My hometown has been devastated, care of a certain natural disaster. Namely, the catastrophic 6.3 magnitude, 10km deep, February 2011 earthquake. 185 people lost their lives that day. The earth continues to rumble, though not nearly as forcefully. Today, people are still coping with destroyed homes, outrageous rental prices and a sense of loss from the damaged historic buildings across the city.
I recently visited Christchurch – my first trip home following that fateful day. I was very interested to see the damage, and I was particularly keen to see the green shoots of emerging growth. You see, Christchurch has been voted as number 9 on a global list of cities that are shaping the next century. Or more specifically – “A massive rebuilding effort following this year’s New Zealand earthquake is a unique opportunity to rethink urban form”.
To help city centre businesses get back on their feet, a container mall – Re:START, has sprung up in what was the old Cashel Mall. Container as in shipping container. All are painted bright colours and combined to produce single and double level stores. The urban space is surrounded by demolished buildings spaces , some of which are used as open air carparking. Discounted parking rates are there to encourage people into the city centre.
Within the container mall music is everywhere, as are sculptured garden features which are most appropriate for the Garden City. My favourite Greek food cart, that has sold me donor kebabs through my university days, is located near the outdoor dining areas where one can take in the atmosphere and sun. Speaking of sun, the lack of tall buildings in the surrounding area means an abundance of light to the mall. The container mall is so good, it’s a shame to think it will eventually be replaced as new buildings return to the centre. This is all part of the urban renewal process as the temporary gives way to more permanent structures.
I watch with interest the evolving shape of the new city of Christchurch and hope that sustainable concepts feature in the new development.