Theatre and architecture deal may be lost

01:39, Aug 13 2013
Exchange Christchurch
CREATIVE DESIGN: Exchange Christchurch principals, from left, Pallet Pavilion designer Camia Young, architecture academic Uwe Rieger, and Free Theatre's George Parker.

The directors of an innovative shared artistic space planned for central Christchurch are struggling to find a suitable building.

"Everyone is very supportive," said Uwe Rieger, "but it's very difficult to find a place."

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Rieger, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Auckland, and Christchurch designer Camia Young have founded Exchange Christchurch (XCHC) as a proposed collaborative space for theatre, architecture, art, media and other creative industries.

The Christchurch City Council has granted the Exchange Christchurch Trust $120,000 towards the project and recently extended the time allowed for XCHC to take up the grant.

Three cornerstone tenants are already lined up: Free Theatre Christchurch and architecture outfits Studio Christchurch and the Christchurch Centre for Architecture.


The plan is that Free Theatre would occupy about 30 per cent of the building for its experimental or mainstream productions some of the time, and then give way to, for example, an architecture installation on the scale of the exhibits at Luxcity, the outdoor lights and installations event in Christchurch last October.

The space would also be available to film-makers, choreographers, musicians, engineers, visual artists and so forth.

Meanwhile, architects and computer creatives would work from private offices within the exchange. A cafe would serve food and bar operate occasionally.

"What I hope is to bring ideas and creative people together," said Young. Visitors would "experience the creative product, whatever that may be".

Young designed the Pallet Pavilion and was a founding trustee of the Festival of Transitional Architecture (Festa), the week-long conference that followed Luxcity. Rieger initiated Luxcity and is planning Luxcity 2013, for October. It will include Canterbury Tales, a moving procession of light structures, performers, puppets and a carnival atmosphere created by George Parker of Free Theatre Christchurch.

The model for XCHC was a similar collaborative space in Auckland called Shed^10, which operated in a former bus depot from 2009-11. Rieger was heavily involved. He also spent many years working in shared creative spaces in Berlin.

Christchurch today reminded Rieger of Berlin after the Wall came down. There was a "burst of creative energy" that enriched the German city's reputation for creativity and the arts, he said.

To get XCHC off the ground, they need about 800 to 1000 square metres of flexible space within the Four Avenues. A warehouse would be ideal - to take large installations and theatre crowds - but they are looking at sharing a building or perhaps using a Cera-owned building for a few years.

"Buildings are like hen's teeth," said Living in Vacant Spaces director Jane Gregg.