Landscape Architecture and the paper given by Mike Thomas at the 2015 6th Liveable Cities Conference titled Reimagining Christchurch City’s Post-Quake Public Realm: The Influence of 21st Century Landscape Architecture on the Rebuild, Mike posited that it is the work of landscape architects that will most consistently influence the appearance and social and economic success of Christchurch’s new post-quake public realm in the rebuild.  The following is a brief update on progress.

Mike Thomas

Christchurch is unique in New Zealand. Following the 2011 earthquake, it has started over. 70% of CBD buildings have needed demolition, services under the street have needed reconstruction and the city is now in a slow-but-steady state of rebuild.

A positive outlook of a city ‘beginning again’ has been the opportunity for the government to engage with the city and put in place an infrastructure rebuild using principles defined by its people. Cantabrians have asked for a green, walking, cycling city with public transport.

City planning has zoned the CBD into ‘Frames’ according to the activity of the district (e.g. innovation, health). A focus has been applied to developing the public realm and streetscape and so landscape architecture is playing a dominant role in shaping the character of the city centre – an evolutionary shift not a wholesale changeover.

This South Frame project consists of 20,000m2 of mid-block lanes and plazas across seven city blocks on major arterial routes in the city (Tuam/St Asaph and Madras/Antigua Streets). It’s part of a wider ‘Accessible City’ project which consists of 75,000 m2 of streetscapes containing 250 new street trees and 4,000m2 of rain gardens,   developed by a consortium of Jasmax, AECOM and LandLAB. South Frame’s construction began in 2016 and is now approximately 20% complete with work now proceeding at full pace.

A 12 metre-wide, 700 metre long, heavily planted Greenway collects, slows and treats storm water runoff with almost 3,000m2 of rain gardens. Designed as a setting for a creative new mixed-use precinct, connecting the Innovation and Health Precincts, the Greenway is a canvas for cultural expression in partnership with Ngāi Tahu; the local Māori tribe. A theme of this greenway is a “Story of Stone”, which features backlit pounamu (Jade/greenstone) pavement inlays, basalt laneways and boulders. The Greenway will be a venue for social activation and a safe movement corridor, particularly attractive to inner-city living and working.

The layout for the Greenway owes much to Canterbury’s beautiful braided rivers, pixelated to align with urban geometry. Local tree species, Kahikatea and totara, will rise above the buildings as future sentinels to help navigate the city centre. Ethno-botanical plantings with historical value to Ngāi Tahu will be planted, with identification tags.

Separated cycle-lanes and shared surfaces will enable safe cycling through the city, and connect to a regional cycleway network, the Peloton. Architecturally iconic Super Stops (for buses) are being fabricated, ready to play their part in a three-fold increase (by 2041) of public transport movements.

Construction of these projects is in full swing with a significant portion built by 2018.

By Mike Thomas, Principal, Jasmax 

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Activation of Auckland’s Wynyard Central

Development in Wynyard Central in Auckland’s waterfront allows buildings of up to 28 storeys. The Council’s objective to create a “vibrant neighbourhood” here could be compromised by a series of tall buildings that have the potential to deny spatial intimacy at the ground plane.

Wynyard Central vibrancy is a reflection of the number of people walking in public space and the time they spend in that space. Activation of the public realm is an activity response to the “functional” environment and to the “physical” environment.

So, whilst the initial activation brief was heavily focused around a “mix of ground floor activities” it was clear that the majority of Wynyard Central’s streets could not be activated by retail, given the relatively small size of existing and future on-site markets.

Defining the extent of retail capacity

The demand for functionally (retail) active edge was estimated at 280 linear metres from a total linear edge of 2.6 kilometres in Wynyard Central. The balance of ground floor activity will therefore be either office or residential. Functional” activation contributing to a “vibrant neighbourhood” is therefore limited in its influence and determining the “physical” environment becomes relatively more important.

Motivations to walk are affected by attraction or pulling power of the walk-to destination and by physical features or building elements that influence the quality of the built environment and therefore the visual richness of the walk.

“Plane Transition” (Drawing by Steve Thorne, Design Urban)

The spatial brief

In order to achieve Waterfront Auckland’s Vision and objectives, buildings in Wynyard Central are proposed to be brought to ground in a manner that supports the visual perspective of the pedestrian.

This more intimate pedestrian perspective requires a “plane transition” so that the lower levels of each building begin to engage with the street and become buildings “common in conversation” (as shown in the image). This transition is proposed at level three of all buildings.

At this point the use of dominant vertical proportions and higher level of detail in the composition of the building facade will assist to render the buildings as more pedestrian friendly.

Panuku Development Auckland is using this approach to manage the delivery of its objectives in Wynyard Central.

By Michael Cullen, Principal of Urbacity, Sydney

Michael attended the 2015 International Urban Design Conference.

Geyser wins at NZ architecture awards

The Fifth Estate 4th September 2013

Auckland’s Geyser building, New Zealand’s first 6 Star Green Star office-design rated building has won two categories at the 2013 New Zealand Architecture Awards.

Geyser, in Parnell, took out the commercial and sustainable design categories. The three-storey commercial building, a series of five sub-buildings with offices and retail space, was designed by Pattersons and is owned by Samson Corporation.

Architect Andrew Patterson said Geyser filled “the missing piece in sustainability”, which was about “quality, beauty and permanence”.

The Geyser Building
The Geyser Building

Samson general manager Marco Creemers said Geyser was not only a stunning building to look at but also “a very quiet and fresh environment to work in”.

“It gives you a great sense of pride to know you’re using less energy – no air-conditioning, a car stacking system and well thought-out lighting. You’re also saving water with rain harvesting, and reducing onsite waste with the Hungry Bin systems.”

Features include a 165-car stacking machine and a system of atriums with pedestrian linkages to promote networking and a sense of community.

Another is state-of-the-art eco-technology that enables the building to heat itself by trapping warm air between its walls in the winter, while in summer the entire outer skin opens electronically for full ventilation.

Mr Creemers said benefits were:

  • Using nearly a third less energy
  • Using half the amount of artificial lighting and water
  • Breathing 100 per cent fresh air (compared with 25 per cent in airconditioned offices)
  • Using a rainwater harvesting system to store and supply water to the toilets and irrigation system
  • Utilising showers, lockers and cycle parks to encourage active transport, as well as being close to major public transport hubs.

Clicker there to go read the original article on THE FIFTH ESTATE

Jamie Hosking: Build up, not out to become world’s most liveable city

nzheraldJamie Hosking  |  5:30 AM Wednesday May 22, 2013

Urban intensification is the elephant in the room when it comes to affordable housing.

Former Reserve Bank governor Don Brash recently called for the opposite of intensification: relaxation of the metropolitan urban limits. The accord between Auckland Council and central government includes plans for more greenfields development on the edge of town. And the Budget suggested that if councils do not free up greenfields land for development, central government will over-ride them.


Much of this is being done in the name of affordable housing. Yet the main solution to the spiralling cost of land is staring policymakers in the face: intensification. Because it’s not the cost of building houses that is driving affordability woes, it’s the cost of land.

Intensification means “building up” rather than “building out”: density instead of urban sprawl. Crucially, it requires no new land. Building two storeys instead of one doubles housing capacity and uses no additional land. The cost of land is divided by the number of storeys.

“Building up” can’t deliver quarter acre sections. But it can deliver something much more important: liveability…

To read the full story, click here