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Learning to Love and Appreciate

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Architect Cymon Allfrey explains why we should sow the seed, and let the wasteland that is earmarked to be our future Stadium earn its place in our hearts. 

There were a number of initiatives that were undertaken to generate the vision of our central city. They offered an opportunity for us to have our say and from these initiatives, and the subsequent blueprint for a post-quake Christchurch, emerged anchor projects. Large scale public buildings that will bring opportunity and activity to the city.

However, these anchor projects have divided the public. All too often I hear people complaining that things are missing from the city – tourism, hospitality, hotels, job opportunities; a sense of life. Yet there is a reluctance to see the anchor projects advance; the very things that will generate what is missing from our city and secure Christchurch a strong financial and cultural future.

One of the most polarising major construction projects is the rugby stadium, with many questioning the amount that is to be spent, and whether this should, and could, be better utilised elsewhere. With a temporary stadium currently serving the city reasonably well I accept that there are other priorities, but I don’t accept that it shouldn’t be part of our future plan.

The value a new stadium will bring to the city is about much more than simply rugby. To be an international city, we need to be able to host large scale events. We need to have the facility to attract and host activities. To do this we need to ensure we are investing in the financial and cultural future of the city, the Convention Centre is not going to sustain Christchurch on its own.

Currently the debate around the stadium has become a political hot potato, with both central and local government avoiding a commitment around when and how.

Lancaster Park, Jade Stadium, AMI Stadium, however you refer to it, long endeared itself as an open space within Christchurch with its ability to host large scale international events and activities. Much more than simply a rugby stadium it was where international musicians entertained us, where potatoes were grown to help feed the city during World War One and a stage for prayer, with Pope John Paul II holding a public mass in the oval in 1986.

Pre-quake we were passionate about our stadium. I still recall the public outrage when the naming rights for it were sold to a corporate; we believed we were losing something important to our city.

What started as a swampy farmland, with little vision, became a cornerstone of the city. A cultural and sporting location with historical, cultural, and economic significance.

Just because we have earmarked a piece of land for a future stadium, doesn’t mean that it instantly has to be that. We should be putting up goal posts, marking out a pitch and letting kids kick a ball. We need to let it earn its place within our hearts.

As we learn to utilise this open space and develop an attachment, we can then transform it into something else. We would never have had a stadium at Lancaster Park had it not been activated for its purpose.

When we build a new home, we learn how to occupy it. We develop an appreciation and love for it through interaction. We need to stop focusing on a stadium and start using the land – rather than leaving it as a vacant wasteland to be debated in council chambers.

Published in Metropol Magazine

Published on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016