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The South Frame

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Architect Cymon Allfrey takes a walk through the proposed South Frame, leaving him excited about this development. 

As we zig-zagged our way through empty sections, demolition, car yards and new building sites, we could see the vision begin to unfold.

Identified as playing a crucial role in creating a greener, better connected central city, the South Frame is set to be comprised of four large interconnected areas designed to create space for events, performances, public art and markets. Covering three blocks it links the Innovation and Health precincts and is bordered by St Asaph, Tuam, Manchester and Montreal Streets. With minimal thoroughfare traffic, the South Frame will see a network of laneways connecting the central spaces, designed to allow pedestrians and cyclists to move easily and safely through the central city.

Having recently been guided through the proposed space, walking from the hospital to the Vodafone building on the corner of Poplar and Tuam Streets, our chaperon spoke with passion of the future for these spaces. As we zig-zagged our way through empty sections, demolition, car yards and new building sites, we could see the vision begin to unfold.

It was both eye opening and exciting to gain an understanding of how these spaces will be utilised to facilitate a different type of enjoyment between people and buildings than we currently have in our city. The laneways will not simply be used to move around the city or to connect us to more exciting spaces. They will also be full of life and colour, designed for Cantabrians, incorporating what makes us unique.

Yes, we have had glimpses of laneway development pre-quakes, which illustrated the success and varied offering that can come from creating a safe and pleasant, pedestrian dedicated environment. However, this is a different concept for Christchurch. One that will unite the central city and provide connection between old and new, as existing buildings and their service alleys become integral to the success of the space.

The nature of this project, while emerging from our unique situation, isn’t unique to Christchurch. In Auckland, the City Council has put significant energy into trying to create spaces which shift the emphasis from car, to people. It’s about creating positive urban design environments which invite innovative thinking when it comes to adorning these spaces with boutiques, stores, restaurants, bars – spaces for social activities.

The 1995 America’s Cup was the catalyst behind the development of The Viaduct Basin in Auckland, which has since paved the way for development into Wynyard Quarter and the Britomart Development, which has transformed spaces previously not considered desirable into vibrant hubs. Consider Fort Street (connecting Queen Street with Britomart) where subtle changes to the streetscape, such as planting, inbuilt seating and paved footpaths, saw the emphasis shifted from a dingy thoroughfare, to an inviting pedestrian friendly area. The small laneways that already existed to service the commercial buildings have become, by default, frontages for bars, shops and restaurants, allowing the buildings to engage with people.

It is a living example of how an opportunity in an unlikely space has impacted positively on both the city and its people. The sides and backs of pre-existing buildings have been adapted to create exciting development and a positive connection between people and buildings – creating space and a sense of place.

Walking through Christchurch’s South Frame, it is evident the things that will create these special places are yet to come. To create ‘place’ we first need buildings and spaces, which will come from the development of projects that border this frame. The architects and building owners of these projects have a fantastic opportunity to be inventive around how they engage with people.
In time, it will be an exciting journey through this part of the city. While the energy at the east end will be vastly different to that at the other, there is little doubt that at every corner there will be something unique; new and exciting offerings set to cater for all, ensuring this is a space for everyone.

Set to bring a whole new energy to our city, the South Frame is going to be a fascinating development to watch. Get ready to embrace it.

Published in Metropol Magazine

Published on Thursday, August 11th, 2016