Urban village to be 'beautiful and inventive'

23:39, Oct 16 2012
Kevin McCloud
OPEN LETTER: Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud.

The winning design of an international competition to create an urban village in Christchurch needs to be "beautiful and inventive",  British television presenter Kevin McCloud says.

Nearly 130 architects from around the world have already entered an international competition to design and build an urban village in Christchurch that is being run by the Christchurch City Council, the Business Innovation and Employment Ministry, the Christchurch Central Development Unit and Ngai Tahu.

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.

McCloud, the presenter of Grand Designs, is one of the judges who will pick the winner.

Speaking on Radio New Zealand today, McCloud was passionate about the competition.

"This competition is about appealing to the very best minds across the planet, the best architects in the world, and getting them to focus on Christchurch and give it their best," he said.

Designers have been told they can "throw the rule book away" in creating their designs, 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.

McCloud agreed that rules were "very quickly outdated".

"What is the rule book? The rules are usually written for a particular time and place for a particular purpose," he said.

"There are planning guidelines on what people want to see in Christchurch, and much of the planning guidance that has grown up has come from consultation with residents in Christchurch."

McCloud said cost would just be one factor in picking the winning design.

"Inevitably we will have to look at affordability of what is being proposed,'' he said.

"It's not just an issue of the rising costs of materials. There are issues with dealing with ground conditions which will make construction expensive, there are issues to do with making buildings earthquake-proof, which are going to cost, and there are the political and social knockon effects of people leaving the region, and the need to attract new business as well.

"All of which means less in the way of money coming into the city coffers. I think it's going to require some national investment, clearly, and commercial investment, clearly.'

While the financial pressures meant the winning design would need to be efficient "as well as beautiful and inventive", the winning design would not necessarily be the most expensive.

"Architecture need not always be super-expensive. Some of the best ideas are free."

McCloud also spoke of how he would manage to be a judge from England.

"I live on the other side of the world so it's obviously hard to be there. But I visited Christchurch and met a lot of people responsible for the regeneration of the city. I met with the Mayor, Bob Parker,'' he said.

"We figured it out with a combination of internet, phone and Skyping, and large  files dumped via the web. I'm looking forward to doing a little bit of research and then coming back to the city next year."


The Press