AD1 Brief

The Christchurch earthquakes are the most catastrophic natural disaster in New Zealand’s history when measured by the number of buildings destroyed, the financial impact and the number of lives affected. Every newspaper and news channel remind us of the loss, while covering the political and financial upset the earthquakes have caused they have overshadowed the present opportunity. Unlike so many other places in the world (Haiti (2010), Australia (2009), USA (2005), Indonesia & India (2004)) that have suffered natural disasters, Christchurch is fortunate in that there is a national insurance policy with substantial funds to support in the recovery. However, payouts have been delayed due to the on going earthquakes and the financial untangling between the private vs. public insurance policies. This opens a valuable window of time, which is now, and creates an opportunity for designers and planners to think, debate and design for the future of Christchurch. This is a critical year for designers to engage in the public debate and raise the consciousness around the value of good design as well as define what it means. If this does not happen now, there is the very real risk that the lowest common denominator of design will be built out of urgency and lack of viable ideas.

In this course we will seize this time and take advantage of it to engage the public and fuel the debate about quality design. The question of what qualifies as appropriate design for Christchurch will be raised, and the students’ projects should answer this question through their proposals. By doing so the students have the opportunity to participate in shaping the future of Christchurch by providing creative ideas when they are needed most, which is right now. To engage the public the work for the course will be published in books, articles and exhibitions as well as presented through our course blog.

When looking at the history of architecture in Christchurch there are three primary factors that stand out as influential: the latest styles imported from abroad, available construction technologies, and accessibility of materials. Prior to the Otago Gold Rush in 1860, colonial Christchurch was built out of timber forested from Riccarton Bush and the nearby Port Hills, where false fronts were typical, mimicking Italianate facades. The Gold Rush fueled an economic boom, which brought trains and access to nearby quarries. This gave rise to stone construction, which at the time favored the Gothic Style, also borrowed from Europe. Following WWII Modernism took the stage, and Christchurch saw a boom in reinforced concrete construction at the same time its manufacturing businesses were flourishing. It was also during this period that the economic investment shifted from building religious institutions to more commercial and civic buildings.

As Christchurch faces the task of rebuilding, these same three factors will influence the city’s architecture, but because we live in a different age, the global trends, technologies and access to materials have changed. The era we live in today is defined by innovation, where the use of materials is constantly being tested and explored for unique design potential. Aided by the use of computer technologies, designers can add further complexity and variation to push materials to new boundaries, which prior to the use of computers was often seen as too costly, but is now economically feasible. While today the access to most any material can be had at a cost, choosing local materials is both environmentally and financially more responsible by reducing transportation costs and supporting local economies.

Because materials are at the core of innovation, the students will start their research by choosing a locally available resource. They will become familiar with its properties as well as develop a rigorous formal investigation using their chosen resource as the basis. Following on the students will develop an architectural response derived from their research and explored through the use of computer aided design techniques.

The course will have two components, research and design. The purpose of the research component is to develop a rational and intelligent approach to design, whereby design solutions are grounded in purpose and reason. During the first part of the course the students will develop two complimenting bodies of research: an in-depth analysis of a resource specific to Christchurch, and a related material investigation. Then, drawing on their research, the students will develop a building design by establishing a program, choosing an appropriate site, and developing a design concept.

At the start of the term, each team will select a topic to research, the only requirement is that it is a resource readily available in New Zealand and ideally easily accessible to Christchurch; example topics could be: stone, concrete, wood, clay (brick & ceramic), metal, textiles, etc. The team will develop an in-depth research into their topic, summarizing its properties, availability, performance, and cataloging its uses. The aim is to be critical of the found information, and go beyond presenting facts and figures to discover potentials. Each student will be responsible for an identifiable component of the research, but the team will present their information together and support one another’s work.

Following the research phase, each team will develop a material investigation using the same resource, and again each student will define a discrete aspect to study. Each student will develop a series of option studies to understand formal properties and explore design potential. The use of the digital fabrication facilities will be required for this component of the course.

From the research and material investigations each student will choose a site and define a building program, which should in some way relate to their other team member’s work, and again it is up to the team to define the relationships between the projects. Each student’s design concept should be grounded in both the research and material investigation, and the final building design will need to clearly demonstrate how the design concept is carried through to become a resolved building. A comprehensive Design Report is required for completion of AD1; this document will summarize the research and material investigation as well as outline the design of the building’s spatial planning, massing, materials, structure, details, and environmental performance. The studio work will culminate in a coordinated exhibition of the final designs to be presented in Christchurch.


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