Putahi Whakatetonga South Frame by

2024 Public Projects / New Zealand / Built in 2023 /

Putahi Whakatetonga South Frame is a transformative urban regeneration project designed to catalyse redevelopment in Christchurch, New Zealand, following the major 2010-2011 earthquakes, which devastated the city. This 20,000sqm network of laneways, public spaces, and a verdant Greenway spread over seven city centre blocks showcases the significant impact of landscape architecture on city-shaping projects.

Located on the southern edge of the city centre, where over 70% of buildings were demolished or vacated, South Frame has transformed the southern edge of the city centre into a vibrant mixed-use precinct. The project has played a vital role in stimulating redevelopment activity to bring life back into the city. The project also presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to integrate the custodial values of mana whenua (indigenous people who historically occupied the land) within Christchurch’s city centre.

Through innovative approaches to ecology, landscape architecture, and urbanism, South Frame reveals the area’s past and has seeded a new creative community. Delivered over seven years, the network comprises three strategically planned interventions:

1. The Greenway: an urban garden weaving together ecology, site archaeology, social infrastructure, and commercial activation into a multi-layered and episodic journey that traverses four blocks. This active travel spine serves as an organising and connecting venue.
2. The Lanes: a mid-block laneway network, facilitating north-south connections and destinations, providing enhanced accessibility and opportunities for fine-grained commercial activities.
3. The Yards: a network of beautifully crafted plazas and gathering spaces that enable social, cultural, and economic vitality. Supported by a strategic activation and placemaking strategy, the Yards are places for connection, engagement and expression.

The result provides a distinctive, vibrant setting for a fine-grained mixed-use precinct to emerge, supporting a growing number of creative industries, educational facilities, hospitality venues, residential blocks and hotel developments.

A catalyst for redevelopment

As a catalyst for post-earthquake redevelopment activity, South Frame has successfully created an attractive and well-connected public realm network that has sparked investment and the return of business activity.

Before the earthquakes in 2010, there were 228 merchants in the area. Following the earthquakes in 2011, this dropped to 120. This had rebounded to 192 by June 2023, demonstrating the South Frame project’s ability to attract businesses and people back to the city centre.

Furthermore, the amount spent within these blocks has also seen a significant rise. In 2010, spending amounted to $131m. This increased to $225m in 2023, representing a 42% increase in spending, which supports the project’s overarching goal of catalysing economic activity.

Reflecting community aspirations

South Frame’ s design responded to the council’s award-winning ‘Share an Idea’ initiative in 2011, which heard over 100k locals express desire for a distinctive, green, vibrant, accessible, and prosperous city centre following the earthquakes:

1. Distinctive: The project has helped restore the mana (authority, force) of Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri (mana whenua) within the city centre, providing a platform for the manifestation and integration of cultural values and narratives. The laneway network and its growing collection of public art, plantings and small independent businesses is unique to Christchurch.
2. Green: The abundance of plantings that fill the Greenway and Yards strengthen local identity and bring local native ecologies of a forested scale into the city centre.
3. Vibrant: Throughout the planning, design and implementation of the project, a design consortium developed a place and activation strategy. The remaining businesses were assisted through design and engagement to continue trading and participate with envisioning the future Lanes and Yards.
4. Accessible: The laneway network creates safe, walkable mid-block connections adding to the universally accessible east-west connection across the city centre, linking anchor projects in the rebuild to support circumnavigation of the city centre.
5. Prosperous: see above under ‘A catalyst for redevelopment’.

The project’s success is owed to a partnership between Crown Infrastructure delivery company Rau Paenga (formally Ōtākaro), Christchurch City Council, the CitySense South design consortium (AECOM, Aurecon, Jasmax and LandLAB), Matapōpore (group nominated to represent mana whenua cultural design values and narratives) and the private sector.

Mana whenua (Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri) speak proudly about their co-creative role in the project, successfully integrating their values of as custodians of nature into the design process and influencing the design of pavements, plantings, furnishings, signage and place naming.

“It’s the first time that an indigenous culture has been involved in design processes of this scale,” states Debbie Tikao of Matapōpore.

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: Jasmax, LandLAB

Architecture offices involved in the design: Jasmax

Location: Between Tuam and St Asaph Streets, Christchurch, New Zealand

Design year: 2015

Year Completed: 2023


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