March 13 2013

Shockproof: The Inspiring Redevelopment of Earthquake-Hit Christchurch, New Zealand

The coverage that natural disasters receive usually only captures an audience for a few days. While the initial visuals may shock and distress the viewer, the fast media cycle means that the recovery that follows the disaster is observed by comparatively few.

The Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-2011 certainly fit this model. 181 people died, thousands were displaced, and the city was left with a damage bill of over $20 billion. However, through this terrible tragedy an opportunity for the city to form a new identity through a truly remarkable planning response has arisen. The redevelopment of the city has provided an inspiration for architects, planners, and urban designers alike as the city has taken opportunity from adversity and has reinvented its urban form as well as its architectural character. Two projects that have characterized this brave and optimistic leap have been the Container Mall development on the site of the city’s main pedestrian mall, and the Blueprint Recovery plan that has been proposed for the city’s CBD.

Locals examine the damage of one of the series of earthquakes.

The Blueprint plan is a revolutionary spatial framework plan that will emphasize the city’s environmental and historical features, as well as contain Christchurch’s Central Business District. The plan aims to provide a sustainable urban form that will concentrate the CBD within the confines of the Avon River and Manchester and Lichfield Street, surrounded by a “green frame” that showcases and enhances the city’s reputation for beautiful parks. The plan envisages the demolition of 70% of pre-earthquake buildings that were located in the district. Furthermore, seventeen “Anchor Projects” will be embedded within the central city area. They will be able to complement the city’s new layout by providing a range of community facilities, retail precincts, and sport and recreational facilities.

A blueprint of The Christchurch Recovery Plan.

One of the cities key attractions and social and economic hubs was its central shopping area. This was significantly affected by the most severe of the series of earthquakes (the 6.3 ML earthquake on the 22nd of February, 2011). In its place, a pop-up container precinct has been able to restore a small sense of normality and hope for residents, as well as keep the site temporarily activated during the re-construction period. The twenty-seven retailers that initially occupied the site have now grown to forty-one. Such has been the sites success that the city hopes that the novel project’s popularity will be adopted throughout the myriad of similarly innovative projects that will entail Christchurch’s eventual redevelopment.

Why do you think urban disaster recoveries don’t always receive warranted exposure when so much is able to be gained and inspired from them? What other examples of cities affected by natural disasters have inspired you?

Credits: Images by Steven Petsinis. Data linked to sources.

Steven Petsinis

Steven Petsinis is an Urban Planning graduate from Melbourne, Australia. He has been involved in Urban Research and Development projects in Medellin, Colombia and Saigon, Vietnam and is currently pursuing his masters in Melbourne, Australia. His main interests lie in land use and social planning, sustainability, as well as studies involving globalization and it's effect on third world communities. He has recently spent one year travelling throughout North and South America, as well as Europe, where he has gathered material and inspiration for his upcoming blogs for The Grid.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 at 9:13 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, History/Preservation, Infrastructure, Land Use, Social/Demographics, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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