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Team develops winning Christchurch rebuild concept in a mere 48 hours

Being allocated only 48 hours in which to redesign a part of Christchurch’s central city may not seem like enough time, but it was enough to earn NZ Wood the title of supreme winner for the 48 Hour Design Challenge.The competition, run by the Christchurch City Council and held at Lincoln University, provided an opportunity for Council to gain inspiration from the design and architecture industry, while testing the draft Central City Plan currently being developed.

Being allocated only 48 hours in which to redesign a part of Christchurch’s central city may not seem like enough time, but it was enough to earn NZ Wood the title of supreme winner for the 48 Hour Design Challenge. 

The competition, run by the Christchurch City Council and held at Lincoln University, provided an opportunity for Council to gain inspiration from the design and architecture industry, while testing the draft Central City Plan currently being developed. 

NZ Wood took out the top nod from a total of 15 teams who participated. Each team featured seven people, spanning expertise that included engineers, planners, urban designers, architects and landscape architects, as well as one student on each team. 

The teams were assigned their tasks on midday Friday 1 July and had until midday 3 July to produce their best design concept for their allocated area. 

Four sites within the Red Zone were selected in total, and they included: the Cathedral Square and BNZ Building; 160 Gloucester Street; the Orion NZ Building at 203 Gloucester Street; and 90 Armagh Street, including the Avon River and Victoria Square. The fifth site, which sits outside the Red Zone, is the former Christchurch Women’s Hospital at 885 Colombo Street. 

The NZ Wood team were given the 15000m² Orion site, situated near the Avon River in central Christchurch. Two heritage buildings and a multi-story concrete car park on the site were to remain. All other buildings needed to be demolished. 

The team needed to recreate office space for Orion and ‘create greater permeability’ of the site to allow pedestrian access through the site, rather than around it. 

NZ Wood team leader Jason Guiver says the 15,000m² site owned by Orion NZ has only four of its original seven buildings following the recent earthquakes. 

“This gave us a lot to work with and we were actually able to provide more building space and an increased open area for pedestrians. 

“Our main focus was to demonstrate the advantages of using timber technology that’s being developed here in Christchurch. Timber buildings that are designed in a certain way are safer and less likely to be damaged during an earthquake—and it doesn’t cost any more to build.” 

The team’s final winning concept included retail and office space, affordable housing, a covered market and community rooms. They also opened up 8000m² space for people to enjoy, including a path through to Latimer Square and the river. 

The team re-used the existing concrete car park by turning it into an office building and affordable housing. They then created two new buildings using ‘damage avoidance technology’ similar to that seen in the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) Art and Media building. 

A new 30-metre round building was created in the central area use for the community rooms and open market space. And, taking heed of the public’s desire for more green spaces, the concept also incorporated green spaces. 

Central City Plan project sponsor Mike Theelen was impressed that the winning concept aligned with the Central City Plan and ideas generated form the public. 

“The public have indicated their desire for increased green spaces, as well as low-rise buildings that feel safe. People not only need to be told the city’s buildings are safe—they need to know why and to really trust this is the case. It all comes back to putting people at the centre of the Central City rebuild.”

The 48 Hour Design Challenge spawned from the Council’s popular Share an Idea initiative.