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UC students behind return of outdoor chess to Christchurch

UC students behind return of outdoor chess to Christchurch in new Gap Filler collaborative project

A group of University of Canterbury Management 208 students are behind an initiative that will mean that the public can again enjoy a game of chess on an outdoor giant chess set in Christchurch.

Cathedral Square was home to a giant chess set for many years but with that area of the city currently inaccessible the students decided to work together with Gap Filler to create a community space for an oversize chess set on a vacant site on Colombo Street in Sydenham next to another newly relocated central city icon – The Honey Pot Café.

Gap Filler is a creative urban regeneration initiative started in response to the September 4, 2010 Canterbury earthquake, and revised and expanded in light of the more destructive February 22, 2011 quake. Gap Filler aims to temporarily activate vacant sites within Christchurch with creative projects for community benefit, to make for a more interesting, dynamic and vibrant city.

The group of UC students - Elliot Faulkner, Joel Smith, Lisa Hoffmann, Murray Swann and Oleg Sheremetov - got in touch with Gap Filler after hearing a lecture by Gap Filler Co-Founder and Project Coordinator, Coralie Winn as part of their Management 208 course in August.

As part of the course, students are required to work on a project that engages with the community. The students felt that the loss of the Cathedral Square public chess set was significant for the people of Christchurch. They wanted to create a new giant chess while Cathedral Square is off limits and thought Gap Filler would be a great partner to work with.

“Community engagement in Management 208 is more than an enhanced, transformative learning experience,” said course coordinator Dr Lane Perry. “It is more than helping and interacting with the community in an intentional sort of way; and it is more than critical reflection leading to personal growth. It is one of those engaging teaching methods where the overall student experience equals more than the sum of its parts. When successfully facilitated the students become a part of something bigger than them, but better because of them.”

Gap Filler took up the students’ idea, with Gap Filler Co-Founder and architect, Andrew Just creating a design for the site that turned it into a more developed, community space and ultimately a larger project. The site will be ready for the public to use from this Saturday.

“The chess set is open to the public and brings some much needed activity to one of the many vacant sites in Sydenham,” said Gap Filler Co-Founder and Project Coordinator Coralie Winn. “The chess pieces will be locked in a chest on site with the key able to be signed out at The Honey Pot Café next door. It is free to play.”

The chess set will remain on the site temporarily until the land owner is ready to rebuild next year.


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