In 2012 FESTA emerged in Christchurch, New Zealand as a collective response to the extraordinary circumstances of a natural disaster. As a place-based (and now biennial) weekend-long festival of architecture and urbanism it continues to seek and find relevance to that place, its people, and to all involved in the event (participants, audience, funders and supporters) as the extraordinary fades into a more ordered and ordinary existence.
On 22 February 2011, a large earthquake hit the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. It was the second largest, and most destructive, of a series of over 11,000 earthquakes recorded in the region over a 2-year period from September 2010. 185 people died as a result of the February quake and over 75% of the built fabric of the central city was demolished. Christchurch’s central city was cordoned off from the public and put under army control, portions of it for over two years. A new government agency was established to direct the city’s recovery. It commissioned and backed a new spatial plan for the central city (‘The Blueprint’), designed to retain existing land values and incentivise new and current investment as well as renew public spaces and amenities. Land damage caused whole suburban areas to be deemed unrepairable and these neighbourhoods were ‘red zoned’ and purchased by the central government. Over 4 years, 8000 homes in the suburban red zones were demolished. Drastic change and uncertainty touched most aspects of Christchurch people’s lives in the years following the earthquake.
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