Christchurch village contest goes global

OPEN LETTER: Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud.
OPEN LETTER: Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud.

An international competition to design and build an urban village will give people a glimpse of the future of central Christchurch living.

Designers have been told they can throw the rule book away as long as they include at least 50 dwellings in the village, which will be built on a one-hectare site on the northeast corner of Latimer Square. The land is being acquired by the Government but the village, one of the anchor projects in the Christchurch Central Development Plan, will be developed privately.

Designs should be sustainable and "cater to the budgets of a wide range of Christchurch residents".

Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson said it could become a blueprint for other inner-city residential developments.

"The competition is an opportunity to explore the potential for Christchurch to become an example of modern living and is open to any consortium that includes a professional designer and a property developer," he said.

"[It] is about setting a new standard, not just for Christchurch or even New Zealand but inspiring the world to achieve more beautiful and desirable inner cities."

Nearly 130 architects and designers from around the world have already registered their interest in taking part in the competition, which is being run by the Christchurch City Council, the Business Innovation and Employment Ministry, the Christchurch Central Development Unit and Ngai Tahu.

Competition entries will be judged by a panel whose members include British television presenter Kevin McCloud, who fronts Grand Designs.

Mayor Bob Parker said the idea behind the project was to inspire residents to live in the central city.

He said the eyes of the world were on Christchurch as it redeveloped.

The design of the new urban village was an opportunity for the city to demonstrate its commitment to providing a high-quality, sustainable living environment, he said.

The deadline for entries in the first stage of the competition is January 15. Three teams will then be shortlisted and given $20,000 to complete developed designs, from which a winner will be selected by next August.

Construction is scheduled to start in December next year.

Because the location is a designated site, it is exempt from the usual planning rules for residential areas of the the central city.

Economic viability will be taken into account when choosing the winning design as the Government wants to recoup at least the capital costs of the project.

City council strategy and planning general manager Mike Theelen said he expected high international interest in the competition, particularly from architects in Australia, the United States and Britain who were experienced in high-density developments.

He said it was crucial that designers entering the competition teamed up with a developer and worked through financing options as they would be expected to produce their designs if selected as the winner.

"We want something that actually gets delivered," Theelen said.

The launch of the competition comes as the council embarks on a Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority-ordered review of the planning rules that apply in the living zones within the central city.

The review will investigate whether the current rules support the aspirations in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan for a high-quality inner-city living environment that will complement the regenerated business areas.

The review is scheduled for completion by March.

The Press