Gap Filler creator calls for use of vacant spaces

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 29/04/2013
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ROBERT CHARLES
Co-founder of Gap Filler, Coralie Winn, spoke at the New Zealand Creativity Challenge at Witt on Saturday.

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A Christchurch woman believes every city has empty spaces that could be used for something creative, and she has spied a few in New Plymouth.

Giving the keynote speech at the New Zealand Creativity Challenge at Witt on Saturday, Coralie Winn spoke about the urban regeneration of Christchurch following the earthquakes and how this could be applied to other cities.

After she was made redundant from the Christchurch Arts Centre as a result of the September 4, 2010 earthquake, Ms Winn and two others created the initiative Gap Filler to bring creativity, positive energy, opportunity and life to Christchurch's vacant spaces.

Ms Winn said Gap Filler was a response to what was happening in the city following the earthquakes.

"There were gaps appearing so we wanted to bring life to the city but find a way that everyday people could do it."

She said it was a chance to try things out and experiment with how vacant spaces could be used.

"It's a different kind of recovery from the blueprint."

She said every city had these spaces, whether as a result of economic decline or suburbanisation.

In New Plymouth, there were empty car parks, lamp posts and empty shop fronts that could be used for creative projects, Ms Winn said.

"I know people hate Huatoki Plaza but I think it's wonderful, it's a really cool space. It's just under-utilised."

She said there was plenty of opportunity for creativity to blossom in New Plymouth's city centre.

"There's already some cool stuff going on, the question is what do the community want?"

The Creativity Challenge ran over two days and included speeches and workshops from creative leaders from around New Zealand and the world.

Speakers at a forum last week also discussed New Plymouth's urban design in the city centre.

In a gathering at Puke Ariki, architects and property developers were among those sharing their views about revitalising New Plymouth's "public living room", or the city's central area.

Landscape architect Richard Bain said the changes to New Plymouth's urban design over 20 years meant it is was now a small city, not just a town.

The walkway, Puke Ariki landing, refocus on the Huatoki Stream and recently completed Brougham St upgrade connected Devon St to the sea in a way that could not have been foreseen back in the 90s, he said.

Open spaces and a high level of amenity were key to a city's vitality.

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