Elevated Garden City – the idea

The opportunity

The 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes are an opportunity to create something special in Christchurch.

Imagine a garden city where we took the Manhattan rooftop garden to whole new level.

Given that most people in the CBD will not want to live and work in high rises, then this new set of low rise buildings give Christchurch the opportunity to build an elevated garden/walkway space that could become one of the world’s iconic cities.

Instead of the roofs being wasted space it would be possible to make the space useful and linked with walk/cycle ways.Β Β You could walk around the CBD without ever crossing a road. Visitors landing in our fair city would look down on roofs of pure green. With new sustainable, energy-conscious buildings we would become the greenest city in New Zealand inside and outside.

The roof space could be used for:

  • Parks
  • Cafes/Bars
  • Shop fronts
  • Office entrances
  • Playgrounds
  • Court yards
  • Sports areas
  • Iconic wooden bridge designs
  • Slopes from other public spaces could go up the elevated gardens
  • Not all space has to be public could be office BBQareas etc
  • Taller buildings that look out over the gardens
  • Bird sanctuary – (no rats or cats)
  • Native forest – Riccarton park (maybe turn Latimer square into this?)
  • Bike hire scheme
  • Lots of other creative things

How it will work from a planning point of view

  • Every new building has to have half (or 1/3 or 2/3) of the second or third floor dedicated as open space
  • The council will create a network of linked walk/cycleways connecting the second or third floor roof spaces
  • This will be a relatively simple set of rules that would allow building owners/architects lots of flexibility and creative options.
  • Could start small in the centre initially but could grow long term to take in all 4 avenues.


  • Relatively low cost way to create a city that could become an iconic world destinations for tourists and creative people
  • Every building has an extra elevated street frontage
  • Ability to do something a bit different with each property depending on if it is housing, office, cafe, retail etc – creative options for all buildings.
  • There will be vastly more useful space in CBD not just dead roof space!
  • Can still use relatively inexpensive building techniques but create something dramatically different and unique when linked together
  • Easy to get started and can expand over time
  • People will be able to walk and bike around without cars in an easy, safe way – will probably be the preferred way to get around town on short journeys
  • Building interfaces will be standardized sothe bridges can be relatively inexpensive – only foot and bike traffic
  • Still has possibility for good urban density – backyard on roof as the concept expands to the out skirts of four avenues
  • Very simple set of planning rules that still allows lots of room for creativity but ties the city together in a distinctive iconic way

Concept images

375 Responses to Elevated Garden City – the idea

  1. It seems the background engineering development work is already being done, there is clearly a move from “the people” to adopt this concept, the space is there already (has anyone seen how open the areas where buildings had been demolished from the September quake were?), there are work-arounds to every problem that has been raised so far, so Christchurch town planners, WHERE ARE YOU?

  2. Jim Hawkey says:

    Some very exciting ideas suggested……A word to the Council……Follow these ideas up….

  3. Dave says:

    Having read through most of the comments so far I feel a need to add my bit.
    Firstly I think this is amazing and would now feel quite disapponted and sad if it wasnt adopted.
    In respect to some comments already made I say this, coming from the UK I have seen many towns and Cities die off due to poor or no develoment and the growth of out of town malls. The same was happening to Christchurch in my opinion. Many Christchurch people did not use the City center at all and preferred to use the malls. A large proportion of the foot traffic by day was probably down to office workers and largely tourists. If the City is redeveloped to look just like another City then why would people come here for there holiday? Without the right plans the city is doomed.
    In relation to comments about cost of rebuilding and rents and upkeep, pretty much all buildings in the CBD were power hungry, AC units full belt to cope with heat or cold blowing out there output through open doors of shops. Old buildings totally inefficient in heat retention or cooling. Green roofs will make buildings much cheaper to run over the life of the building, greedy lanlords who are out to make a quick killing should go forth and leave the CBD.
    Also the comments about lack of space – just think back to how much of the CBD was really occupied? Vacant places everywhere, depressing areas where no one wanted to venture so no one opened up there. workshops, car lots, factories which would all actually be better off in retail parks further out take up lots of space which can and should be better utilised.
    Then there is the road system, do we need so many in the central city? get rid of some and bring the buildings a little closer together, building design would still allow plenty of light down to street level.
    It is time to think about the future in many more ways, reducing the outgoings for the buildings would allow the tenants to be more profitable, that way they may actually survive without ripping us all off for the products we buy. Low maintenance buildings would mean less outgoings for the building owners. Imagine if we all left our doors open all day at home yet ran the heater to keep it warm? there are unimaginable costs associated with this.
    Make us a City we can be proud of and one that people will be scrambling to visit. For all our sakes, look at these designs and make a change for the future.

  4. Sonia says:

    Love this idea so much! Like most people here, I’m gutted that so much heritage has been destroyed but am equally so excited at how much creative thinking is going on. My two cents:

    1. Would be lovely to dedicate sections of the roof gardens to each person who died on Feb 22nd, with input from their loved ones on what could be planted there. A personal, lasting memorial.

    2. The buildings below could easily have lightweight, reproduction heritage facades bolted onto to EQ proof construction. See Hebel Lightweight concrete panels – can be easily carved to mimic what existed before.

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring designs with us – keep up the good work!

  5. Robyn says:

    But they are not built on swamp!

  6. Robyn says:

    Right, Caleb. I would like to see avenues (wide streets) with plenty of lawn, gardens and trees. Of course individual buildings can have their roof-gardens and use them for their staff or for public access. I imagine the underground streams released with low walls and lawn surrounds. I would like the central CBD car-free, with bike stands for use inside the area, just like Copenhagen. Some can be for hire with buggies on the back. good luck with the planning. Something beautiful will come!

  7. Fiona says:

    Just as a matter of truth .. the “killer” buildings … were not old or badly designed / built. CTV? PGC?
    Lets not knock the old buildings. Fact is, anything that withstood the amount of ground movement that our buildings did, did more than it was designed to do.

    I love this concept – and the likely hurdles notwithstanding, feel that there is actually a real chance for something like this to be done.

    It has been made very clear that the rights of individual building owners are secondary atm … and much as I hate that, the centralised approach could actually be an advantage in terms of incorporating a more global rebuilding approach.

    I feel there is a place within this for both the retention of some of the old Christchurch – and for some modern high rise buildings which, regardless of how people feel about them right now, will be needed – at the least for economic reasons.

  8. Sue says:

    I agree. The whole city needs to be re-build on higher land, eco friendly, in the forest would be great. The trees didn’t fall down, in fact they seem to be the only things still standing!

  9. Fiona says:

    If you actually have reasons for why it cant work for heavens sake say so -0r refrain from being being unneccessarily negative.
    Given that this sort of thing HAS been done before, I suspect that you dont actually know yourself what would stop it being done.
    We need constructive ideas at the moment so either put up or shut up.

  10. Fiona says:

    I worked in the CBD, in a medium – high level building. And I will be going back to work there in the not too distant future. (Incidentally, I dont have any issues with that. I am at a bit of a loss to understand why people do … Japan has much taller earthquake ready buildings. If they can do it, why cant we?)
    Point is … Almost the whole year round, I go outside at lunch time – and find some green space to have my lunch. Much much more than two months a year. Yeah, the wind gets cold some times. But we have the opportunity to building with an awareness of this.
    A number of the people I work with are mad enough to go jogging in their lunch breaks – also all year round. Bringing the green space so much closer … would be great for so many of us.
    I mourn our beautiful city … the look of it is a large part of why I chose to make it my home. But I really love this idea.

  11. Zoe says:

    The concept looks fantastic, but is probably more suitable for a highly populated city where land area is scarce and where there is no (known) fault line. What could possibly be more suitable and safer would be focusing on a unique building style that free flows into beautiful surrounding gardends. These buildings could be bungalo-like (perhaps with a NZ/Pacific flavour) with sides that open into central garden areas – so that people can quickly get out of the building if necessary. Perhaps Pacific Island or traditional Japanese (not Tokoyo style!) architecture could be looked at. Beautiful gardens could be designed around these low-level bungalos.

  12. Jeremy says:

    I would have to say, what rain? Chch only gets 600mm a year.

  13. Caleb says:

    Hi yes looks great, but what happens when an earthquake hits while crossing a bridge?

  14. Ilan says:

    We don’t have enough pedestrians to walk the streets of Chch, let alone the roofs. This city is sparsely populated resulting in many public spaces being relatively empty and as a result boring. This encourages people to drive instead of walking the streets of the city and concentrate most retail activities in the inner city malls (another unique anomaly of Chch). Instead of having more public spaces we need to improve the quality of the existing ones; take examples from the great cities of the world. Until we have 4 million inhabitants in Chch this idea is a pie in sky (literally). In due course when the technology is affordable all these empty roofs can be used to harvest energy from the sun.

  15. John says:

    I have a problem with the central government taking over private property in this way to create public space. It is not a simple idea as it’s author claims and will create huge implications concerning the law and who is responsible for what in and around the public space. If you think CCC really has the right to take over private roof space go ahead and praise this idea but it’s not the kind of city I would like to live in.

  16. Eliot says:

    Interesting parallel to Upper Toronto architecture/art project

    “Upper Toronto is an ambitious performance project to design and propose to the public the building of a new Toronto above the current one: the CN restaurant might be ground level, or imagine a city sitting on top of Bay Street towers. When Upper Toronto is finished, all residents of Lower Toronto will move up and Lower Toronto transformed into some combination of intentional ruin, national park, and farmland.

    This is, of course, a terrible idea. But it is a terrible idea that might let us imagine and perform possibilities and questions about what kind of world we might want if we could start fresh.”

  17. Elbee says:

    A lovely idea, and very workable I am sure, in other places. The engineering aspect of the added weight can be overcome. Have you factored in the considerable resource-hungry nature of grass? It is an inappropriate monoculture plant in the Canterbury climate, where rainfall is inadequate to maintain it year round. Any gardener can tell you that during summer your rooftop lawns will not benefit from the life-saving partial shade that ground-level grass gets from buildings and trees. It will die in the first nor’west, unless you are suggesting we adopt the fashionable dairy-in-a-desert model…

  18. Michelle says:

    Like this idea too, and had never thought about how banks and other businesses like these do not add to the street appeal at all. But now it’s obvious to me that they do not.

  19. grant says:

    Yes high rises can be made safe but and this design allows for them but in the short term it is very unlikely many will be built because they will struggle for tenants (that will be the reality for a while at least I suspect).

  20. Alice Murray says:


    Great I think this is such an interesting idea of how to make the “garden city” something that becomes the platforms for humanistic experiences within a city. As a new way to bring this history of Christchurch into the 21st century. I am currently researching into a project that it based on city branding, how it works and how Christchurch would rebrand itself to project a real sense of community and cohesion towards both inward and outward communities. How a brand has become more than a visual identity but has to have a strong story about what the place will offer and what it stands for.
    Any thoughts?

  21. Torfrida Wainwright says:

    Like the idea of more green in the city. But high rises are not unsafe if they are designed for earthquakes – look at Tokyo. Most of the Chch killer buildings were old and/or badly designed or built – look at all the 1 and 2 storey old brick churches & shops that collapsed in the suburbs.

  22. HAmish says:

    Interesting ideas, no place for indigenous species (or any sign of Ngai Tahu – not a single Maori carving in sight) as that would be entirley inapporpriate in such an artificial environment, but plenty of space for water consuming grass that presumably will be genetically modified so that it does not grow higher than a specified few inches – thereby reducing demand for unsustainable lawn mowers.

    I would prefer to see farm animals and an attmept to develop urban agriculture, slow food etc, on these landscapes.

    But on whose property? To achieve these designs would require completely overriding property rights and a lot of money being invested in land use of low return to the investor (but possibly high return to the community). So don’t expect it to be built with insurance money – that will be used to get to the new heart of the city – Addington/Riccarton where the new CBD has already become establsihed de facto. Central government is already in the hole so unlikey to be able to stump up with the money, especially if it plans to build irrigation schemes, motorways to Auckland etc as well. Even if it is buolt it will be a very small area because of its cost and we already have Hagley Park so why would we need it?

    Will central government override property rights? Well they have made no bones about “deconstructiong” buildings without landowners being informed so they clearly have no major concerns about doing what they see as being in the best interests of the company (sorry, country). In their approach to the RMA they have demonstrated their willingness to override those rights still further as well as those of the environment. But the money is not there so no returns, either politically or financially unless there are kick backs form the builidng company.

    Who would build it? Central Governemnt privatised the old Ministry of Works so there is also a question over the competence to do it – but no doubt there are many in the private sector who would jump at the chance to be paid by central and local government to build it. Perhaps we could require that only local firms are awarded contracts? Hardly likely!

    The propoal also has the sense of elitism – who would get to use these spaces? How is this going to help the people from the Eastern suburbs?

    It is great that people are enjoying doing Sim City thinking, we need that – but even Sim City has some reality checks built into it – I do not see those here at all. If it was a greenfields development – like Pagasus Bay development – or in a country with little sense of individual property rights, or where there is a dictatorship (eg Myanmar) then it would have a chance – but this is Christchurch, New Zealand – try to focus on something achievable please and not waste folks time and energy in computer games.

  23. sarah says:

    There is no problem with high rises, look at Tokyo they had
    a mag 9 and their buildings just swayed from side to side.
    the point being we need to build high-rise they way japan do.
    not one building in Tokyo had issues. so why just assume us kiwis
    cant accomplish what japan can.

    high rises define a city.


  24. Zum says:

    Yes. Despite being built on “bad land” the old town has stood up pretty well through several major quakes, many decades apart till now, and the death toll, while horrible, is *minute* on a percentage basis. People who want to turn the CBD, where I live and have lived most of my adult life, into a graveyard make me ill.

  25. Juliette says:

    Interesting ideas! I think it’s important that the city be rebuilt with some sort of overall plan/structure to it. We should make the most of this distaster, try and improve our city instead of just rebuilding it quickly and randomly.

    I hope other people agree.

    Goodluck getting the go ahead.

  26. Cr Sue Wells says:

    Boy I hope you don’t live in my ward – if you do I need to lift my game! πŸ™‚ Great to see such creativity and energy here. Watching and listening with interest.

  27. Warren says:

    It amazes me the number of knockers that come out of the woodwork when an exciting concept is put out for discussion. The concept is not entirely new but Christchurch built in the concept outlined with light rail, cycleways, cafes walkways and all the other would make Christchurch such a beautiful place to live and be in. It is known as the Garden City so lets make it that way.

    This is a beautiful concept, vibrant, exciting, workable and cost effective from all accounts. Levels built on quakepads with all the ideas on offer would entice me back into a city I did my level best previously to keep out of.

    Go for it Cantabs, and make no excuses as to why we cannot host the finals and semi-finals of the next RWC here in NZ in 2031.

  28. Stephen says:

    Saw the plans for the ‘Garden city’ couldnt help but remind me of the city in the film ‘Logans Run’. Do you plan on having the population euthanised when they reach the age of 30 :-). Its a nice idea (the concept of the city that is – not euthanising people!) but i cant see it happening. One thing for certain is the present crop of politicians will want to Rebuild something quick and cheaply as possible. Besides, people came to christchurch for the history and heritage, thats soon to be all gone. I fear Christchurch will become bland and boring like so many other ‘modern’ cities, there just wont be the money to do anything fancy and the city will be rebuilt peacemeal. As for me, i want to see the heritage saved which probably puts me in the minority here. Ill probably leave Christchurch and leave you to build the city you want (im over 30 so very worried!) Good luck with the idea anyway.

  29. Dave says:

    I am no urban planner or engineer but I love the forward oriented, blue sky thinking.
    Now if we just marry in digital cloud-based business models to further decrease the land-based footprint, devolve workspaces to smaller pods/work from home and flexible combos, include social, cultural, hospo and boutique shopping precincts/’quartiers’ and we have a whole new garden-city world.
    Yes to monorails/electric mini-shuttles, cycles and pedestrian traffic/travelators etc. Parking in centres around the outside fringes?
    Fantastic response to dinosaur city-planning thinking.

  30. Frankly says:

    What a pack of loonies! There are some absolutely unavoidable reasons this stupid idea can never get off the starting blocks. Not just my opinion. They’re as real as day & night. So try to be at least a little realistic in your fantasizing.
    (no point in me spelling out what the stoppers are. If you don’t see them already, you’re beyond it)

    Christchurch needs realism now, more than ever. Not the idle daydreams of loonies.

  31. Stevie says:

    This is a great idea. I for one, have no desire to go into any high rise buildings in the future. Now to convince the developers and the council.

  32. James Hay says:

    This is the best idea I have seen, and the first really positive forward thinking concept that could be the future for Christchurch. Ideas like this could really bring back and engage Cantabrians into building a new modern world leading city.
    Why not use future sustainable techniques and ideas that have already been tried on smaller scales and demonstrated real results, to rebuild Christchurch as the city of the future. Something that could bring real passion and rejuvenate the city.
    Something like this could even entice me and many others back from Australia.

  33. Becky says:

    Some nice ideas here but agree with previous post – need mixed use in the CBD to create vitality. Also, think that these designs take the life away from the ground level, where most people will dwell for most of the time. Imagine what this ground level space will look like. Though green roofs are a fantastic idea and perhaps a careful balancing of ground floor design and your designs would work.

    Re last person’s comment, there is room here for an introduction of Maori place identity, along with it’s current English tradition. I think this introduction has to be done in fundamental ways, not just has an ad-on koru-motif which has become reasonably cliched – though at least these designs recognise something of Maori identity unlike many others.

  34. Angus says:

    What a fantastic concept!

    It would be great if the Avon and Hagley Park are left as they are and the rooftop park integrates into them.
    The elevated design allows for a sunken entertainment area. You could have buildings on all sides and seats leading down like an amphitheatre to a central entertainment area for concerts and sport matches.
    To overcome some safety problems, there could be a small emergency services centre on the park somewhere. The idea of police getting around on bikes is fantastic, and rickshaws (aka tuk-tuks) could be used as ambulances, with all the medical supplies in the back. I love the idea of having higher buildings looking out over the park.
    I think Cathedral Square should be the centre of it all, but it should also envelop the Avon River.
    If the buildings are only 1-2 stories, there is no need to provide extra sunlight to the ground level – it already gets through the gaps between buildings. So long as you keep the main streets as they are and build bridges over the top of them, there would be just as much sunlight on the ground level as there is usually.

    But, anyway, great idea and keep it up the brainstorming!

  35. Steve Hopkins says:

    I love the ideas and would love to see further information from structural engineers that the load-bearing flat roofs are (within budgetary constraints) feasible.

    The city of Chicago has started a project on greening roof tops, starting with their own City Hall. (http://www.artic.edu/webspaces/greeninitiatives/greenroofs/images/GuidetoRooftopGardening_v2.pdf). They estimate 50% extra cost in roofing.

    They also seem to say that for heavily greened area you would need load bearing capability of between 80-150 lbs per sq foot. This seems like a lot, but guess they’re talking of four to five feet of soil. I guess you also need some additional lee-way in case of heavy snow??

    Not every roof needs to be a lush field, of course!… courtyards and potted plants, with cafe’s and walkways will all add to the variety of a rooftop oasis.

  36. grant says:

    Very interesting idea worth exploring

  37. AST says:

    so great to see a space where we can talk about what we want for the city. i think embracing rooftop gardens is a great idea – for aesthetic reasons as well as the huge potential for cbd community gardens that produce food. would love to see something like this happen.

  38. Karen says:

    I love seeing this concept being discussed and the awesome and intelligent responses here, and I am sure we will see much more of this quality of ideas coming forward over the foreseeable future.

    Personally, I would love to see the reserves and gardens and walkways in the city, but I am less excited about them being elevated. having been in the city in our 4th floor office, in a building that is likely to be demolished, I (and many others) am very conscious of the need to accept that this earth is going to move again, probably many times in our future, and we need to come up with solutions that incorporate the reality.

    It is not in fact the earthquake itself that has caused most loss of life, but the structures we have built on top of the land. The idea of being on an aerial walkway at the time of a future quake, is not something that fills me with confidence – just as my friends in LA have a completely understandable and ongoing fear of driving over motorway bridges.

    Whatever our plans for the central city are, I would like to see some focus on flexible, agile structures that very much focus on people first, before egos. If we go back to the first concepts of communities and villages, the central space was always the town market …. something that draws business people and visitors alike together. Creating something like this in our city centre …. perhaps a little like the Victoria Markets in Melbourne, but with our own unique take on it, opens up tremendous opportunity.

    You want people to be in the central city, allow them to feel safe, and provide the sorts of things that will draw them in ….. a buzzing, dynamic space that changes constantly or with the seasons, that could have live entertainment year round, has low overheads for many of our displaced business people, provides sources of income for those able to grow and produce and make goods to sell.

    As for the businesses, why not allow them to relocate to the suburban hubs so that people can find homes closer to their work … taking our business parks further … and providing fabulous public transport systems that link everyone together. there is no sound reason to pile businesses on top of each other in structures that are little more than monuments to greed and ego.

  39. Dr. Curiosity says:

    A few years ago I used a concept like this for Christchurch in a near-future Cyberpunk role-playing game setting: with restricted space to build and increasing population density, people took to using rooftops as “victory gardens” for growing food, and generating power with photovoltaic plastics on the walls. Some areas were devoted to large-scale vertical farming.

    While 2070s commerce had become more decentralised and often virtualised, today’s CBD was still the “cultural precinct” for arts, entertainment and tourism. Most pedestrians in the area moved around on skywalks engineered to flex with the buildings if they moved, and some of the city’s original heritage buildings were preserved and viewable below, with augmented reality tour experiences capable of showing them in their heyday.

    Y’know, a lot of those ideas aren’t sounding all that fanciful anymore.

  40. Pam says:

    Beautiful concept, and of course like any concept the devil will be in the details. I just think that it is important to remember that in major disasters our reliance on technology is a hurdle. At the heart of it all is that no power = no technological gadgets. Sometimes I feel that the future looks increasingly low-tech, at least then the ability to continue to operate is maintained. But hey, I may just be a closet luddite!
    But it’s so wonderful that the conversation for Canterbury is alive and very much active. Power to the visionaries.

  41. Matt says:

    This is a fantastic idea. This would put Christchurch on the international tourist map and generate a lot of tourism business.

  42. connie says:

    I like the idea, love the old looking latticework but not the glass behind it. These are the kind of concepts we need for our city, even if they seem unreachable at the moment because of cost, there needs to be big dreams put out there. People need to not be so conservative and think outside the box and not be scared to try new things. Well done on creating this wondeful concept.

  43. Brett Wines says:


  44. Brett Wines says:

    You have some good points about the suburban convinence and that we need to make the cbd centre of culture for chchch. But let me ask if you want 45000 (big number) central city residents, how are you going to attract them from the those convinent suburbs? My answer would be to encorporate as best as possible public spaces (not necessarily grass grass grass but definately some green http://www.elevatedgardencity.com/ ) that becomes nodal points and an underpinning infrastructure for areas of residences. The majority of expensive dwellings outside the city are located by some form of ecological system. This can then be considered ‘attractive’.

    As for wrought iron edwardian balustrades, this is the 21st century we like glass and iphones! Wrought iron is tacky!

  45. jt says:

    Great idea but if past events are anything to go by then Bob the Rebuilder and his developer buddies will build something crap without proper public consultation. Or some bright spark will think it would revitalise the CBD to have a highway running through the middle. However I love your idea and think it would be fantastic and allow a positive opportunity for the city for the future to arise out of such a tragic event. Very creative and would make the city special.

  46. shini says:

    I think this is an awesome idea πŸ˜€ but would buildings be able to support the weight of dirt, grass and trees? wouldn’t it compromise the buildings structural stability by putting so much weight on it? it looks amazing though, like something out of a futuristic movie

  47. LemurKat says:

    Definitely an interesting concept, although not one that I think would be very easy to undertake. I think the gardens would have to be potted or in raised trenches however, especially any trees. Large tree roots could crack through the roofs of the buildings and damage the structural integrity.

    The idea of walking around the city without touching the ground is pretty awesome.
    And I suppose there is that rooftop zoo in central Sydney. That was odd.

  48. Nick says:

    High-rises aren’t generally built with a massive load coming down on one point. Thats why I think it it could be a problem when trees are involved. Also it has to be designed to be earthquake proof which complicates it further, don’t know if a building with a tree on top has been designed to be earthquake safe before?

  49. Nick says:

    I would see this idea as more of a rooftop “garden” than rooftop forest. Large trees will add massive weights on certain parts of the roof which would I imagine would make it a lot more complex to engineer. Secondly a large root system of a tree may literally grow through a waterproof membrane that is trying to keep the roof from leaking..

    Another worry is if pedestrians are banished to the rooftops, does that mean cars will get to rule the streets with no peds in the way? Doesn’t make for a nice experience when you get back to earth, unless youre in a car.

  50. Lucille says:

    Wow…. just simply wow…

    For some unknown reason this makes me think of the ‘tube system’ a lot of older department stores used to have for sending money and documents within their stores (think they may have been gas operated). Anyway, recall some old brass tubes in some of the older places. Ballentynes may even have used it.

    Anyway, what a beautiful concept – keep up the fantastic work !! πŸ™‚

  51. Jono Clark says:

    Yes, that weaving of spaces is what would make it truly COOL!

    Nooks and crannies, different views, perspectives, vista’s.

  52. Jono Clark says:

    Yes the views from the rooftop garden BBQ area on top of the old Council building in Tuam street were remarkable – uninterrupted views of the Alps and Ports Hills. The views of the Alps in Winter were stunning.

    The other point not touched on is the increased sunlight hitting these roof top spaces in winter due to less overshadowing from over towering buildings and the increased wind movement 10 – 20m up would keep things dryer – less frost above this level also.

    Also, without being too dramatic, if there ever was flooding (more likely) or a Tsunami these spaces and buildings may mean the city can still be safe and operational despite adverse conditions – Well with properly constructed modern buildings anyway.

  53. Jono Clark says:

    Agreed, this can be done with reletive ease. There are many structures and houses Worldwide with earth roofs or garden or grass roofs.

    There are two or three new high-rise buildings in the Perth CBD with multi-level roof-top gardens, cafe’s and green areas. Some of these roof-top gardens are large 2-3000m2 + maybe even more, it is hard to tell when you are looking down on them from 18 stories up!

  54. Jono Clark says:

    Yep, police on Mountain Bikes – best idea to patrol this new city.

  55. Jono Clark says:

    Like this idea!

    Bonne idea en Francais!

  56. Jono Clark says:

    Look lets be frank, it is Christchurch not Lagos, Nigeria, the amount of unsavory characters is limited and on the Worldly scale of unsavory characters they most are not that unsavory. We can deal with the idiots – why limit your imagination and dump on a great idea with negative spin like this.

    We can deal with creating less unsavory characters by building a better city and creating more opportunities for jobs and industry through creating a city where people want to come, see, work, live, eat, drink, socialise and enjoy.

  57. David says:

    One of the advantages that Chch has is that it is small. It should not wish to be big. One can so easily walk from one end to the other, as as Bernard says, enjoy the city so much more for doing so. Cars and parking can be so easily, these days, be relegated to the perimeter and to underground car parks. Chch now has the opportunity to be bold – not to be missed.

  58. Kate says:

    Love the idea!

    What about…

    1. A climbing wall going up the side up some buildings to the top
    2. Integrate a slide somewhere as part of a kids playground from level 4 to ground

    Would those big trees have enough depth to put down their roots?

    It would be awesome to see some grass/trees in the old ‘square’ on ground floor level too.

    Damn awesome work guys.

  59. Mat says:

    To provide constructive criticism would suggest that what is presented here could be developed into something that would work whilst retaining the fundamental concept. I can’t see that that’s possible so I’ll ask some questions instead.

    The weight of an elevated garden that’s capable of growing anything worth growing (like the trees shown in the concept images) would be immense. The structure required makes it hugely expensive and limits the useability of the floor space below. Why build it if it’s going to be full of concrete columns?
    The footprint of the buildings and the spaces between them means that natural ight can’t penetrate the floor plates. Who would want to work there?
    The same issue means that you need huge ductwork to get fresh air into the building. Where does it go?
    People actually like cities. They like sitting on the sidewalk having a cup of coffee and running into people they know. Where does this happen in this elevated city?

    By the time you build this elevated garden you’ll have a bunch of very expensive space that is either unusable or unleaseable.

    Leave it to the urban designers, architects, engineers, builders, property developers and council. They built the beautiful city we’ve lost and they know what they’re doing. Inventors, software developers and some guy who can work a (bad) modelling program dont.

  60. Yogh says:

    I’m definitely in agreement with you and @steve commented on one of my above comments too. I would like to believe that people are simply still jumpy because it’s less than a month since the earthquake.

  61. Jim says:

    Great stuff. Now get your visionary goggles out and consider easements within and connecting buildings for services (say a 2m x 2m duct network) – power, water, sewage, gas, communications (fiber) and even some form of light parcel delivery to each building. Analyze what you those delivery vehicles have been dropping off in the CBD – one 5kg package this street – one the next. A very simple and not too expensive CBD conveyor system (think airport baggage handling systems) with a central secure drop off point in each building would dramatically reduce CBD traffic volumes. A central drop off center for each CBD block (or perhaps several blocks) and packages with RFID tags to direct the packages and to then notify business owners when a delivery is made (perishables). The system would be future proofed and serviced because it would be easy to access.

  62. Yogh says:

    I’m really glad you brought up the point about roadspace. I think we should definitely be looking at making a two/multi-level space, not simply elevated. As part of this it will be essential that we still get as much light down between buildings as we do now and have the ground level spaces like Cathedral Square and City Mall.

    You’ll see elsewhere I advocate not limiting building height and here in reply to comments about traffic it seems appropriate to add considerations of parking buildings. Parking is already a problem in the CBD and if we limit new buildings to two to three stories there will be significantly fewer spaces in parking buildings. Unfortunately, much underground parking is prohibitively expensive with the high water table.

    Properly designed tall parking buildings could actually benefit the elevated space. There would be exits from the parking buildings at ground level, to the elevated space, and possibly to in between floors of the adjoining buildings like in the Litchfield and Crossing parking buildings. They could also act as focal points for changes in the level of the elevated space, opening to the roofs of two story buildings on one side and three story buildings on the other. Traditionally, parking buildings are pedestrian unfriendly, but if they are being designed for the dual purposes of parking and elevated access they could have footpaths and more access points/stairways/elevators. They could even have external pedestrian ramps that gave a view over the roof gardens. Instead of being a necessary blight they could be stylish additions to the central city.

    One last thought. I’m not sure what the plans for the underground bus exchange will be going forward. A two level CBD could mean that the same pedestrian benefits could be gained by having the busses on ground level and the majority of pedestrian traffic through the upper level. However, automobile traffic would still be a consideration.

  63. Yogh says:

    You’re right, I don’t work in a high rise and haven’t worked in the CBD for over a year. Really, I wouldn’t consider anything less than ten stories a high rise, but that’s beside the point. We should not let fear dictate our decisions, but rather sensible planning and precaution.

    High rise buildings can be built to withstand earthquakes just as well as shorter buildings. There are plenty of examples in Japan and California and I’m sure elsewhere. They may sway unnervingly, but they are safe. Proper design will also ensure that it is possible to escape from high rises safely and quickly in the event of an earthquake whether the building sustains damage or not. I understand that stairs in Forsyth Barr were designed for that, but then not built properly. Because of the benchmark set by this earthquake new buildings will be the safest in Christchurch.

    Building up is not backward, fear is.

  64. Paul says:

    Great idea, it is real good to see and hear people like you are thinking about how we can make a new and different place here in Chch. I would like to see it so different that, as you say, people will talk about it and want to come here to see it. Out of this event we can have a very new and wonderful place to live. Keep it up.

  65. Paul Chandler says:

    The plaque in the cathedral is a datum point which states that the point of the datum is 6.2 meters above sea level. There has been a silly myth going around Canterbury all my life about this rubbish of being below sea level. Only Ken Ring-a-ding-a-ling supporters would continue stating that absolute rubbish.

  66. Robert says:

    I do love the innovative approach to this , it is great . For me personally one of the attractions of ChCh CDB at present is that apart from the Moorhouse Ave overbridge and the occasional basement car park it has a pretty much ” on one ground level “and working upward feel about it and I don’t see the need to change that
    What excites me more is the forum by which these ideas are shared and commented on by so many so quickly . From the comfort of home we can view and digest all of the ideas from the talented people we have so easily . These are exciting times . I would call upon the Govt with the emergency powers that they have to fast track a tweaking of the planning laws/resource consent to give these “people power” forums good weight in the planning process . Hopefully this could make the process so much more efficient, yet inclusive and enjoyable for everyone .

  67. Agreed. Why would you just want to leave what you want your city to look like in the hands of people you can’t even name?

  68. Holly says:

    See, thinking like this is what expands this idea into something truly commercially viable. Give every business an incentive to be a part of this.

    Speaking from my personal point of view – the thing that scares me the most about the city right now, is the feeling of being “enclosed” and “surrounded” by buildings – the concept of a green space covering Christchurch CBD removes that fear and provides such an amazing space to show the world.

    There is no such word as impossible πŸ™‚

  69. Josh says:

    Only issue with that is the moisture will not drain as fast to the spouting system because it will be absorbed into the ground. Roofs these days are made of materials which allow the water to run across it quickly; but if grass, trees and the like are on the roof, the water will instead soak into it. So if there is heavy snow, or rainfall they may not be able to drain fast enough to prevent flooding. Spouting systems also require gravity to deliver the water to the spout, so if the roofs are flat, gravity will have a difficult task moving the water to it.

  70. Sue says:

    Great idea in principle,although the weight of the roof tops must be carefully considered.
    And I think too,any building must be as eco friendly as possible – e.g. humus composting toilets where possible,solar power where possible.

    And since its to be a largely ‘walking around’ city,might it not be useful to (as far as possible) have all banks,supermarkets etc. etc. in one street? I’m thinking mostly of those with small children,elderly people. And what about wheelchair access to the roof tops – will there be lifts? And if so,what happens in the event of another quake?

    If these things can be safely overcome,then I’d love to see this go ahead. It could be brilliant,a stunning ‘rise from the ashes’ for Christchurch.

  71. Sade says:

    This is a great idea, I hope it gets enough interest!

  72. Kate says:

    How would the buildings below stay leak proof long term?

  73. Charlie says:

    What an amazing, inovative idea! Understandably there are weather issues but that can be worked around….we’d just have to don the umbrellas like wellingtonians! This is just what Chch needs to pull the tourists back in and I’d even brave the city again if I had something nice to go to ;0)
    Keep up the good work and I really hope the council gets on board and supports it…..would love to know Bob Parkers thoughts….

  74. Heather says:

    yes I was thinking community gardens as well. maybe on some of the city council buildings like the library.
    Business owners may want to make their garden space more commercially viable by having cafes, gardening shops on theirs. The city gyms could have outdoor exercise classes or personal training sessions on running or cycyle tracks though the rooftop gardens, event spaces for roof top weddings, photography studios with garden setting just upstairs. I’m sure the commercial ideas are endless and that smart business people can find new ways to make money off their roofs while maintaining most as public access. If they can make money off their roof when they couldn’t before surely this will help offset some of the costs.

  75. Frank says:

    I like this concept. It offers great opportunities for public transport, cycling and parks! Green roofs will do a great job insulating buildings, while help creating a new, truly sustainable Christchurch.

  76. Rasjad Addison says:

    Love it!!!! Please, please, please let the people in charge of these decisions have some vision and positive thought instead of all the reasons why it can’t be done.

  77. Rachel says:

    Although I have to acknowledge that weather could be an issue. I think this could be encorporating with gardens on the ground as well.

  78. This is such a brilliant example of forward thinking. So many reasons spring to mind why this is a good idea so I hope hope it gets widespread support not just from the people, but from the bureaucrats too.

    I had an idea that lead me to be thinking of something along these lines myself so I’m very excited to see someone like minded getting heard and creating the vision of our future in the city. I have started a facebook group with the proposal that each of the victims who lost their lives should be honoured with living memorials in the form of trees, at the least we need to replace the 80 trees felled in Hagley Park right?


  79. Hannah M says:

    This is an amazing idea! What a beautiful city we would be!

  80. Rachel says:

    This is a brilliant idea, that could be so unique to Christchurch and supports the garden city concept. I would love to see this happen.

  81. Charlie says:

    James, unfortunately the problem with your comment is that the epicentre in this instance is on a previously unknown fault….Who’s to say there isn’t a network of faults all through the greater Chch area that are unknown? Does that mean we don’t build a CBD anywhere? Just food for thought ;0) If it’s got to be done then why not do it low rise and have some fun with it!

  82. Robert says:

    I’m in complete agreement with this proposal. Only a couple of days before the February 22nd quake, I was in the square and noticed that it did not capture the essence of the garden city, with paving covering virtually the entire expanse, and stretching all the way to the buildings. It would be nice to have lawn and trees, maybe even create an inner-city park for native flora and fauna. And perhaps we need to question whether rebuilding in much of the east is a sensible move. I would like to see some areas returned to their original state – wetlands and estuaries. I’m sounding like a greeny at the moment.

  83. michelle says:


  84. Chris says:

    Lol @ Kevin King

  85. michelle says:

    I agree with simon there is no point moving the CBD. where ever it goes there will still be natural risks. Build stronger and lower. the whole idea of a Central Business District is that its CENTRAL not out of town

  86. michelle says:

    The extra weight wouldn’t be any more of a problem for engineers then a high rise currently poses. Love the idea, hope chch has the courage to go through with it.

  87. Lucy Arnold says:

    I love this idea, and it’s fantastic to see so much thoughtful response to it.

    The thing I’ve been worrying about most in rebuilding post-quake Christchurch is how the city will get back the character that was in areas like the High Street precinct – the lanes, the locally owned shops and cafes tucked away between main streets to be discovered – I think there’s potential for this split-level idea to include those pedestrian lanes and courtyards below “garden level”, maybe paved with heritage bricks. Being so flat, the city doesn’t have natural “pockets” for communities to form, and I loved that Christchurch had really started to make something of its alleys in the last decade – it would be great to keep that part of the city’s character alive in a way that is safe and comfortable.

    I also think some of Hundertwasser’s manifestos have some interesting philosophical, environmental and aesthetic ideas – as well as drawing on a little known (?) part of New Zealand’s more recent heritage. (http://bit.ly/hv50vZ, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedensreich_Hundertwasser )

  88. Scott Rait says:

    Fantastic idea. The pictures look great.

  89. Alex says:

    What an awesome idea! Would love to see Christchurch rebuilt in this way.

  90. Wow, what a great idea, I was talking about this sort idea a couple of weeks ago with my friend from Sumner. Christchurch does have the opportunity to become one of the worlds most visited cities and I think this will be a great idea to start from. Well done!

  91. nigel says:

    Great idea lets create something unique while there is an opportunity

  92. Bianca says:

    Great idea!! Not suprising to hear it comes from an innovator who designed a innovative product featured in time magazine. I certainly hope that Chch takes these ideas seriously and requests your input and the the opinions of the citizens of chch when rebuilding our city. To date it seems the new laws passed to ‘move quickly on items of safety’ have proved to be nothing more than a dictatorship and I fear the rebuild will commence in much the same vein : (

  93. Julia says:

    Terrific to see some creative and forward-looking thoughts to rebuild our city. The low rise will make people feel much safer, and it a very positive way to re-invigorate Christchurch and make the city and beautiful centre a safe and welcoming place to attract businesses, shoppers and visitors back.

  94. Katie says:

    I agree with you RoseMary, one of the main issues would be foot traffic for retail, retail in the city was struggling even before these earthquakes. But I really like the idea though.

  95. Eileen Stokes says:

    “Elevated Garden City” – Just perfect – its different – great tourist attraction.

  96. Belinda says:

    Love it! Please include masses of right of way cycle tracks like in Amsterdam so that it is super easy and safe to get around without having to compete with cars.

  97. kelli says:

    Looks great, I think go for it!!

  98. Anton Petre says:

    Great thinking. Let’s make sure it is not strangled by some bureaucratic committee…

  99. Kevin King says:

    You shouldn’t make statements without knowing the facts. Real Cantabrians would know that as we were taught that in Primary School.

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