Research project on how to design livable public spaces responding to bottom-up community initiatives, based on post-earthquake Christchurch case study.
authors - Marta Tomasiak, Pauline de Gorostarzu
with a help of - Torben Dam, Virginie le Goffic, Gap Filler
imprint - Copenhagen University
year - 2014-2015
In most cases worldwide the clash between bottom-up projects and top-down planning policy is significant. Bottom-up DIY urbanism most likely happens in opposition to the formalized planning or urban design. It often plays the role of ‘’filling the blanks’’ - emerging in the gaps of unsanctioned urban life, in the urban leftovers that local governments or developers are not primarily interested in.
The research project concerns the post-earthquake urban recovery of the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. It looks at the regeneration of the post-earthquake urban spaces focusing on the community-initiated, small scale projects and its relation to top-down city planning policy. Using Christchurch as a case study, the project raises a more general question about the future of city-making and if the bottom-up urban initiatives can be a starting point for long-term planning strategies and implementation of permanent public projects that fulfill the needs and desires of local communities.
Christchurch special situation of post-earthquake recovery gives a lot of possibilities for the future city planning. At the time of the research, the central city was a white canvas, with app. 60% of the central city demolished and only app. 10% of the rebuilt completed (September 2014). From the other side, the cityscape was changing day to day, and the rebuild was controlled by the governemental authority (CERA - Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) with relatively small citizens involvement in the decision making process. The official recovery planning documents (Christchurch Central Recovery Plan) were rather loose and gave a lot of freedom to the individual developers. The large influence of CERA shifted the city making decisions from its citizens and local council towards central government and private capital (developers).
In parallel to the government-led planning, many community-initiated projects were happening in Christchurch. The city was filled with creative grassroots initiatives that were time-wise and money-wise much easier to achieve in the destroyed city. These projects brought life to urban spaces. Even though many of them were planned for very short period of time, some were becoming more of ‘transitional projects’ that last in a public space for several years.
The project questions the future of city-making based on bottom-up space activation. It looks at the place and role of community driven initiatives in a long-term perspective of city planning. It explores the new ways of designing the city - adaptive urbanism, DIY urbanism, placemaking, participatory design, and community engagement. It asks more generally if the city can be planned according to community urban initiatives. By exploring how to design liveable public spaces responding to bottom-up community initiatives, the thesis project challenges the role of a designer.
The project aims to present an example of alternative way of designing the urban spaces. Based on the post-earthquake Christchurch recovery case study, it analyses the possibilities of connecting top-down planning with small scale bottom-up projects. It explores different planning and design methods by proposing a design that combines traditional planning tools and community driven project thinking. The project seeks to provide a public space design solution that is flexible and adjustable for future uses and that save resources by providing a permanent framework for community activity. It aims to develop a design scenario that integrates bottom-up urban experimentation space within a wider urban fabric.