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As the designer of The Verve Apartments on Peterborough Street, architect Cymon Allfrey explains why our thinking needs to change when it comes to inner city living. 

From an architectural perspective, apartment living is about blending the convenience of central amenities with the requirements of a typical suburban home. Bringing the two together can be a challenge.

With a high level of off-site amenity comes another layer of complexities, the most notable being a ‘compromised’ form of privacy, as with apartment living comes shared spaces. In their simplest form they are corridors, stairwells and elevators, yet can be as functional and large as laundries, storage areas, gyms and pools. These are spaces that see residents cross paths, interact and engage with one another on a daily basis. A level of social interaction not seen in suburbia and one that Kiwis seem yet to embrace. I question why it is that overseas these larger communal areas and facilities are everyday expectations in such buildings, yet in our local market there is still the perception that apartment living should be a condensed version of a suburban home.

We need to learn to live differently in order to embrace this evolution of living. Consider how we live during the summer at the holiday home. The degree of amenity that we require changes, as our needs are more closely related to entertaining and relaxed day-to-day living, rather than gardening, home maintenance and domestic storage needs. We live and function with simple efficiency. That is not to say that we don’t require the luxurious touches of high-end living, but that as our living environment changes, as long as our biological needs are met, we are able to live and function efficiently, often within a confined space.

We need to apply this ability to adapt, in order to allow us to successfully occupy the city. By doing so, we will be more able to successfully embrace this collective style of living rather than squish the quarter acre Kiwi dream into a multi-storey building.

A Liveable City, the residential chapter of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, puts forward visions and objectives for central city living. It recognises that ‘successful cities need attractive central city neighbourhoods with diverse communities to support business growth and development, and bring life to the city centre.’ Put simply, a vibrant and busy central city needs the support of people living there.

Pre-quake there had been a real drive to bring people into Christchurch city, energizing our central area through people. Five years on, the amenities of our city are back and we are now moving into a new phase of development and recovery, as inner city living emerges once again. Developments such as the Margaret Mahy Playground, the re-establishment of art galleries, shops, restaurants’ and the desirability of close proximity to Hagley Park, all encourage central living. And offer a range of enjoyment and amenity not found in suburbia.

The Christchurch City Council estimated there would be 20,000 people living within the four avenues by 2020: a goal that is well on its way to being achieved with a number of large developments coming onto the market. From high-end luxury apartments, to single bedroom units the market for multi-unit dwellings ensures this style of living is available to all.

The centre of Christchurch will be a highly desirable place to live for those who seek an urban lifestyle. All we need to do is cross the bridge and change our thinking to enable us to successfully live, and occupy, this exciting central space.

Published in Metropol Magazine

Published on Thursday, March 24th, 2016