With the Draft Plan for rebuilding Christchurch released last week, we will be devoting the next few blog entries to describe the weeks we spent embedded with the City Council and our work with the fantastic people of Christchurch…
Gehl Architects arrived in May to a devastated city. The City Art Gallery, one of the few public buildings to survive the Earthquake more or less unscathed, had become the temporary home for the council as well as emergency centre for rescue services. The presence of military and civil defense personel and all the safety equipment and warning notices, were all reminders of the severity of the situation.
Only a day after our arrival in Christchurch we were thrown into a huge two-day community engagement event called “Share an Idea”. There was a tremendous turn out by the people of the city, thousands of families came, many staying all day to listen to the lectures, to write their own ideas, and share ideas and experiences with each other. There was a truly positive atmosphere despite the dreadful background to the event. One of our key roles at this event was listening – indeed David began his address at ‘Share an Idea’ with the words: “I am here to listen, find out what kind of city you want to have, and then do everything I can to help you get it”
During the next week we were escorted through ‘the red zone’ – the centre of the city that remains off limits to the public. Nothing could have prepared us for that first walk in. The scale of the destruction, the sense of the power of nature and the inherent weakness of the built world, the frailty of humanity. Small details like the unfinished cups of coffee on the café tables on Cashel Mall made us aware of the many individual stories of the earthquake in Christchurch. There was an eerie silence throughout the central city, only the rustling of the leaves in the trees, it underscored that the most important component of a city is people.
Find the report here: