Five years on, architects of Christchurch rebuild blueprint stand by their plan

Last updated 17:41 13/08/2017

Stuff goes on a video tour of Christchurch's anchor projects, from the central library to the Avon River precinct, to see how they're progressing.

The Christchurch earthquake memorial opened on the sixth anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake.
The blueprint compressed central Christchurch and sited 17 anchor projects. If it went to plan, all the anchor projects would have been completed by March this year.
Moving boxes on a map. The blueprint was unveiled in July 2012.
"We wouldn't revisit [the blueprint] in the sense that we wouldn't change anything," says Peter Marshall, a key author of Christchurch's 100-day masterplan.
A section of the south frame.
The under-construction Christchurch justice and emergency services precinct.
An artist's impression of the now-shelved Ngai Tahu Te Puna Ahurea Cultural Centre.
A draft concept of "Cathedral Gardens" for Christchurch's Cathedral Square.
Paving in the East Frame - the idea was for a residential area built around a large park.
The Christchurch bus interchange.
Earthworks have started on the convention centre site.
Land remediation at the metro sports facility site.

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The authors of the 100-day blueprint for the central Christchurch rebuild say it is still a good plan.

"The consensus by the consortium is that we ended up with a pretty good framework," said Peter Marshall, managing director of Christchurch architecture firm Warren and Mahoney and a key player on the blueprint team.

"We were very happy with the outcome on the day … we thought the outcome was very strong", he said on behalf of the 15 architects, designers and urban planners from different firms who wrote the design side of the blueprint. They would not revisit any aspect of it.

"The team talked about that last week. The answer is no … we wouldn't change anything," he said.

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The blueprint was unveiled five years ago.  

It outlined 17 anchor projects and placed them within a compressed central city. It was completed within three months and accepted almost entirely by then Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

According to the original timeline, every anchor project – including the stadium – should have been finished by March this year. 

Three projects are complete: the Hagley Cricket Oval, the bus interchange and the earthquake memorial. The Margaret Mahy Family Playground​ was not initially an anchor project but the blueprint quietly called for a playground to bring families into the city.

The residential demonstration project and Ngai Tahu's Cultural Centre were abandoned. Construction of the stadium is scheduled to start in 2022.

"It was about a big bang," said Garth Falconer, a landscape architecture who has written a book on New Zealand urban design. "It wasn't about evolution and an inclusive process."

Given three months to masterplan the central city, the blueprint team did not have time to consult further, Marshall said. 


He said delays were not the fault of the architects. "We were not involved with setting the programme or timing of how things would occur.

"Given the complexity and extent [of the rebuild], it is more like a 10-15 year programme of work and even then it will still evolve further," he said.

Architect and activist Barnaby Bennett said lots of projects could have been better with public consultation.

The Avon River precinct "should have been the central project that united the city". The convention centre was in the wrong place, Bennett said. 

Marshall defended all of the anchor project locations. The "logic still stands" given the existing street grid, the river and the compressed central city created by the east and south frames. Everything was within walking distance.

"One of the advantages of getting people who know what they're doing and putting them in a room and giving them 100 days to do something is that the intensity of that process works very well."

The blueprint team could have asked for more time, he said.

"With more time, what would we have done? We'd probably have done more research, more benchmarking against developments from overseas, but would we have come up with a different solution? Maybe, but possibly not."


Stalled: Stadium, Cathedral Square (Regenerate Christchurch has just released a new plan for the square

Abandoned: Residential demonstration project, Ngai Tahu Cultural Centre

Groundworks under way: Convention centre (Government running the project alone), metro sports facility (faces land remediation issues), east frame (Fletcher Living has started building 20 of the proposed 900 apartments and town houses) and south frame (the latter is less than half the original plan size). 

Construction under way: Central library

Nearing completion: Justice and emergency services precinct (Fletcher has missed several completion deadlines)

Partially open: Avon River precinct, retail precinct, innovation precinct, health precinct, performing arts precinct

Complete: Hagley Oval, bus interchange, earthquake memorial. The Margaret Mahy Family Playground was not initially an anchor project. 

- Stuff


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