Quake talk at TEDx

Gapfiller'sCoralie Winn (as seen in Idealog) presented at TEDxEQChCh in the weekend, and blogs about nerves, laughter and determination.

After falling asleep at 10:45pm last night, exhausted by the day at TEDx, I am up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday, clearly still buzzing from yesterday. I heard so many ideas, different opinions, saw wonderful imagery and expanded my knowledge and awareness of more ideas and people out there in this big wide world!

There were a lot of philosophies and warnings for ChCh in the speeches of the day; warnings and grand designs of what we should with a common theme being creating sustainable, people centred solutions. James Lunday (in the afternoon) really took us down a peg in relation to the low-density, single-storey suburban sprawl peppered with shopping malls that is ChCh. "Shame on you. How did you let it get this way? You have raped your central city." Harsh words but they NEEDED to be said. You can't begin to create a solution to a problem if you don't recognise there is a problem in the first place. His was a very endearing, motivating presentation which encouraged us to rediscover our neighbourhoods, water ways and green spaces, to decentralise ChCh, to make neighbourhoods more self-sufficient. Localisation and doing things on a small scale was one of the themes of the day, really.

Of the morning's speakers one live and one recorded were the most successful. Cameron Sinclair from Architecture for Humanity was clearly trying to condense a much longer talk into a TEdx presentation but spoke about WHAT Architecture for Humanity is about and what they have done in New Orleans. Particularly interesting was the notion of transparency regarding where the rebuild process is at using a large blackboard, so residents can SEE for themselves where things are at, who is having their house rebuilt at that time and at what stage theirs is at. He suggested that ChCh have a recovery hub, where residents can see the same thing. He also called for transparency for WHERE the aid money is being spent in a community, post-disaster. Some lessons for ChCh.

The other was directly after Cameron was a TED video of an older talk (2007) of James Howard Kunstler, a writer and caustic critic of suburban sprawl and loather of architecture and planning that revolves around the car rather than people. Suburban sprawl is "the greatest misallocation of resources the world has ever known." You should watch this video. It screened before my Tedx talk and it made me laugh a lot that I was able to relax and lower my heart rate. My TEDx talk went very well, I was cheered (home town advantage) up on stage and felt calm once I began. I even came in under time, which never happened in rehearsal! I got a good response directly afterwards and at morning tea, many people congratulated me or wanted to talk or offer business cards (14 all up!). Exciting!

After morning tea, Rodd Carr (VC of UC) spoke about 'The Future of Education' apparently. I say this because the title only very loosley linked to what Dr Carr spoke about. He was wearing a blue UC/Ucan t-shirt, too (argh!). Karen Blincoe's talk presenting some wonderful ideas about sustainable architecture from around the world were inspiring but mostly conceptual. It was a day heavy on the conceptual, actually, which is not unexpected. Images presented by Paul Downton (City Planner in Adelaide) of an inner-city, high density, sustainable community called Christie Walk that has ACTUALLY happened came as a relief to balance out the conceptual-heavy other talks. Grant Schofield, a public health professional based in Auckland, gave a WONDERFULLY funny presentation critiquing our risk averse approach to raising children which is harming their health. He advocated for allowing children to play, to hurt themselves to have a 'free range' childhood so that they learn about risk and it's conseuquences as children rather than as teenagers or adults when the consequences are far far greater. The applause for Grant was rapturous, deservedly so.

The final talk of the day was by former San Francisco Mayor, Art Agnos, who spoke of his experiences as mayor when their 7.1 quake struck in 1989. Art is a politician and he gave a politician's speech through and through and people really enjoyed it! One of the things he said that brought applause was SF's decision to permit people to sign a waiver and then enter their damaged buildings to retrieve possessions. For a number of people here, who have NOT been allowed in their building, this really struck a chord. Somehow, he managed to get all of us to stand, raise our right hand and repeat a pledge to help work hard in ChCh to rebuild the city to make it more beautiful than before. It moved me, I must say, which took me by suprise. Art has lived through what we are living in right now. Only an American would or could get us to do that, right? But then, TED IS American.

From the very first moment, Tedx FEELS like what is is, a child of an American parent. It's hard to explain, from the selection of past TED speeches to screen to the staging, to the whole way the event is run, feels American to me. It doesn't feel like a locally created event and that was very obvious to me. That's not meant to be a criticism, just an observation. But it is what it is. Or it was what it was. Overally it was a highly stimulating day with a mammoth number of connections made between all sorts of different people. It's like a green house for accelerating ideas. I am very honoured to have been selected to speak amongst such a fine line-up of speakers and Gap Filler can only benefit from the increased exposure of what we have done and more importantly the philosophies behind our activations of vacant space with temporary, creative projects. It was important for me to state that Gap Filler is MORE than just about doing events and feel-good earthquake reponse, it's about how we regard and use space in our city NOW and into the future.
And now today, I have lunch with David Sim from Gehl Architects as a result of yesterday!

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