A wave of international design contests could see UK architects appointed to work on the £15 billion reconstruction of earthquake-hit Christchurch in New Zealand
The competitions are the key to ambitious plans to create 25 ‘exemplar’ buildings in the city centre, which was devastated by earthquakes two years ago.
Bath-based Piers Taylor, founder of AJ Small Projects-shortlisted Invisible Studio, has been chosen to oversee the programme, which will see billions of NZ dollars in state funding poured into rebuilding the area over the next 10 years. Opening the door for emerging talent, Taylor said: ‘We’re interested in pairing up practices that haven’t worked on large-scale civic projects with other organisations and practices that have experience of doing projects on that scale.’
He predicted that more than 30 practices could be selected in the next year, with the first jobs up for grabs to include a major transport interchange, library and sports centre. Expected to range from £50 million and £250 million in value, the projects will also include a town hall, stadium, health buildings, performance spaces, a masterplan for 25,000 homes and a hi-tech business district.
Taylor, who will spend the next 12 months as lead architect, working with regeneration taskforce Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Team, said he had approached UK and international stars concerning the job, which needed ‘as many interesting people working here as possible’.
Key ambitions include boosting the density and environmental sustainability of development within the roughly 1 square mile area of the 160-year-old grid city. He said: ‘New Zealand is significantly behind the UK in thinking about environmental issues. Most buildings are sealed glass boxes heated and cooled by vast amounts of electricity. I’m keen to use these projects as examples of climatically responsive buildings in this context.’
Commenting on housing, he added: ‘There is a huge ambition to get 25,000 people living in the city centre. We will be masterplanning a whole area of the city as residential and looking at new typologies. There’s not a culture of the European model of dense housing, there’s a huge challenge to create cultural change.’
Christchurch residents have meanwhile voted in favour of building a ‘contemporary scheme’ designed by local practice Warren & Mahoney to replace the city’s ruined cathedral.
The scheme was chosen ahead of more expensive options to either reconstruct the building entirely or rebuild it in a traditional way from modern materials.