Sense of placelessness on the Christchurch periphery post-earthquake

Williams, Nicki
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::12 Built Environment and Design , ANZSRC::1205 Urban and Regional Planning , ANZSRC::1604 Human Geography
Following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes Christchurch is undergoing extensive development on the periphery of the city. This has been driven in part by the large numbers of people who have lost their homes. Prior to the earthquakes, Christchurch was already experiencing placeless subdivisions and now these are being rolled out rapidly thanks to the efficiency of a formula that has been embraced by the Council, developers and the public alike. However, sprawling subdivisions have a number of issues including inefficient land use, limited housing types, high dependence on motor vehicles and low levels of resilience and no sense of place. Sense of place is of particular interest due to its glaring absence from new subdivisions and its growing importance in the literature. Research shows that sense of place has benefits to our feeling of belonging, well-being, and self-identity, particularly following a disaster. It improves the resilience and sustainability of our living environment and fosters a connection to the landscape thereby making us better placed to respond to future changes. Despite these benefits, current planning models such as new urbanism and transit-oriented design tend to give sense of place a low priority and as a result it can get lost. Given these issues, the focus of this research is “can landscape driven sense of place drive subdivision design without compromising on other urban planning criteria to produce subdivisions that address the issues of sprawl, as well as achieving the benefits associated with a strong sense of place that can improve our overall quality of life?” Answering this question required a thorough review of current urban planning and sense of place literature. This was used to critique existing subdivisions to gain a thorough understanding of the issues. The outcomes of this led to extensive design exploration which showed that, not only is it possible to design a subdivision with sense of place as the key driver but by doing this, the other urban planning criteria become easier to achieve.
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