Throughout history, natural disasters have taken their toll on human populations and their settlements. The worst of these events have literally erased the existing fabric; yet, in most cases, the built environment is quickly re-established. When faced with having to rebuild cities are often rebuilt along the lines of existing spatial systems and to respect the underlying patterns of land ownership. However, there have been exceptions. The reconstruction of Lisbon following a devastating earthquake in 1755 is an example of why disasters can also be seen to provide opportunities for change and improvement.
After a series of recent earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, the most devastating of which condemned large tracts of the city to the wrecking ball, some critics have suggested that this presents the opportunity to enhance the city during the rebuilding process by undoing many of the poor planning and development decisions that have been made over the past 30 years. There is widespread agreement that Christchurch suffers from excessive suburban sprawl, private motorcar dependency, and suburban shopping centres that have cut the retailing heart out of the CBD.
The Government is taking steps to ensure Christchurch can be swiftly reinstated. However, with fragmented ownership of land, a culture preferring the rights of the individual over the greater good and the influence of politics in administering the rebuild effort the challenge to change from the status quo may be too great. With an analysis of the work progress to date and reference to other recent urban scale reconstructions, the paper speculates about prospects for rebuilding the city and over the likelihood that important changes can be made to enhance the spatial quality of the central business district.
|Keywords:||Urban Reconstruction, Redevelopment Agencies, Urban Resilience|
Programme Director Landscape, School of Architecture, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand