The Avon River Precinct is a project arising from a unique set of circumstances relating to a traumatic natural disaster. The earthquake of 2011 damaged the heart of one of New Zealand’s largest urban areas. This created immediate problems generated by the loss of places to live and work, and by the loss of primary infrastructure which inhibited the tasks associated with daily life. Post earthquake, the city and its community took a very positive view on life and swiftly decided to take the opportunity to rebuild a city which responded more appropriately to its needs and location. A greener, more accessible city were placed at the top of the community’s list of aspirations.
Whilst the Avon River Precinct is only a small part of the overall rebuild programme, its location at the heart of Christchurch is a catalyst for wider city centre rejuvenation and has the ability to help set a strong design framework and raise the environmental standards of the whole of the inner city area.
Approximate Map Location
Christchurch, New Zealand
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority
Waterways and wetlands
Shortlisted for an LI Award 2015
The development of Te Papa karo - Avon River Precinct (Te Papa karo) is led jointly by CERA and Christchurch City Council, working closely with Tahu, Environment Canterbury (ECAN) and other stakeholders.The design concept for the Recovery Plan was the development of a greener, more accessible city with acompact core and a stronger built identity. The winding path of karo marks Christchurch's new river precinct and is an example of giving effect to the design concept. Te Papa karo extends from Rolleston Avenue, Cambridge Terrace and Cashel Street in the west to Fitzgerald Avenue in the east, is approximately 30 metres wide on either side of the river, and includes Victoria Square, the North Frame and the northern block of the East Frame (including the family playground). The Recovery Plan calls for the Avon River Precinct to give priority to people and provide for cyclists and pedestrians while being an integral part of the central city's spiritual and aesthetic identity. This new urban park will be an asset in its own right as well as providing settings for new development and a sequence of places and spaces which will help to encourage new activity and create an enhanced identity of the city.
The overall design team leader was led by a landscape architect. In New Zealand, this was a unique occurrence. The design leadership team worked hand in hand with the client team, with the temporary studio (The Red Shed, offices over a second hand car lot) becoming a ‘war room’ which was the location for continuous workshops, design surgeries and client reviews. This collective team then worked in collaboration with stakeholders and the wider community. CERA, the client, was established with the sole aim of regenerating Christchurch and the wider Canterbury area, post earthquake. As such, this project was one of their first major programmes of work to move forward. The work was seen as a major opportunity for the public to experience the morale raising process of renewal and as such, all works came under intense scrutiny, by public and client, all with a desire that ‘only the best will do’. Whilst ultimately this project could feature within the landscape design categories of these awards, it was vital at the outset to create a strong vision, a robust set of design principles and a strong masterplan able to guide detailed design and construction over a longer period of time.