Recapturing Our Sense Of Neat
by Steve Carter
All the neat places in the CBD are gone, right?
That’s what people seem to think about Christchurch. The earthquakes have wreaked so much devastation in the Central City that there is no longer a soul to connect to: no venues, no cafes … no life.
Marcia Butterfield knows that this is no longer really the case. As the red zone cordon creeps back and areas of the city are reenergised by new ventures or the relocation of old favourites, life is slowly, tentatively reasserting itself. Marcia radiates the forward-thinking attitude of someone loyal to this now most unique of cities when she tells me, “The new Christchurch is going to be so amazing … well, it already is in so many ways.”
And she wants to tell the world about it.
Hence Neat Places, a fantastic little resource in the form of a pocket-sized foldout map. It’s not just any old cookie-cooker tourist map either. It is beautifully designed, by Kim at Bittersweet Creatives, as a quirky pencil-sketched map dotted with flags which pinpoint as many of the interesting places that Marcia could practically fit in. The aim is to support local, quirky character. As Marcia says, “My focus was just to promote the small, independent businesses in the Central City and showcase why they are so cool.”
On the reverse is a short, idiosyncratic description of each venue, cafe or retail store. It is a handy little guide that is suitable for locals looking for information that will help them to ground themselves in the reemergence of the city, or for tourists wanting to know where they can go to engage with aspects of the changing post-quake destination.
There is also a supporting online directory which allows for the constantly expanding nature of the resource as the city begins to be repopulated and reused in earnest. New places to visit are popping up all the time – some of them are literally ‘pop-up’ like the Re:Start Mall or temporary bars like Smash Palace, while others signal the new locations and new lives of Christchurch institutions such as Galaxy Records or Alice In Videoland.
Marcia started the project after the September 2010 quake with a view to promoting the fact that the city within the Four Avenues was still vibrant. She says that the Council had no money to support the idea financially so she decided to do it for free and in her own time. A year later, and with the central city so much more comprehensively laid low by the damage of February, the Council approached her to say they now had a budget to promote the area and they would like to work together to distribute Neat Places more widely.
They funded all the extra costs of design and printing … but it was still a heap of leg work (literally) to get around the CBD and check out all the places that were still open, reopened or brand new.
“It’s kind of my passion,” Marcia tells me, “Spending time in cafes.” So she continued the task of capturing as much as possible of the new life in her city. “After all, if people can be presented with a choice or a list of options, they might actually visit those places rather than visiting the malls.”
That has to be good for building a sense of identity and getting dollars flowing through the CBD again. Which may, in turn, foster a sense of new beginnings and thereby attract further investments and relocations.
The city is reborn, neatplace after neat place.
Neat Places not a comprehensive directory but neither does it claim just to represent the best of the best. It is, simply, what it is. Marcia says that, more than anything, she tries to see “great things about every individual place.”
Her motivation to play her own small part in the recovery is very clear. She says, “I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else … especially during this time. I couldn’t face the idea of leaving for a few years and then coming back to a place where everything had changed.” She describes not wanting to feel alienated or disconnected from the city … from “everything we have become.”
She captures the kaupapa of her project succinctly: “Neat Places is about getting people reinspired by the city.”
What can I say? That is just … neat.
If you want to know more about all the great new places springing up in the new Christchurch central city, you can connect with Neat Places through the online directory at http://www.neatplaces.co.nz/ or at the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/neatplaces
Read the inspiring stories of our Christchurch sponsors:
SHAC – The Sustainable Habitat Challenge – is a network of architects, builders, engineers, designers, building scientists, students and young professionals interested in taking positive action in their communities today.
On the 2-3 May 2012, SHAC presented the 2nd annual workshop on micro-architecture at the Christchurch Polytechnic Student Centre. Sixty attendees discussed temporary architecture, simple buildings, and the reuse of building material.
“People cherish their culture through recycling” – those are the words of Wang Shu, the 2012 winner of the Pritzker architecture prize. The demolition of red stickered housing and CBD buildings does not have to mean the eradication of Christchurch’s history or culture – nearly all materials can be reused in new construction, incorporating local memories and fusing the past with the present.
What is permanent in this land of earthquakes? In San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 as a temporary building for the Panama-Pacific Exposition and still stands today as an icon of the city. From the cardboard cathedral to the convention centre – how long will they serve us?
“Simple buildings are key for affordability” said Canadian architect Brian McKay Lyons, recently interviewed on Nine to Noon with Kim Hill. Lyons, from Nova Scotia, says “simple buildings are what we farmers and fishermen build when we can’t afford to get things wrong”
This symposium brought together elements of the growing Regeneration movement – people working together to take positive action in their communities.
Community Rebuild – for the Whole House Reuse project Juliet Arnott
Community Development – Joshua Durrant, Jess Smale, Sophie Moore
YTONG® is an alternative building system made from light-weight Aerated Autoclaved Concrete (AAC). It was invented in Sweden in 1923 and further developed under the YTONG® brand it turned into a world-wide success.
Environmentally friendly and non-toxic – From the manufacturing process to shipment, construction, and waste disposal YTONG® is in ecological balance.
Ensures high standard of well-being – YTONG® reduces temperature differences and humidity fluctuations and so ensures a comfortable and healthy room atmosphere.
Excellent workability – It is easy to erect a solid masonry structure quickly and precisely. Only few tools and implements are necessary.
Outstanding thermal insulation – Keeps buildings cool in summer and warm in winter saving on heating and air-conditioning.
YTONG® is fireproof and has a high fire rating – AAC is resistant to high temperatures for a longer period of time than any other solid building material. YTONG® is especially chosen for fireproof walls in commercial buildings.
Performs well in earthquakes – Thanks to its low weight and its plastic deformation properties the destructive force of earthquakes can be minimised.
Social Innovation is a small, hardworking community engagement agency based in Christchurch. They work with leading non-profits, changemakers, progressive companies and government to mobilise everyday New Zealanders. Their expertise in this area comes from grassroots innovation on large-scale community action projects, including the Student Volunteer Army, A Day at the Beach Festival, Love your Coast and a number of other public participation initiatives. They know how to scale initiatives and achieve big results with large numbers of stakeholders.
Their services include strategy, leadership training, volunteer coordination & management, media and communications, project management and fundraising. Find out more at www.socialinnovation.org.nz or make direct contact via their studio-line on 03 337 0861
Ph: 03 337 0861 or email@example.com
Got good news to share about your social enterprise? Join this inspiring line up of Christchurch sponsors, email firstname.lastname@example.org