Ambassador and ideas for Christchurch

The New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) has agreed with the Christchurch City Council to provide the earthquake-hit region with an Architectural Ambassador.

Architect Ian Athfield will take on the ambassador role, which will involve providing design advice and coordination during the rebuild and restoration process, says NZIA president Patrick Clifford.

To undertake these activities, Athfield will convene a panel of prominent architects and building and construction advisors from the Canterbury region. 

Based in the Christchurch City Council office, Athfield will help facilitate public debate on the design of the city and will also help ensure there is action with a clear purpose and direction. 

"We believe that there is a real opportunity to not only build on and enhance the region's built environment but also to instil a sense of pride, purpose and direction throughout this periods," says Clifford. 

The Architectural Ambassador, says Clifford, will be providing a number of important functions including:

  • developing a vision for the urban design of the city and the region; and
  • stablishing a set of principles to guide restoration and new building work. 

"Ian is Christchurch born and bred. He understands heritage, and is a trustee on the Historic Places Trust. His credentials to take on this important and active role are beyond question.” 

The NZIA will be financially supporting the public service. 

The initiative has received backing from architectural practice Warren and Mahoney, with director Peter Marshall saying it is important for the architectural community to work together.  The practice also says a 50 to 100 year vision is what Christchurch should be aiming for as it continues to consider how to ‘rebuild’ the city. 

Managing director Peter Marshall says the violence and suddenness of a quake tends to encourage a search for sudden answers. 

“Experience internationally shows the earthquake-struck cities that have recovered best and prospered are generally those that took the time to think about what they wanted to be as a city, and how best to turn immediate disaster into long-term gain.” 

He says the city needs to consider the long-term, “not simply the next six months, year or five years”. 

The firm has set out six principles it believes should underpin future decision making: 

Save where possible

  • Where a historic building can be saved, all reasonable effort must be made to do so for the benefit of future generations. 

Don’t emulate

  • Where building needs to be destroyed, don’t look backwards and attempt to replicate it. The focus should be on quality and honesty—quality architecture of today will be the city’s heritage tomorrow. 

Revitalise the city core

  • Do all that is possible, within economic reality, to attract business back to the city, and avoid sprawl-inducing drift to malls and industrial parks. 

Encourage urban living

  • Think creatively about how to encourage urban living to add to the city’s economic and social vitality, including regulatory incentives if necessary. 

Go for green spaces

  • Where there is no particular need for economic justification for a building and where the site is appropriate, consider the potential for open or green spaces. Future generations will thank us for our foresight. 

Go for green, generally

  • The growth in sustainable design and availability of sustainable materials gives Christchurch a unique opportunity to achieve a quantum leap in its reputation as a sustainable city. We must clasp this with both hands. 

Ian Athfield biography 

Ian Athfield has had a profound influence on the built environment of this country. He has been instrumental in raising public awareness and public expectations of the work of architects and the possibilities of architecture. 

Clients have always appreciated that he produces results. From public projects, such as Wellington's Public Library and Civic Square, Jade Stadium and the Nelson Polytechnic Library to commercial buildings such as the Hewlett-Packard Building, Telecom House and Bangkok’s rapid transport system to private residences such as the Buck and Custance Houses, he has exhibited mastery on all the fronts. 

Athfield's many contributions to architecture have received widespread recognition. His practice has gained more than 60 design awards, including 13 NZ Institute of Architects National (now Supreme New Zealand) Awards and his work has been published extensively, both in New Zealand and abroad. 

Athfield has served on NZ Institute of Architects National juries and has delivered keynote addresses at several international architectural conferences. He continues to take a leading role on urban design groups throughout New Zealand. 

In 1986 he was appointed inaugural Professorial Teaching Fellow at Victoria University's School of Architecture, where he has been a tutor and critic; in 2000, Victoria University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Literature. The University of Auckland named Athfield as an Alumni Fellow in 1997. In 1996 the New Zealand Government made him a Companion to the New Zealand Order of Merit. 

Further reading 

Why it’s imperative central government is involved in preserving our heritage buildings 

Out of the quake rubble rises a new 21st century Christchurch and a stronger garden city 

Calling all ideas 

Connecting Christchurch designers and architects

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