Although I wasn’t able to make it to the expo, some of the information coming out of it seems to be quite interesting. I quite liked the talk that University of Canterbury geological sciences lecturer Mark Quigley’s gave, as it seemed to cut through a lot of the over-emotive (but understandable) rumour and speculation currently circulating. It was about the need to avoid unmitigated urban sprawl as a knee-jerk reaction to the earthquake, and the negative effects such a situation would have, particularly the kind of transport problems that could arise as a result. He emphasised that the CBD and other damaged areas could, and should be rebuilt so long as smart science and engineering practices were put in place following scientific research of the areas.
“Let’s not think for a moment that because our CBD is perhaps not in the geologically most ideal place that we need to reconfigure all of our roads and abandon places that had some liquefaction… Those problems can get dealt with; we don’t need to be too dramatic about any of that.” – Mark Quigley, University of Canterbury lecturer
In regards to transport, Quigley seemed to be suggesting a light-rail line connecting the University and Riccarton to the eastern suburbs via the CBD would be a good way to encourage development, particularly in the run-down eastern CBD (for years under the shadow of a motorway designation). I would suggest such a concept for a light rail line, either to New Brighton or Sumner, could also look to link in the airport, and could be a logical expansion of the current CBD tram (obviously with modern light-rail rolling-stock and segregated corridors along much of the route) at both ends. I have no idea what specific ideas the Mayor and the Council have in mind for their (barely revealed) light-rail project, but a route like that, apart from utilising the existing rail lines for commuter rail or tram-trains, would seem to make the most sense. It would link so many key nodes and facilities along a well populated route. It would also serve to act as a catalyst for rejuvenation of the eastern suburbs (and CBD) and serve to link them better with the rest of Christchurch.
Two experts from Gehl Architects also talked, advocating the idea of a pedestrian and cycle friendly CBD. Gehl wanted to see more transport options in the CBD, certainly essential if the CBD is to recover and play to its unique strengths to become the beating, vibrant, cosmopolitan heart of the city once again.
“Some people do the buildings first, then the traffic, then the parking spaces, then they hope the people come along at the end. That’s not right – it’s all about people. ” – David Sim, Gehl Architects
The Press claimed that there had been some concern from businesses about the original Gehl plan (probably too worried about losing car parks rather than focusing on how to really get people into the CBD and staying there), but David Sim, of Gehl Architects, rightly pointed out that the firms ideas where to get people into the city, and spending money. As I have pointed out time and again, the CBD is unique and can never replicate suburban malls. We should play to its strengths, as Gehl advocates, rather than continue to flog the dead horse that is the current policy (i.e., more of the same).
All up, more than 10,000 people have put forward ideas for Christchurch. There will always be nay-sayers, but I believe this is really a positive and unique event in New Zealand history. In 10 years time, Christchurch could be a very different city, but for all the right reasons. Also, for once, I actually like something Pete Townsend said:
“The dream is to have an iconic city, a worldwide iconic city. If we just go back to doing what we did before, if we just build tilt slabs or a car park, we will be cursed by future generations who will say, `You had an opportunity to do something and you blew it’.” – Pete Townsend, Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce