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Gap filling projects reach crucial juncture

30 October 2014

Gap filling projects reach crucial juncture

Where to from here?

That is the question the creators of the temporary space projects, which have attempted to give some respite to the citizens of post-quake Christchurch, should be asking themselves according to Dr Andreas Wesener, lecturer in urban design at Lincoln University’s School of Landscape Architecture.

Dr Wesener said much had been achieved over the last three years and community-initiated open spaces had become vital and indispensable places within Christchurch’s urban landscape.

However, groups like Greening the Rubble and Gap Filler were at a “crucial moment in their development”, he said.

“Can they hold on to the creative energy, that spark which drew in volunteers to help? How do they keep that moment alive?”

He said the initial earthquake recovery phase had come to an end and the city was being “physically shaped” by a number of key players – the time temporary spaces would be available was possibly limited.

“They need to ask themselves where do they want to be in 10 to 15 years and how do they get there? A long-term strategy is needed,” Dr Wesener said.

This included what forms their organisations would take – whether they would expand and the projects become permanent and larger, or decide if they were more comfortable being small.
Temporary projects may even become incubators for different versions of future urban development.

Dr Wesener has completed an initial study on the projects and is looking to start another over the summer to find out the impact they have had on the city and its inhabitants.

He was a participant in last week’s International Congress on Adaptive Urbanism, of which Lincoln University was a sponsor, in central Christchurch which looked at the issues around transitional projects.

Dr Wesener said the congress raised a lot of questions with many coming from overseas participants who brought a fresh perspective.

He said that different urban pop-ups had occurred abroad but usually in response to economic issues. Some had revitalised run-down areas and become permanent, such as the now famous beach bars in Germany. They were on rented sites or council land, or sites where developers had let them stay because of the positive impacts they had in raising land values.

“They can create a lively neighbourhood,” he said.

A big question was where continued funding could come from for the projects, which have been council-backed, if budgets become tight.

He said his research would use interviews and observation methods to examine how temporary projects were perceived and used by the organisers and the public as well as volunteers who gave their time, something which had not been analysed before, as well as comparing them to international case studies.

He said the research fitted well in to the University faculty’s scope of landscape architecture, sustainable planning and development, urban ecology, social science and studying public space.

Dr Wesener hoped the results could be used by the groups and others.

He thought the community now might want to slow down a bit and find what worked well, and to find out how to focus their energy and resources most efficiently.

ENDS

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