Housing a Different Christchurch Rebuild

Lily Huang

Sol square revitalised
Revitalized Sol Square (Christchurch)

Despite being more than a decade, the heart of the Christchurch city today is still saturated with vacant buildings, empty parking lots and abandoned heritage buildings. This extensive damage of the earthquakes to the civic and private property has torn up the communities once there, and now it remains eerily empty.

Currently, the housing rebuild blueprint calls for more profit driven projects. It is of huge interest to developers to build more high density housing with commercial space on the ground floor. Young professionals, families and elder residents are seeking specifically for more alternative and community focused developments.

While we acknowledge all the increased demands for housing in the city, the heart of the city is a public space with commercial centres, heritage and office units. We need to be building to integrate the public sphere there.

How might developing a cohousing community at Odeon Theatre Complex activate the social, urban and heritage fabric of the city?

A city scarred but steadfast.

Here with the heart of Christchurch City, surrounded by the echoes of resilience and rebirth, reminds us that community is the true foundation upon which any urban landscape is built. Even in desolation and ruin, there is value that can be derived from what we already have to reconstruct the social network for what it was and what it can become.

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Map of Central Christchurch
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Close-up Map of Odeon Complex
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Welcome to Tuam St x Lichfield St x Manchester St.
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Odeon Complex Re-envisioned

The heritage listed Odeon Theatre Complex is a group of once ornate Victorian and Edwardian Baroque Buildings now behind shipping containers, awaiting restoration. They have significance to central Christchurch as a place of trade, having hosted a colourful range of businesses, professions, and groups over the last century.

Odeon Theatre (1883) is the oldest, purpose built, masonry theatre in New Zealand. It was once a popular venue for all types of public meetings, live entertainment, and exhibitions such as vaudeville. It is re-envisioned as a conversation room, a communal living room for the cohousing community and a cultural hub that exhibits to the public. The neighbouring Lawrie and Wilson Auctioneers once established wholesale furniture manufacturers in Christchurch are transformed into a community workspace.

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Odeon Theatre New Conversation Hall + Lawrie Wilson Auctioneers Workspace
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Odeon Plaza with Education and Marketplaces

Sol Square

Intersection of the Cohousing Community and the Public.

Play, stay, live and shop.

Once bustling with restaurants, bars and nightclubs in the early 2000s, Sol Square is revitalized at the heart of the cohousing community where the dining hall and gallery entrance interjects with a lane of small restaurants, connecting the west front and bus interchange with the east front of the Old Restaurant.

It creates the resemblance of a neighbourhood from the gathering of people. Festivals can be hosted here where attendees can take part in discussions and dance, performing with nature, people and the city.

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Sol Square of Christchurch Revitalized
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Public Ground, Cohousing Ground and First Floor of Cohousing

Urban Commons

The public is invited throughout the perimeters of the ground floor of the two main cohousing residences.

The exchanges that occur are reciprocal, whether often the cohousing community would gather to work on projects such as small art activities, furniture craft, and collaboration with local initiatives to open up exhibitions. Here also, local businesses like organic produce and recycled goods with sustainability visions run by the community.

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Wellington Woolen Manufacturing Company + Sargood, Son and Ewen Building Warehouse
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Social Balcony Section Through the Cohousing Development

Exclusive to the cohousing community is the social balcony that connects the residents with various communal functions such as the dining hall, spiral staircase, northern lounge, internal outdoor space, and flower and vegetable gardens throughout the main blocks. It overlooks the urban fabric between the theatre on one wing and the busy commercial front at the other. In the middle, it overlooks the new Sol Square.

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Social Balcony
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Back of Cohousing (West Front)