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Happiness essential part of rebuild

Happiness essential part of rebuild

A smile should be as reflective of Christchurch as its shiny new glass buildings, a visiting academic at Lincoln University says.

Francesc Fusté Forné a PhD researcher at Universitat de Girona (Catalonia, Spain) is researching the creation of experiences for locals and tourists here and says a quest to make Christchurch a happy place for its citizens and visitors should be ongoing.

“We need to be immersed in a permanent rebuild, ever-improving and changing so as to allow the whole city environment to be innovative, to interact with people, locals and visitors, and to let us enjoy it in terms of experience.”

In the 21st century it is no longer enough for cities to sell products or services — creating experiences has become an essential element of attraction for both tourists and the enjoyment of residents.

“A nice place to visit is a nice place to live, and a nice place to live is always a nice place to visit,” he says.

“We need to make the region a happy and enjoyable place, where rural environments play a key role too, due to the importance of local resources coming from agriculture and natural environments themselves.”

Mr Fusté Forné says the goal is not only the enjoyment of visitors, but also improving the daily experience of our own community, who walks and buys in the same streets and shops as tourists do.

“We need to connect local identity with the products and services offered, and to design experiences to improve trade in the region, and create new cultural attractions and entertainment.

“The power of experiencescapes in producing feelings of identity can be very strong and even help to redefine the complete identity of cities, and Christchurch is an example.

“The city has managed to reconvert itself thanks to elements based on different experiences such as containers used as stores and cafeterias in the Re:START Mall, several amazing murals painted on the walls and urban sheep spread throughout the city,” Mr Fusté Forné says.

He says an experience economy is based on the creation of hybrid projects, characterized by the collaborative work between knowledge centres, such as schools and universities, together with cultural institutions and individual businesses.

This represents new-daily opportunities for urban transformation in cities, like Christchurch, he says.

The experience projects come from local initiative and creativity; so the ideas are developed by integrating the project into local organizations. The projects serve as symbols of a new urban profile, and as examples of local pride.

This happens in Christchurch in cases such as the Stands Tall Sculpture Trail, a public arts project that had the participation of businesses, community groups, charities, education establishments and individuals.

This is a wide co-operation which requires commitment and community involvement. Community gardens are another example, he adds.

At the international level there are projects to be highlighted that may be useful for city managers: the Piazza d’Italia in New Orleans or the conversion of Barcelona’s bullring into a shopping center; also others like Kansas Library, built inside giant books.

Big brands, such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's have carried out initiatives where they use their products for fun; they challenge people and turn public spaces into a different daily experience, for example using games.

“Fortunately creativity is not limited to large multinationals, or top destinations, and therefore any firm and any environment, rural or urban, can become scenarios where innovative experiences can be implemented.

“Innovation and changing environments can be performed with simple items like a sculpture or the way employees are dress; the possibilities are endless.

“Most of these events are also linked to local development and sustainable actions. The integration of digital technologies, which allow cities to talk to people, based on public interaction, are also important.”

An international example is the videomapping in the Romanesque church of Sant Climent de Taüll in Catalonia, a UNESCO World Heritage in north-eastern Spain. This project is a digital restoration of the apse paintings, which are part of the heritage and history of the Catalan nation.

Mr Fusté Forné is in New Zealand on a six-months’ exchange period as a visiting scholar in the framework of the NESSIE Programme (Networking on Environmental Safety and Sustainability Initiative for Engineering), a project funded by the European Commission.

Ends

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