ReCreating Otautahi Christchurch – A photo essay

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Looking towards the significantly damaged Forsyth Barr building in the Central Business District of Christchurch City (Otautahi) in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Christchurch is still experiencing extensive disruption and reconstruction as a result of the devestating Canterbury Earthquake sequence that occurred over 2010 and 2011. The earthquakes resulted in the loss of 185 lives and significant damange to residential and commercial property. Shown here is the demolition of the public library on Hereford St, almost 80% of the CBD was destroyed or damaged to the point requiring demolition.

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Several blocks away from the demolished public library lies the transitional project ‘The Commons’. Created by the now well-known transitional architecture organisation ‘Gap Filler’. The Commons provides an innovative use of vacant post-demolition space – providing public space that contains sports activities, meeting spaces, community organisation offices and a food truck outdoor vending space. Transitional projects such as The Commons have become an important part of the citizen led recovery that is re-building the city for it’s residents and their needs.

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The Christchurch Cathedral has, for many years, been one of the defining features of the
city. After sustaining significant damage in the earthquakes, the fate of the cathedral rebuild has been highly controversial. In the meantime, public art and greening works have decorated Cathedral Square, including a green Whare (Maori house) structure (to the right of the image) covered in plants. These public installations have provided colour, history and a
site of remembrance to the city while it is in a state of recovery.

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Art has played an integral role in shaping the recovering city. Shown here is one of the larger pieces of street art which overlooks the planned arts precinct. In the foreground is the damaged historic rotunda and the Avon Otakaro river. Looking towards the future, the challenge for Christchurch will be to maintain and build the development of public art and space into the reconstructed parts of the city.

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The city of Christchurch is experiencing a challenging and prolonged recovery from the earthquakes. However, the citizen led initiatives and community driven recovery projects show hope for the re-creation of a vibrant and participatory city landscape which is more resilient to future disasters, as well as creating stronger community.

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