The “Pallet Pavilion”, which has been built by Gap Filler association, in Christchurch a city in regeneration phase, is a public meeting point space for events open to people and commerce. It is an ephemeral architecture project built by volunteer that functions as a community.
What makes this place interesting for people, not only relies on its community management, it also passes through the sustainable building materials that were used. Made with wooden pallets that were reused and with the help volunteers, the pavilion not only functions as an outdoor community center, but also as a garden in the middle of the city and a place for trade.
LOCATION AND DEMOGRAPHY
Christchurch is a city in the South Island of New Zealand, with a total population of 340000 inhabitants.
The city is damaged by a disaster of a series of earthquakes that occurred in 2010 and 2011. After the disaster, Christchurch is undergoing an extensive needed urban renewal operation that the city council has announced as a series of reforms of public space. It is estimated that the cost reach two billion New Zealand dollars.
The most visible signs of the disaster, once the rubble had been taken away were the empty, homes, shops and businesses. It is these empty that are being used by the city in innovative ways, to try to keep a sense of community.
Meanwhile, the city is in a state of lack of public areas and facilities. It becomes evident with the amount of empty public spaces that need a rebuild.
The project is located in Victoria Square, a square near the city centre. After the earthquake, Victoria Square was completely in ruins and it was demolished, leaving an empty and unused public space.
SOCIAL PROBLEMS AND CONTROVERSIES
There is a need to revive an almost dead zone, with no social life caused by the earthquake disaster.
Although there is a plan for recovery and reconstruction of Christchurch City, most plots and public spaces with the lack of reactivation remains empty and unused.
The need to revive the empty public spaces is not only to provide a use that currently doesn’t exist, but a need to resume the daily life of the inhabitants in the city and keep the hope of revival after the disaster.
There are huge challenges, so many businesses being wiped out and there’s no social life so the city’s future is not guaranteed.
The agents involved in the project are:
– The neighbors (residents and businesses) who there is destined the project of rehabilitation of the plot.
– Gap Filler association. It aims to temporarily activate vacant sites within Christchurch with creative projects for community benefit.
– Gap Filler Charitable Trust. Project and Gap Filler association is now administered by the Gap Filler Charitable Trust.
– A team of architecture graduates turned the idea into a fully developed design that could make it through a building process.
– Christchurch City Council. The owner of the plot and also it’s a funder. Let the community use the plot.
– The funders. Creative New Zealand, Canterbury Community Trust, the Todd Foundation, the Tindal Foundation, Te Whanau Trust, Community Arts Funding Scheme, Christchurch Creative Communities, The Vodafone Canterbury Earthquake Fund.
– Volunteers who helped build the pavilion.
– Donors who through their donations through Crowdfunding increase the budget to continue the project.
– Business sponsors. More than 50 companies are sponsoring the pavilion.
Gap Filler is a creative urban regeneration initiative started in response to the September 4, 2010 Canterbury earthquake and expanded in light of the more destructive February 22, 2011 quake.
Gap Filler aims to temporarily activate vacant sites within Christchurch with creative projects for community benefit.
Gap Filler see vacant sites utilized for temporary, creative, people purposes. The association works with local community groups, artists, architects, landowners, librarians, designers, students, engineers, dancers… Gap Filler projects are temporary in nature, looking for activate vacant sites for short periods, to demonstrate the city can grow in important ways without large capital expenditure or major construction.
With small-scale temporary projects, the community gets new ideas and creates a dynamic for experimentation. Gap Filler’s projects are carried out by the theory and practice of performance studies, architecture and urban design principles.
The most ambitious project is the Pallet Pavilion, a venue for community and public events.
The Pallet Pavilion.
The Pallet Pavilion helps the city’s need for new venues, after the loss of clubrooms and community halls demolished as a result of the earthquakes.
The idea was simulated by separate absences: a lack of venues community centers in the central city for live music, performances and other events, and a severe lack of imaginative post-quake temporary architecture in Christchurch. The Pavilion also aims to get people back into Christchurch city, supporting central businesses and promoting the central city as a place for experimentation.
Gap Filler’s original concept was a temporary pavilion made of pallets, with basic amenities like lighting, audiovisual equipment, a stage and a bar. A small team of architecture graduates turned this concept into a fully developed design that makes it through a building process.
Gap Filler has provide Christchurch with a needed community space and a home base on site for other organizations. They provided 24-hour site security, power, running water, audiovisual equipment, tech support, toilets, rubbish and recycling facilities and an active space for a range of community events.
The blue exterior conceals a secret garden, with landscaping creatively integrated into the walls and stepped seating, with a selection of plants.
The project was built in 6 weeks by the volunteers, the association and a team who helped develops the construction. After that process, to continue the operation of the project a remodeling was needed to incorporate conditioning and safety improvements of the space.
This case is an example of urban regeneration through the participation of the neighbors of the place, who showed through the constant use of the pavilion, which functions as a true public space that had not been considered in a public program.
The Pallet Pavilion is a transitional architecture project that functions as a community space and venue for events. It was built by volunteer over 6 weeks in late 2012.
Gap Filler has achieved a project of this scale with a tiny budget from sponsors and the dedication of only two full-time staff. This is possible because more than 250 volunteers and 50+ businesses partnered up and offered their time.
It was initially scheduled to run for about six months, but by showing that it was able to reactivate an urban space and crowdfunding campaign by people who did not want closure, will be open for another year.
Due to the lack of cultural centers and theaters that collapsed with the earthquake that occurred in Christchurch, and to reconnect Victoria Street with the square of the same name, the Pavilion appeared to be the best option which served to people to share and participate in cultural activities around.
The organizers managed to get audio and lighting equipment to develop all artistic activities, trade fairs and other shows.
Thursday to Saturday in the summer the Pavilion will be used largely as a venue for live music in a city that has lost many live music venues.
Gap Filler engage in workshops, hold community design meetings, have reviews or do extensive post-occupancy surveys.
The pavilion, like all Gap Filler projects, sits on borrowed plot, so must be able to be removed in a short timeframe. Rather than being constructed from recycled materials, the Pallet Pavilion consists almost entirely of materials temporarily diverted from their previous cycles of use.
The three thousand blue wooden pallets will be returned to the equipment pooling company that loaned them. The Pavilion’s temporary foundation is made up of floor slabs from the demolition of the nearby Clarendon Hotel. Upon completion of the project, the slabs will go off to become bridges or culverts for Canterbury farmers. The furnishings are made from plastic crates, and once the project closes they will also be returned and put back into circulation.
The Pallet Pavilion’s furnishings are heavy and chunky but all modular, so can be set up any way that suits the events. Reusing the furniture for all kind of events.
Economic funding comes at a small part from the sponsors (more than 50 companies are sponsoring the pavilion) and funders (Creative New Zealand, Canterbury Community Trust, the Todd Foundation, the Tindall Foundation, Te Whanau Trust, Community Arts Funding Scheme, Christchurch Creative Communities, and The Vodafone Canterbury Earthquake Fund). But this is not the main economical source.
A fundraising campaign was active to preserve the project.
Gap Filler association decided to create a campaign crowfunding which aimed to raise $ 25,000 to avoid dismantling of the pavillion. However, at a meeting of the City Council, it was decided that if the space would remain open to the people, must comply with safety requirements.
The Pallet Pavilion will be sticking around for one more summer thanks to the success of the PledgeMe campaign. Which, donors who through their donations through Crowdfunding, increase the budget to $ 80,000 to continue the project.
Besides raising campaigns isolated, there is the option to make donations through the website of the association.
On the other hand, the incorporation of the trade also represents a source of income for the Pavilion. There is a fee that the trader must pay of their collected benefits.
The pallet pavilion rents its space to make a profit to continue keeping the project. To raise funds, private events like book launch, a private meeting, a market… will be charged a rate per hour to use the space.
As a result of the economical strategies, they have employed two people. They are in charge of cleaning the place, looking after during the night and doing maintenance tasks.
SUCCESSES AND FAILURES – PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES
As a project with certain benefits to its users, it has needed to continue a high amount of money. That has been achieved thanks to Crowfunding, but has been an added challenge to the project.
As most projects to activate empty public space waiting for being restyled, the Pavilion has an ephemeral nature, which has managed to extend for another year, but the project and the activation of the plot will disappear in a future. An activation that nowadays works as a social and cultural space will be frustrated by the disappearance of the project although its demise will lead to the new plan of reconfiguration of public space in the city.
Most of the Pallet Pavilion activity is performed in summer, because it doesn’t climatically conditioned, people only use that space when weather conditions permit. This does not mean that there is an unusable space in winter, but the events taking place will be more limited to days with good weather.
Apart of a great social and cultural burden, to meet the needs of a neighborhood with lack of public spaces where social gatherings and cultural events and facilities happen, the Pallet Pavilion is generally focused on the aspect of economic management which also covers part environmental. Through economic processes followed by the association which maintains the project is achieved the economic self management. Are interesting aspects of economic self-management, both from the trade and the events from outside community.
The inclusion of trade in Pallet Pavilion offers benefits to both parts. Getting trade an extra benefit to be in an active space and paying a small tax to project to be located there.
By recycling, almost all of the materials used in the construction of the project, it saves money to the project as well as being an environmental aspect, because with the dismantling of the pavilion, the materials used to return to a new use.
The project meets its social and cultural purpose of activating a space. By creating a program of cultural, social regeneration of an empty and unused public space, the project managed to bring social actions and address the needs of the neighborhood.
Landscape architecture Australia Magazine.
Gap Filler, a creative urban regeneration initiative VIDEO
Interviews with volunteers VIDEO