Re:START Christchurch {Post B}

September 2010, Christchurch, New Zealand, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake was felt throughout the city (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). Only 5 months later, in February 2011, a second 6.3 magnitude earthquake devastated the city leaving behind it a trail of devastation including 185 deaths and a heavily damaged residential areas and CBD (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).

The losses were vast; more than half of Christchurch’s CBD, thousands of residential parcels, and immense stretches of underground infrastructure such as water, sewerage and storm water were extensively damaged or ruined (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). There were many planning issues in regard to moving forward, these included: what to rebuild, where to do so, and when (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).

In 2011, the Christchurch City Council was directed by the national government to develop a restoration plan for the central business district. The draft plan that resulted was delivered to the Earthquake Minister and in April 2012, he ordered CERA to form the Central City Development Unit and formulate a new blueprint plan (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).

Following design concepts, for a pedestrian friendly city, proposed by Danish architect Jan Gehl, Hon. FAIA in 2009, the plans proposed a greener more user-friendly city with a condensed center and a highly recognised built identity (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).


Also within that transition is a great deal of innovation and creativity (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). Out of necessity, following the February 22nd earthquake, the Re:START container mall was born to breathe new life into the devastated Christchurch central city (Re:START 2014). However, this would not be possible if it weren’t for the birth of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority created after the desolation of the two quakes (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). Re:START created by the cities Property and Building Owners group; it was these brains who realised that to wait for new buildings would discourage the return to the CBD, and people needed to be encouraged back to the city as soon as possible (Re:START 2014).


While the use of shipping containers for unconventional purposes are now commonplace both in Christchurch and around the world, at the time, the idea was quite innovative (Re:START 2014). The use of shipping containers used as shops meant that the CBD retail centre was established several years before it otherwise would’ve (Re:START 2014).


“Re:START was made possible with an interest free loan of $3,368,523  from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust and $3000,000 sponsorship from ASB (Re:START 2014).”


In future, Christchurch has foresight to rebuild and build resiliently (Siembieda, Johnson 2015). There is a heightened awareness of risk, the materials needed to rebuild, and the desire to influence outcomes, while climate change and geotechnical risks are being embraced by the city and regional governments when assessing potential infrastructure development (Siembieda, Johnson 2015).  The success of Re:Start has confirmed that even after devastation, in a place which has had 80% of its area demolished, retail can be re-established (Re:Start 2014). When people put their minds toward something, great things happen, just as Christchurch has pulled itself out of the rubble.


Re:Start 2014, 20140614_Restart_0216, Christchurch, viewed 9th April 2016,

Re:Start 2014, 20140614_Restart_0223, Christchurch, viewed 9th April 2016,

Re:Start 2014, 20140614_Restart_0230, Christchurch, viewed 9th April 2016,

Re:Start 2014, Working together for a common goal, Christchurch, viewed 9th April 2016,

Siembieda, W.J., Johnson, L.A. 2015, ‘Christchurch Recovers’, ABI/Inform Global, viewed 9th April 2016,




2 thoughts on “Re:START Christchurch {Post B}

  1. It’s awesome to see how resilient and resourceful people can be in the face of devastation. This is a perfect example of how designers have really carefully considered the sensitive context that they are working within. Shipping containers are relatively inexpensive and are readily available as well as being a versatile enclosure. Looking towards the future I think that sustainable, versatile modular design and architecture will be important in urban centres to keep up with the fast paced lifestyle, growing population and for environmental conservation. I’d love to see what else they could do with shipping containers.

  2. As the world faces more frequent architectural collapses due to both natural and man-made causes (such as earthquakes and bombings), it will be interesting to see how redesigns are approached and appropriated for their individual environmental, situational and cultural contexts. The use of shipping containers is a growing trend as you mentioned, and it is interesting to ponder what other materials could have been used instead; simultaneously it is also interesting to picture shipping containers in the middle of a European shopping strip instead, or sitting in a village in Africa…

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