Thesis 2012

Christchurch is at a very unique crossroads where, in the wake of the recent earthquakes, it will rebuild large parts of the city. This will be a pivotal time in its history, as the decisions of what to build where and when will come to define the city. Recognizing that the resources for reconstruction are limited, it is critical to think strategically about what types of construction could attract further investment, as some projects are more likely to act as catalysts for growth then others. It will be the aim of this group of thesis students to research and understand the economic undercurrents of the city to then propose environmentally responsible architectural and urban schemes that attract further development and bring life back to the city.

In August 2011 the City of Christchurch invited a series of international experts in post disaster planning and reconstruction to present their insights and critique the then draft plan. Throughout the presentations there was a general consensus that there needed to be an economic strategy supporting Christchurch’s proposed urban plan. As well, there was a sense that the draft plan was limited in its scope as it encompassed the Central Business District yet neglected to consider the city as a whole. It is in these two critiques that this thesis agenda is rooted, and the purpose of the work will therefore be to derive long term economically based design solutions for the future of Christchurch.

One example of such a project was presented by Charles Eadie who came from Santa Cruz and spoke about how they successfully recovered from the 1989 earthquake by building a larger university for the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). This attracted students and brought life back to the city, which in turn supported the development of residences and services such as restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. Prior to the earthquake UCSC had the capacity to grow, but because the city had limits on growth it was not until after the earthquakes and through a partnership with the city that they were able to do so. Like Santa Cruz, Christchurch can find the potentials inherent in its economy to recover from the earthquakes and attract people to the city. It will be the aim of the research component to discover and propose creative economic strategies which then support an argument for an architectural and urban strategy.

Energy demands, accessibility, material use and quality of life are all variables to consider in the design investigations. Being ecologically conscious and implementing sustainable measures should be a given, and the means to achieve this is through a sound economic strategy. The Canterbury region has the unique advantage of abundant water, arable land and a moderate climate conducive to farming. As we approach an era where fossil fuels are diminishing and climates changing there is a greater urgency to promote and choose lifestyles that are conscious of our environmental impact which includes making informed choices as to how we live and work collectively. The Canterbury region has a given set of constraints as are afforded by its surrounding environment, these potentials include the water, wind, solar exposure and the earth itself. Each of these has inherent to it a certain amount of potential in the form of resources and energy. An underlying objective for this thesis group will be to design proposals for city where resources, economy and lifestyle work in balance with the ecological context.

There will be two stages to the development of the work: research and design. As a group the students will set out the topics to research so that they come together to provide a range of related yet unique economic factors relevant to Christchurch. Each student will be responsible for researching an aspect of Christchurch’s economy, presenting it to the group, and including their findings in a coordinated publication and exhibition. From their research each student will develop a strategic intervention which will include an urban scale design strategy, as well as a building scale design that exemplifies the urban scale framework. The students will work as a group to make sure their independent projects come together and relate to one another. To do this they will be expected to present their work to each other as well as critique each other’s work. It is not about designing a fixed master plan, but instead the group will develop projects that intertwine and co-support one another. The aim of the students work is to engage actively in the discourse that will shape the city by developing well founded visionary ideas to be presented in a public exhibition and publication, both to be coordinated by the students.


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