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On Friday the 30th of August ‘the Wave’ opened in Copenhagen harbour designed by Klar and JDS Architects in colaboration. Critically for us, it has begun to enliven the Western side of the harbour in a way many never thought possible. Enough so, that anyone there around 8am on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday last week may have found a small group of Gehl staff swimming (incuding on one occasion John Bela of Park(ing) Day fame). We were also there on Saturday for a few shots in the sun. Even in Copenhagen, we can swim in the harbour in September if the invitation is right. Enjoy!

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Urban Voices - Celebrating Urban Design in Australia is now available from Urban Design Forum. Urban Voices reflects on urban design in Australia over the past 25 years as we confront the challenges of the next 25 years. It is a compendium of contributions from a wide range of people interested in how our cities and towns function and the quality of life they deliver.Jan Gehl has contributed an essay about Gehl Architects' history working with Australian cities and Gehl Senior Consultant Rob Adams of the city of Melbourne also has a piece. Essential reading for Australian urbanists.

Pallet Pavillion

Since we first met Coralie and Ryan from Gapfiller in Christchurch in May 2011 we’ve watched them go from strength to strength. They were prominently featured in our film, and we are thoroughly impressed with the way in which they have gone about transforming many empty sites left by the earthquake into unique, creative, lively, community places. They are now in need of some help maintaining their biggest project to date – The Pallet Pavillion. See the message from Coralie below. We’ll be supporting them, and we hope you can too.

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Gap Filler’s Pallet Pavilion was built in late 2012 by 250+ volunteers using 3000 wooden pallets. It was conceived to respond to the loss of venues for live music and community events in post-quake Christchurch.  An extremely ambitious project, it has been an incredible success.  It has had amazing media coverage, too with features in Australian Geographic, Cuisine, the Daily Mail, the Weekend Australian and more.

More than 25 000 people have visited in just 5 months and it has hosted more than 100 events from live music to markets to children’s parties to lectures. 45 volunteers have contributed to it running across the Summer.

The Pavilion is a temporary project and its deconstruction was due to take place in May this year. So NOW in other words.  But across March and April many people have asked if we can keep the Pavilion in the space for another year.

But we can’t afford to keep it. So we’re putting it to you, our friends, fans, supporters and community to help us raise the money needed and also spread the word.

If you would like to support the Pavilion please go to https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/1064  and watch a beautiful little video about it.

- Coralie Winn, Gapfiller.

 

 

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Gehl Architects in collaboration with 8-80 Cities have just completed a ‘Mobility Playbook’ for the City of Red Deer, Canada. Red Deer is a city of around 100,000 people located in the Petroleum Valley between Calgary and Edmonton. It will double in size in the next 18 years. The playbook sets out moves to harness this growth towards sustainable mobility and was unanimously approved for community consultation by the City Council. We’ve found the job to be a microcosm of the challenges facing many North-American Cities. 

See the video the city made and read the report here.

Collage by Gehl Architects Vison collage by Gehl Architects

In Copenhagen it is possible to buy an organic kiwifruit from New Zealand. These are displayed in the supermarket alongside non-organic Italian varieties. Which one should I choose? Should I buy the ethically farmed NZ kiwi, or should I buy the Italian one with fewer air miles? What is the most sustainable decision? And is it possible for the most sustainable decision to also give me the highest quality of life?

Decisions regarding sustainability are increasingly affecting how we build cities. This is especially true in Christchurch as it embarks on the single largest infrastructure investment in its history – that of rebuilding.

Debate around sustainable cities has historically centred on individual buildings. In this regard, it is very easy to get caught-up discussing the merit of a five-star versus six-star green star certification, or green roofs, or solar power, without considering other factors. This is evidenced in Melbourne, where the majority of new 6-star green certified homes have been built on the urban fringe. With limited access to public transport and cycling infrastructure, occupants require cars for most journeys. Just like the organic kiwi, a large amount of high-carbon transport is required to make these ‘sustainable’ homes accessible. Is it right to buy an organic kiwi on the other side of the world to where it grew? Can a ‘green’ house have a three-car garage?

What the Melbourne case highlights is that we must consider end-user behaviour if we want to make the most sustainable city. A recycling bin is no good if nobody uses it, or if its contents are contaminated and so taken to landfill. The most modern green workplace accessed by car produces more emissions than an older workplace accessed by public transport. A green building potentially isn’t green if its inhabitants use it differently than expected. A sustainable city is not simply a collection of green buildings, it is the infrastructure for a collection of people to enjoy sustainable lifestyles because they offer a higher quality of life.

A major factor in a sustainable lifestyle is transport choice. In 2009, 91% of trips were made by car in the Greater Christchurch Region. In Copenhagen the figure is 30%. Copenhagen has a long history of cycling which it has researched extensively. In 2010, 37% of people cycled to work in Copenhagen, with 70% continuing through winter. When asked their reason for choosing to cycle, the overwhelming reason respondents gave was convenience. Cycling in Copenhagen has nothing to do with ethical choices, it has to do with finding the easiest way to get from a to b. It is the result not of a ‘special Scandinavian mentality’, but of ongoing investment in cycling infrastructure by the City of Copenhagen, as well as the development of urban forms that create short enough distances for cycling to be viable. Copenhagen is internationally celebrated for the high quality of life cycling affords its citizens including health and accessibility benefits.

This identifies the issue at the heart of building a sustainable city. The central challenge is to make it easy and even desirable to be green – to create the infrastructure that will allow inhabitants to make sustainable decisions because they are in their own best interest. The challenge is for a city to be ‘Good for me’ and ‘Good for the planet’. This sometimes involves trade-offs such as weighing an isolated green building against integrated green transport. It will involve having an open mind.

In May last year, we asked you: ‘What kind of city do you want?’ Many of the most popular responses related both to a better lifestyle and sustainability. When debating your new sustainable city I encourage you to consider not ‘Is this city sustainable?’ but instead ‘How can this city make a sustainable lifestyle attractive for me?’ The answer to the latter question will illuminate the path to an enduringly sustainable city.

But back to the supermarket: Which kiwifruit did I buy – the organic New Zealand variety, or the lower-transport Italian? I bought the organic Danish apple.

Simon Goddard is a Project Architect with Gehl Architects in Copenhagen. He was extensively involved in the development of the Christchurch Central City Recovery Plan.

This article was originally published in The Press, Christchurch on 21 March, 2012.

Late last year we asked Hugh Nicholson, Head of Urban Design for Christchurch City Council, to reflect on his personal experiences of the earthquake and the significance of the recovery plan. This is the second of two blog entries where we present his answers to the questions we asked him, together with photos we took while working on site.

Q2: Could you describe what a ‘recovery plan’ is and what the process of producing one has meant for Christchurch?

A: A recovery plan is both a vision for what the rebuilt city will be like and the tools or projects that will take it along the path to recovery.  It provides a programme of infrastructure repair, public investment and transitional projects to stimulate recovery and provides a framework for private investment including incentives and regulation.  The Christchurch City Council was required to prepare a recovery plan for the central city in nine months by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act.  We delivered it to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister in eight months.  We had a team of more than sixty people working on the Plan in the drafting stages. The team included Council staff and a number of external consultants including Gehl Architects.

One of the most inspiring parts of the project was the public engagement through Share an Idea.   We included a weekend long public expo with exhibitions, public speakers, virtual tours of the red zone, and a great interactive website where people could see their ideas alongside everybody elses.  Check out Share an Idea.  It generated 106,000 ideas and themes and gave us a powerful community vision to underpin the Plan.

Papawai Otakaro

 Q3: Which project from the plan are you most looking forward to implementing?

As the design leader for the development of the Central City Plan I have been focused on maintaining the overall coherence of the Plan and integrating the wide range of projects to best enable recovery – so of course I am most looking forward to delivering the whole recovery plan…but I do have my favourite projects of course. 

  • Papawai Otakaro, the new Avon River park will be a new waterfront for the people of Christchurch and offers the opportunity to weave new values, both ecological and indigenous through the central city.   A ‘green’ bridge over the Avon will provide a centre-piece for the park.
  • The new metro-sports facility offers the chance to develop a range of sporting facilities in a sporting precinct and celebrate Christchurch’s proud sporting culture.
  • A redeveloped hospital will offer modern high quality healthcare in safe and resilient buildings in case Christchurch ever has to face another disaster like this one.

Late last year we asked Hugh Nicholson, Head of Urban Design for Christchurch City Council, to reflect on his personal experiences of the earthquake and the significance of the recovery plan. Over two blog entries we will present his answers to the questions we asked him, together with photos we took while working on site.

Gehl asked: Hugh, what did the earthquake mean to you personally?

A: People often say what a ‘great opportunity’ it must be to redesign a city but it comes at a great cost.  It’s hard to describe the fear and loss of security when the ground you are standing on shakes and tears the city apart around you, not once but five times with more than 7,000 smaller aftershocks.  My house has collapsed and we do not know yet whether we can rebuild on our land.  In my neighbourhood approximately 20% of the houses are still occupied and many of our local shops and our local supermarket have been demolished. We have rented a house nearby but it has been damaged also with plywood covering broken windows, propped walls and cracked internal lining.  Of our six immediate neighbours two are still occupied, two are unoccupied and two have been demolished.  I have helped to demolish seven chimneys on various houses to make them safe.

We have been working out of temporary offices at the City Art Gallery which became the Emergency Operations Centre since the earthquakes. Working out of an art gallery sounds quite romantic but actually they don’t make very good offices – they don’t have windows in the galleries and this one was either too hot or too cold. The gallery was within the cordoned off central city for some time and we had to pass through several army checkpoints just to get to work. The ‘safe’ route in or out would sometimes change so quickly as dangerous buildings were identified that we would end up leaving the office by a different route than the one we arrived on that morning. Last week one of the local cafes which we had been frequenting for more than six months was closed and evacuated when engineers found that a neighbouring block of apartments was dangerously unstable.

More than half of the buildings in the Central Business District will be demolished. More than 6,000 houses cannot be rebuilt and whole communities will have to relocate and find new places to live.  Another 6,000 households including my family are waiting to find out whether we can rebuild.

My work has completely changed since the earthquakes.  Initially the urban design and heritage team were involved in the emergency response authorising the demolition or emergency repairs to heritage buildings as the search & rescue teams searched for bodies and tried to make areas safe.  Subsequently we started to think about recovery and have spent the last eight months preparing the Central Recovery City Plan Our work has been characterised by uncertainty and working in parallel.  There is never enough information to be sure you are making the right decision, and there is nobody who knows how to do it or what the answer is. We are always short of time and having to work in parallel in order to make progress.  The final geotechnical report confirming that it was possible to rebuild safely in the central city only arrived one week before we published the draft Central City Recovery Plan to be approved by the Minister.

Looking back I still wonder at the dedication and support of Gehl Architects and particularly David, Simon and Ewa who came halfway round the world to live and work in a natural disaster area and to help the people of Christchurch to develop a vision for what the city might look like as it rebuilds…

Next week we will present the other half of his response, considering the significance of the recovery plan.

Last weekend Christchurch re-opened its shopping mall supplemented by 27 shops housed in shipping containers. The shipping containers were designed by local firm Buchan Group and we are a big fan of the fine grain they naturally lend to the site. Gehl Architects have been working with the City of Christchurch developing the Central City Recovery Plan, due to be finalised by Christmas.

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