No place for ugly glass boxes, says councillor

22:45, Oct 24 2012
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The Carlton Butchery building in Victoria St.
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The Epic IT hub in Manchester St.

Developers building "ugly glass boxes" to cut costs should be driven out of Christchurch, a city councillor says.

Speaking to the Central City Business Association last night, Fendalton-Waimairi councillor Jamie Gough urged city residents to put pressure on developers to erect better buildings.

Read Will Harvie's blog on architecture that has appeared in Christchurch since September 2010.

jamie gough
UNIMPRESSED: Fendalton-Waimairi councillor Jamie Gough.

He told The Press the city had "one shot" to get the rebuild right, and property developers had to be held to account.

Many were focusing on the bottom line instead of the city's legacy , he said.

"I spoke to a developer not too long ago who talked me through his building, saying, ‘We cut back here, we scaled back here', and he actually beamed as if it was a good thing,'' he said.


"I thought, 'Yeah, no kidding, it looks it too'."

Developers who were "squeezing every last dollar" from their projects rather than focusing on what was best for the city needed to be publicly shamed, he said.

"We should drive them out of town or shame them out of town,'' he said. ''Either you add value or don't do it at all.

''The council and Cera can make rules here and there, but the people of Christchurch define it because they govern the market. We need to be really clear about what we want. We deserve far better than that."

Gough did not name any developers.

Property owner and developer Richard Owen, who owns the St Elmos Courts site, said he despaired at some of the new buildings in Christchurch.

"They look like they're straight out of some Soviet-era development," he said.

Sheppard & Rout architect Jasper van der Lingen said there was nothing wrong with concrete and glass as long as it was well-designed.

Re:Start director Paul Lonsdale said Gough was entitled to his opinion, but developers were doing what they could.

He said the city needed a couple of "funky" ones [buildings] to set it apart, not a whole lot of "great-looking" ones.


What the top architects say:

Sir Miles Warren, one of New Zealand's most famous modern architects and founder of Christchurch architectural firm Warren and Mahoney:

There was no fixed formula for making a beautiful building in post-earthquake Christchurch, he said.

"You can't prescribe what a new city will look like. Any new form or structure or technique will get raged about and over time it will become heritage."

He said it would be a pity if the central city comprised mostly low-rise buildings and expected structures made entirely of brick.

Ian Athfield, past president of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and an Architectural Ambassador to Christchurch after the earthquakes:

He hoped architects would consider the sun when designing buildings for Christchurch's future.

"It's a simple thing but people need to recognise the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west. That can have a huge influence on a building's design."

But he said it was "really difficult" to say what made a beautiful building.

"You need to look at the big picture and see how a building works with its neighbours and anticipated neighbours. This can be very difficult in an environment such as Christchurch where you are starting from scratch," he said.

Duval O'Neill, a convener of the 2012 Canterbury Architecture Awards and a director at Herriot + Melhuish Architecture:

He said some older buildings should be retained to give the city character.

"I think one of the biggest disappointments so far is that there haven't been more buildings or parts of buildings retained,'' he said.

''I dislike the start-from-scratch mentality. I would have liked to see them retain more parts of buildings and create buildings which reference the past but still embrace the future."

The Press