Published on 9/10/2012


Thoughtful construction wanted for city
An austerity rebuild of Christchurch can still be done well, an architect says.  
 
Tough economic times are no excuse for poor buildings, according to leading Christchurch architect.

Richard McGowan, a principal with architecture firm Warren and Mahoney, told the A New Christchurch Forum last week that unlike the city's previous building sprees – which happened at the turn of the 20th century, the 1950's and the 1980's – the earthquake rebuild comes at a time of austerity, not prosperity.

"All [previous building booms] were accompanied by prosperous time locally, and also prosperous times in terms of New Zealand's place in the world".
He said that buildings need not be expensive to be well designed and of good quality.

"We have Rolls-Royce aspirations, but our budget is determinedly second-hand Corolla", he told the forum.  "It can be done".
McGowan said Christchurch should look for inspiration to cities such as Edinburgh, where green borders and rows of similar sized buildings created a vibrant city that was easy to get around and pleasant to be in.

He said 18 metres was an optimal depth for central city buildings in Christchurch, rather than deep buildings running the whole depth of the site.
By co-ordinating development, owners could place a shared green space behind their buildings, where they would be sheltered from wind and the street, but accessible through laneways, he said.  This would create sunny sitting areas under which parking and utility areas could be built.

McGowan said the increased value of the buildings would lead to better rents for landlords, and tenants would benefit by more efficient space and happier staff.
The new buildings should be light, airy, and transparent, and with shared communal spaces, he said.  Modern building technologies meant structures could be built modular style – with frames of steel, engineered timber or engineered concrete – built in factories and assembled onsite.

Valuer Simon Newberry, managing director of Ford Baker Valuation, told the forum he expected the rebuild to attract most professional and corporate businesses back into town.
"It would be wrong of Government departments not to force their way back into town.  They were the ones who made the rebuild plan, and they sure as hell had better support it".
Newberry said that while rebuild rents would be higher and raised insurance premiums would push up operating expenses, more efficiently designed spaces would help offset those higher costs for tenants.
With so many old buildings gone, A-Grade accommodation would become "the norm", with just a few B-grade buildings among them, he says.

He also expected a two-tier market would eventually emerge as the rate of take-up of newly built space slowed, just as it did after the 1980's construction boom.

Amanda Douglas, a partner at law firm Wynn Williams, told the forum that as long as buildings planned for the central city core met the new rules, developers would not need resource consent.

Douglas said the new minimum requirement for 7500 square metre outline development plans meant property owners had to work together, but did not have to amalgamate their sites.

The plans would carefully cover issues such as urban design, pedestrian access and car parking, and for creating open spaces, she said.
Douglas said the rules were designed to create a "vibrant city" instead of a series of dark wind tunnels.


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