DESIGN 6 (D6) BRIEF 2012
The Christchurch earthquakes are the most catastrophic natural disaster in New Zealand’s history when measured by the number of buildings destroyed, the financial impact and the number of lives affected. The world is watching as Christchurch emerges from the ruins, and we have the rare opportunity to influence what will be built through proposals put forward by this course. Every newspaper and news channel remind us of the loss, while covering the political and financial upset the earthquakes have caused they have overshadowed the present opportunity. Unlike so many other places in the world (Haiti (2010), Australia (2009), USA (2005), Indonesia & India (2004)) that have suffered natural disasters, Christchurch is fortunate in that there is a national insurance policy with substantial funds to support in the recovery. However, payouts have been delayed due to the on going earthquakes and the financial untangling between the private vs. public insurance policies. This opens a valuable window of time, which is now, and creates an opportunity for designers and planners to think, debate and design for the future of Christchurch. This is a critical year for designers to engage in the public debate and raise the consciousness around the value of good design as well as define what it means. If this does not happen now, there is the very real risk that the lowest common denominator of design will be built out of urgency and lack of viable ideas.
In this course we will seize this time and take advantage of it to engage the public and fuel the debate about quality design. The question of what qualifies as appropriate design for Christchurch will be raised, and the students’ projects should answer this question through their design and selection of site and program. In doing so the students have the opportunity to participate in shaping the future of Christchurch by providing creative designs when they are needed most, which is right now. To engage the public the work for the course will be published in books, articles and exhibitions as well as presented through the course blog.
WHAT IS QUALITY DESIGN?
When looking at the history of architecture in Christchurch there are three primary factors that stand out as influential: the latest styles imported from abroad, available construction technologies, and accessibility of materials. Prior to the Otago Gold Rush in 1860, colonial Christchurch was built out of timber forested from Riccarton Bush and the nearby Port Hills, where false fronts were typical, mimicking Italianate facades. The Gold Rush fueled an economic boom, which brought trains and access to nearby quarries. This gave rise to stone construction, which at the time favored the Gothic Style, also borrowed from Europe. Following WWII Modernism took the stage, and Christchurch saw a boom in reinforced concrete construction at the same time its manufacturing businesses were flourishing. It was also during this period that the economic investment shifted from building religious institutions to more commercial and civic buildings.
As Christchurch faces the task of rebuilding, these same three factors will influence the city’s architecture, but because we live in a different age, the global trends, technologies and access to materials have changed. The era we live in today is defined by innovation, where the use of materials is constantly being tested and explored for unique design potential. Aided by the use of computer technologies, designers can add further complexity and variation to push materials to new boundaries, which prior to the use of computers was often seen as too costly, but is now economically feasible. While today the access to most any material can be had at a cost, choosing local materials is socially, environmentally and financially responsible by reducing transportation costs and supporting local economies.
METHODS FOR DESIGN
Because materials are at the core of innovation, students will choose a locally available resource and develop two complimenting bodies of research: an in-depth analysis of a resource specific to Christchurch, and a related material investigation. Students will work in teams through the research phase, and each team will select their topic, the only requirement is that it is a resource readily available in New Zealand and ideally easily accessible to Christchurch; example topics could be: stone, clay (brick & ceramic), metal, sunshine, etc. The purpose of the research is to develop a design solution grounded in properties derived from inherent potentials found in Christchurch. The material investigation will involve developing a parametric system that relates to an aspect discovered in the research. This system will be the basis for the architectural tectonics including structure and spatial design.
Each student will develop their own design founded on their research and explored through the use of computer aided design techniques. The architectural response will be contextual in that the tectonic language will be derived from understanding inherent potentials found in local resources and carried through to inform a design response. The architecture will not be a reference to a lost past but rather a response to inherent potentials given the present conditions influencing Christchurch today, ie the access of materials, the use of technology and the demand for innovation.
Following the research and material investigations each student will choose a site and define a building program. The choice of site must relate to the social and political conditions currently shaping Christchurch. Each student’s design concept should be grounded in both the research and material investigation, and the final building design will need to clearly demonstrate how the design concept is carried through to become a resolved building. The studio work will culminate in a coordinated exhibition of the final designs to be presented in Christchurch.