Architecture as a pathway to reconciliation in post-earthquake Christchurch
This community-based and culturally-situated design research project reflects on issues of community empowerment and activism through speculative design meant to provoke discourse within the wider New Zealand community. As design-led speculative architectural research, it reaches beyond the confines of professional practice. It challenges the norms of contemporary New Zealand architecture by investigating new architectural approaches to explicitly reflect the cultural identity of New Zealand Māori. The devastating earthquakes of September 4, 2010 and February 22, 2011 destroyed much of Christchurch. While a terrible tragedy, it also opened up the city for fundamental community based discussion. The idea of a post-colonial not just a post-earthquake city emerged, driven by Māori design and planning professionals following the leadership of local elders. The situated community for this design-led research investigation is the Ngāi Tahu iwi (Māori tribe) of Ōtautahi / Christchurch. Ngāi Tahu professionals in Ōtautahi / Christchurch developed key design aspirations pertaining to the future architecture and urban design of the new city. The city rebuild offered an opportunity to present a Ngāi Tahu vision that reflected its place identity in the new city. The site for this design research investigation is the Ngāi Tahu owned King Edward Barracks, within the Ōtautahi / Christchurch central business district. This traditional Māori settlement site had been covered with a disparate collection of urban colonial buildings, several of which were destroyed or damaged in the earthquakes. If this Ngāi Tahu owned site (and the city as a whole) is to be rebuilt, is there an opportunity for its architecture to reflect Ngāi Tahu, rather than Eurocentric models? And if so, how might such a design embody Māori and Ngāi Tahu identity, while enhancing New Zealanders’ awareness of traditional Māori design, values, and customs – all within the context of a contemporary urban fabric?
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