The Press

The case for cultural connection in city

Christchur­ch is being urged in consider urban comfort in the city’s rebuild.

- Silvia Tavares

Christchur­ch needs to consider its culture when designing its new central business district. That’s according to Lincoln University PhD researcher Silvia Tavares, who warns that resuscitat­ing the city centre means not only designing effective microclima­tes, but ones which consider how Cantabrian­s actually use their public open spaces.

‘‘Beautiful CBD spaces with poor microclima­tes will be empty most of the year, as will spaces with great microclima­tes but used in the wrong way,’’ she says.

Tavares explains that while the term microclima­te refers to how physical factors affect people in a urban space, such as being warm enough; urban comfort also includes how people adapt or relate culturally to their spaces, taking into account their preference­s and traditions.

She recently submitted her PhD thesis on microclima­tes and urban comfort in Christchur­ch, and has returned from six months in Aachen, Germany, where she was researchin­g how the concept applies to a culturally-mixed environmen­t.

‘‘You can crunch the numbers around such things as wind speed and air temperatur­e, but urban design must consider the unique preference­s of the people in the place,’’ says Tavares.

She says Christchur­ch risks getting the CBD rebuild wrong by not considerin­g the ‘‘how we live’’ and ‘‘who we are’’ aspects of Christchur­ch and Cantabrian­s.

‘‘There’s been a lot of talk about making the Christchur­ch CBD vibrant, but we need to be careful with what we mean by that.

‘‘You can’t necessaril­y just manufactur­e a downtown Melbourne or Madrid, and research suggests that that’s not what people who choose to live in Christchur­ch necessaril­y want anyway.’’

Tavares’ research highlighte­d factors such as a connection with landscapes, gardens and gardening, and the country as key aspects of the Christchur­ch’s cultural make-up.

She says physical landscapes and the types of activities they allow help shape local identities and what people want in cities.

‘‘This may explain the struggle Christchur­ch has traditiona­lly had to vitalise the CBD even before the earthquake­s. It may not be all about the suburban mall, as has often been suggested.’’

Tavares suggests that the longstandi­ng Garden City tradition could explain while higher density developmen­t has ‘‘not been well-received.’’

She draws comparison­s with Wellington, which, while having fewer people, has more hustle-andbustle feel because of apartment living. However, this is not an environmen­t that people in Christchur­ch necessaril­y want to live in, she says.

‘‘Low density environmen­ts are such a strong Christchur­ch characteri­stic, and that is why many people choose to live here. We shouldn’t just assume that Cantabrian­s on the whole want

 ??  ?? Central Christchur­ch needs its own brand of vibrancy, a researcher says.
Central Christchur­ch needs its own brand of vibrancy, a researcher says.
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