Thinking outside the square
Our creative community is thinking outside the square. Vicki Anderson talks to Martin Trusttum about the ArtBox project.
Martin Trusttum, from CPIT's Faculty of Creative Industries, likens his ArtBox project to a game of Tetris.
"It's just like Tetris but in slow motion. They are cubes and eventually they will come together to form a precinct."
ArtBox will be located on the corner of Madras and St Asaph streets on the old Southlander Tavern-Jetset Lounge site opposite Anton Parsons' sculpture Passing Time.
It is a rare collection of mobile and flexible modules designed by Sydenham-based F3 and will offer about 18 spaces suitable for galleries and studios.
It offers a practical, timely solution to the many low-cost premises used as galleries and studios destroyed by the February 2011 earthquake.
It will run in conjunction with BeatBox, the music rehearsal space project of the Christchurch Music Industry Trust (Chart), and be surrounded by the Boxed Quarter, retail spaces with a creative flavour, possibly a record store, fashion store, design, a bar and cafe or two.
"It started with ArtBox, we got the idea for the module system with F3 design, we were almost flying before we could crawl," Trusttum says.
"That system was developed, refined and consented then BeatBox grew and then we were approached by developer Daniel Godden.
He said he wanted to play a part in the transitional city by wrapping a creative industry, hospitality, retail precinct around it. Using this concept it will be expanded to provide 2800 square metres of space across three levels with ArtBox and BeatBox incorporated in that area, Boxed Quarter."
Trusttum envisages the top floor as office space, the second floor offering studios and workrooms with the ground floor offering a mix of hospitality, "a bar or two", cafes and retail - fashion, design.
"It would all be design or creative related and done in a laneway scenario. It looks cool, the artist concept is awesome."
For the ArtBox there are three pavilion designs that will be built and installed - the L-Pavilion, the Studio or Bridge Pavilion and the Gallery or Lantern Pavilion.
The aim of ArtBox is to help maintain the city's heart and keep its soul alive.
Andrew Just, of Sydenham design studio F3, created the basic module - an alternative to a container - a steel- framed box roughly the size of a container, but purpose-built for a temporary structure with a wooden floor, large glass windows and cladding walls.
Such a unique solution brings with it unique challenges.
"It's a hard one for banks to get their heads around. You are not wedded to the site - you can take the building away, unbolt the components and take it away on a truck. Conceivably you could wake up one morning to find your building has disappeared.
"It would be quite hard to do but there's something quite neat about that."
Trusttum says the ArtBox project addresses some of the space needs of the creative industries community as many artists lost studios in the quake while also providing spaces for the public to congregate and socialise - creating a hub for creative activity and interaction.
"Things will start to happen soon, we will sign the lease for the site hopefully this week. The first L pavilion has been built and is about to be assembled. Now it will only be a few weeks until it is actually up.
"Once we get the building on site it will be easier for people to see how it's going to be. It's the seed for a number of developments - BeatBox using the same system and Boxed Quarter which is going to sit all around the whole site."
Boxed Quarter will sit opposite an area designated in the Christchurch City Blueprint as the Innovation Precinct.
"That Innovation Precinct is right opposite where we're going. Game developers, IT companies, Epic and there is talk of some other research installation going on to that site somewhere. It may or may not conflict with the saving of historic places down High St. Around us is the Ng gallery, Cassels bar the CBD, C4, C1 when it re-opens, then you come down the street further there's Chamber 241, Drawing Room, Gordon Harris art supplies and our CPSA venue. I'm hoping Box Quarter can be the anchor point."
ArtBox is a five year project.
Trusttum agrees that our creative community is effectively starting its own precinct.
"Absolutely and I think it's kind of cool."
The Big Idea programme - part of the CPIT Foundation - will launch near the end of this year, he says. It will offer grants once or twice a year that will be invested in a big idea and Trusttum believes it will tie in nicely with the concept.
"It is aimed at people with smart, youthful, engaging ideas.
"Quite a few things could get up and running over the next 12 months that could change things considerably.
"Boxed Quarter won't be up fully within that time but I like to think that we'd be well on the way."
The project would never have gotten off the ground, he says, had it not been for local knowledge and generosity.
"We've had a lot of help from a lot of people in a lot of different ways but if it weren't for Placemakers Riccarton and New Zealand Steel donating all the materials for ArtBox we would have gotten nowhere."
Trusttum said "just over half a million dollars" had been raised for the project, but a further $150,000 is needed to complete the project.
"The next stage is the studio. We're bit short of our target for the gallery but hopefully we'll get there.
"We're boxing on."
See artboxnz.weebly.com for more information.