Christchurch: The Transitional City
Jessica Halliday was settled comfortably in her hometown of Christchurch. As an architectural historian, she was busy encouraging interest around Christchurch's unique 200 year old stone buildings, and documenting them for future generations.
She curated exhibitions, organized and presented lectures, tours and public talks on architecture, and even made a short film covering four generations of architectural styles in Christchurch.
In order to plan a city's future you first have to understand its past.
The city of Christchurch was founded in the middle of the 19th century and carried a Christian character from the very beginning. It is dotted with a variety of churches and cathedrals, representing a rich past and local renaissance of the Catholic Church in the new colonies of that time.
Even though Christchurch today is a completely secular city, the symbol of the city has remained the "Christchurch Cathedral". It stands proud in its heart, with an impressive spire connecting the sky to the earth.
Well, that's not entirely correct; the cathedral, among other old structures, is not standing anymore. The volatile land of New Zealand didn't spare its impressive architectural assets, and most of the old structures are cracked, not inhabitable and in some cases destroyed.
The importance of historical architecture in cities is enormous. Imagine how Paris would look like without its romantic alleys or Beijing without the old Hutongs. It seems today, more than ever, these old structures determine the character of cities and give them another dimension that more modern cities lack.
There is a spiritual experience in standing in front of stone walls that have seen the centuries go by. These walls draw not just tourists, but also strong communities that see the past as roots to hold on to and a sense of belonging.
In Christchurch, these communities have suffered a fatal blow. Not just in casualties, but also in spirit, when they were facing the ruins of their familiar urban landscape.
Thus, an urgent need has emerged to bring back the community's resilience. A feeling of security that can only be made out of a roof, a floor and walls, even when aftershocks are still rocking the city from time to time.
In the two years since the main destruction, Christchurch has been experimenting new ideas with innovative materials to rebuild the urban basic structure rapidly and bring the city back to life.
Some examples include shipping metal carts that created a new shopping centre and a new church that has been built in matter of months out of... cardboard!
Jessica Halliday was now facing a different challenge. What kind of architectural value is there for a city that has seen its latest developments made from pallets, cardboards and shipping containers? How can we appreciate the temporary that replaced the contemporary?
Maybe in a modern culture that relies on trends, temporary is actually the future of contemporary architecture?
One thing is certain, the City of Christchurch got into the process of transition and Jessica is moving with it.
As a part of her own personal transition, Jessica has founded the Festival for Transitional Architecture that is going to occur at the end of October for the second year in a row.
In the festival the visitors will get to explore new methods of urban farming, watch a movie in a mobile cinema, bathe in a nomadic sauna and a myriad of other projects, events and activities for the whole of the long weekend, starting on Friday 25 October. All to create a temporary cityscape that will change the way you see sustainable architecture.
Christchurch and Jessica are looking forward to the future now, bringing the next annunciation in urbanism. I guess you wouldn't expect this from what most people refer to as "the end of the world".
Apparently it's not so boring out there.
More details on The Festival for Transitional Architecture on - http://festa.org.nz/
Read more about Jessica - http://www.tedxchristchurch.com/articles/architectural-historian-jessica...
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