Christchurch's winding Avon River and grid street pattern should play vital roles in the earthquake-hit city's future, a renowned landscape architect says.
American Ken Smith, who is touring New Zealand, will deliver a lecture at Lincoln University today.
Smith, a visiting design critic at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and an Architectural League of New York board member, said the extent of the damage surprised him.
"The reports I had seen focused on the downtown area, but I've been out in the suburbs and seen the liquefaction there, as well as the rockslides in the hilltop suburbs, and I was shocked."
Smith's New York home was close to the former World Trade Center site.
He said he "couldn't help but draw parallels" between Christchurch and the American city's experience after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"There's always that great shock ... but there's an opportunity to think about how you might improve parts of your city, and that's the positive side of a really horrible circumstance."
Officials could establish more public spaces, improve the city's transport system and build more resilient buildings, he said.
Smith defended the city's grid street pattern, saying it should be preserved in the rebuilt city centre. "That's a really strong piece of the city's history. It will be hard to recreate the old historic Victorian architecture, but the street system is the core architecture of a city."
Officials should also make better use of the Avon River, which seemed to be an "ignored resource".