A Conversation

[THESIS 2012]
This year we are testing a new approach to thesis by pooling individual thesis students and engaging as a collective to develop a project. While each of the student’s theses can be read independently, they can also be read as a collection. The aim of the group is to develop a strategic urban plan for Christchurch starting with economic research and teasing out possible catalysts for growth. Each student is researching a unique economy in Christchurch, and from their investigations they have derived an urban strategy that could in some way stimulate investment in the city. There is a strong overlap between the individual projects, recognizing that economies are not independent from one another, rather they intimately coexist. By the end of the year the students will also design a building scale proposal that works as an example or component of their urban scale strategy.

The brief for this project stemmed from two critiques on the Christchurch Central City Draft Plan, which was developed in a six-month period after the February 2011 earthquakes. During the consultation phase an International Speaker Series was held and the invited guests were asked to critique the plan. The general consensus was two fold, that the plan was too limited in scope due to the mandate to look only at the CBD, and there was no financial strategy to realize the plan, which meant it was an unrealistic proposal. It was from these critiques that we established the aim for this group project, which would be to consider the entire Christchurch legal boundary and any factors affecting it, i.e. regionally, nationally and globally. As well the group is using research into different local economies to find drivers for urban strategies, the aim of which is to identify viable investments that could work as catalysts for stimulating the economy.

Further to these two critique, I have my own reflections on master planning, after having worked on a handful of master plans and visited several large scale urban projects, my sense is that these newer planned cities or parts of cities tend to appear contrived and lack character. I have often wondered what was missing and how as a designer to resolve this. The places I love, for example old European streets and plazas and other seemingly ‘unplanned’ places, have a quality of space missing in these newer developments. Upon reflection, my conclusion is that because these developments did not grow over time they are unable to adapt to change, which involves a certain organic responsive quality. I see the large master planned projects from the recent decades as rather static in their response to change, which makes me wonder if we are not approaching the design problem from the wrong side, and instead of looking at the end result we could focus on the starting point. Further, we live in an age where the future is unlikely to be like the present, and given the exponential rate of innovation the future is rather unpredictable. Coming back to this thesis project, we accept that change is inevitable and unpredictable and so we are approaching planning not from an end result but rather from a starting point, to do this we are identifying where strategic investments into specific economies could breath life back into Christchurch.

We have invited you to join us for a conversation to discuss these six urban strategies, each relating to a specific economy in Christchurch, and how they respond to this rather unconventional approach to planning. We will start the discussion with each student presenting their work in a short 3-5minute summary, following which we would like to hear from you your thoughts on our approach to planning and how the specific topics relate to one another. The students will present their thesis individually the day before, so this conversation is meant to be more about how the group of projects relate to one another and where there could be potential cross overs. We look forward to you joining us for this discussion.

Invited Guests
Dushko Bogunovich – Associate Professor, UNITEC
Matthew Bradbury – Senior Lecturer, UNITEC
Marianne Riley – Architect, Associate at Jasmax Ltd.
Aaron Sills – Architect, Partner at Sills van Bohemen Architects

Thesis Students
Erica Austin – The Experience Economy (Thesis Statement PDF)
Alex Haryowiseno – Innovation Economics (Thesis Statement PDF)
Biran He – The Housing Economy (Thesis Statement PDF)
Praveen Karunasinghe – The Creative Economy and Education (Thesis Statement PDF)
Jacky Lee – The Economics of Transportation (Thesis Statement PDF)
David Wong – The Green Economy (Thesis Statement PDF)

Chris Barton – Advisor, Journalist with the New Zealand Herald
Camia Young – Advisor



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