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What is our investment to inspire and what is the long-term outcome for it?

Dion Gosling is a former NZ Commonwealth Hockey silver medallist and practising architect who’s had a dab hand in a number of projects, previously working for Hillery Priest Architecture Ltd as a design architect behind the newly opened Papatoetoe Sports Centre in Auckland. A man passionate about the intersection of sport, architecture and community, he explains the role architecture has in helping regenerate local communities. 

Building anything requires investment. Building communities requires compassion. Building national facilities requires commitment. Building community facilities requires engagement, local hearts & soul, public money and more often than not, an event to create a catalyst or stimulus… and consultation. 

Eden Park. Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium. AMI Stadium. The re-developments of QEII Park and Millennium Institute of Sport and Health. The Ashburton Indoor Sports and Aquatic Centre. The Papatoetoe Sports Centre.

The Rugby World Cup 2011 is closing on us and the London Olympics are around the corner – how do we translate these investment opportunities into tangible, accessible community assets? 

The Christchurch earthquake and Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear events have re-focussed our reflection on what is important—community, support values, scale & strength of individuals but also local group characteristics. The NZ mucking-in approach.

These events will allow us the opportunity to re-stock and re-build our facilities. The debate has already ignited many interest groups. The last major event for investment for Christchurch was the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Re-assessing our stadia, infrastructure, training, community and high performance venues are important components to our community. In the initial phases, they rate well below reinstating the simple things - power, water, amenities, shelter. In the medium-to long-term they provide a focal point for the re-gathering and re-connecting of people outside the home.

The question will be around “once our homes and streets are mended, where is the next investment benefit that will maximize the bringing together and add to the harmony of the community?”. I believe it should be our multi-sport and performance community facilities.

Facilities such as Community Multi-sport Facilities; Multi-use Indoor Events Centres; Performing Arts Centres. They offer:

  • The ability to connect & add a focal point to existing green space areas
  • Provide focus & links to our schools & education areas as they look to re-build & re-establish;
  • The opportunity to top-down invest to raise a community facility into a multi-use facility with the capability to undertake high performance activities;
  • The opportunity to create sports & recreation hubs & precincts for the community that encourages youth activity;
  • Facilities to allow traditionally non-similar interest groups to connect & better share experiences & be exposed to other leisure activities
  • The opportunity for creative & artistic groups to access better technology & performing environments
  • Allow for more effective co-ordination & planning for local community events: sporting, cultural and performance-based, at a time when resourcing is scarce;
  • The opportunity for National, Regional & local Council as well as community stakeholders to invest in a legacy project that will be available to the community into the future
  • Provide for more sustainable design solutions: solar technologies; structural innovations; orientation design; user-dialogue or interaction facilitation
  • Provide a catalyst for partner-clubs and groups to assemble & co-operate for a larger vision
  • Establish a process from a line-in-the-sand towards the future vision
  • A better opportunity to leverage into a greater capital pool to create the facility 

Christchurch has reportedly $30million available from the Red Cross Earthquake Commission for hardship & bereavement; $20million for schools and child care education centres; $7.5million to Community Response Fund for helping community groups move; $10million to the Heritage Building Fund – these funds are required to return to the status quo.

There will be a large number of aging local facilities that have sustained damage as a result of the earthquake. What is the funding for these? The Papatoetoe Sports Centre and many other successful small community centres, where the town has really got it together and the facility is humming, provide a snippet for how to regenerate the local community through architecture.

Many funding agencies will have already committed large investment plans into community facilities of varying scale. Let’s review these with the aim of determining where investment can be maximized—sort of a re-drafting of a Local Community Facilities Plan and Strategy.

Papatoetoe Sports Centre: Images courtesy of Studio106 photo