FAQs

We have starting work on some FAQs on the Elevated Garden City concept, based on the excellent discussion that the site has already generated. This is very much the first crack and we will be refining them and added new FAQs as we go so if you have any comments on any of this please contact us and let us know or add a comment at the bottom of the page.


Engineering

Is it bad earthquake design having extra weight on top of a building?

In general yes, but they can actually build very tall buildings that survive earthquakes. New low buildings with gardens and people on top are nowhere near as difficult from an engineering point of view. Lots of the garden options can be very low weight (e.g. court yards,playgrounds,flowers,lawn) and add very little extra cost.

Surely bridges are expensive and unsafe in earthquakes?

Not if they are only for foot/bike traffic. On an engineering scale this is relatively easy to design for.

Can you have big trees on a roof?

Well you don’t have to have massive ones…..but who knows there are some clever folks out there so there may be a few. Could be interesting to plant tall trees on the ground level that aim to be part of the elevated city scape over time (e.g. poplars)

Won’t the bottom floors be too dark?

Could actually be lighter with fewer high rises – putting gardens on the top of low buildings doesn’t block light. The foot bridges are not likely to make much difference. The buildings could still advertise what is in the shops/cafes above. Or the buildings could be covered in ivy etc to continue the garden to the bottom.

Also there are light engineering systems that can duct sunlight down into a building through skylights.

How will people get up and down easily?

Pretty much every new building is likely to have a combination of stairs and elevators. For the businesses that want foot traffic (shops/cafes etc) this is a great way to have additional shop window opportunities with people going up and down.  How many people complain about going down then up in multi-story car parking building at the moment?


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Planning

How will rules work? Can the council dictate what building owners can and can’t do?

The council (and central government) dictate rules and constraints for owners all the time. Things like the City and Regional Plans define a lot of what an owner can do.

For instance, in a residential area you can’t cover your entire property with your house. Some has to be left as open space which you can then use as creatively or boringly as you like.

The reason they do this is the same is the rest of the city. If they create a nice, interesting living environment for people then more folks are likely to want to move here or stay here and they then in turn earn more rates to pay for the upkeep etc.

How much of the space will be public/vs. private and who will look after it?

Probably like the rest of our garden city most of it will be privately owned and looked after and designed to meet the needs of the building users. This will be different for cafes, offices, retail, hotels, etc.

Like the rest of the city part of it would benefit from being public space with links between the spaces. This is relatively inexpensive as there may be a number of building owners that don’t want to use the space at all and the council could pay additional cost for public space on the top.

What about all the existing buildings?

They can stay where they are but up to 60% of the CBD could be demolished. The new elevated garden city can weave around them and include them in creative ways.

What about the heritage buildings?

Let’s make the ones deemed significant (and safe) enough an integrated part of the design – e.g. Cathedral as the focal point of city still – flowing up to the elevated part of the city.

Isn’t it going to be horrible in the winter?

Probably nicer than the pre-quake city was – there are still likely to be covered walk ways around shops and buildings on the elevated level. Chch is actually pretty sunny in the winter and it will be a lot lighter in the elevated level than the current city.

Would be quite nice to not have high rises shading some of the nicest parts of the city (eg New Regent St) and there are lots of opportunities for creative wind breaks to be developed in the elevated garden areas too.

What will happen to vehicular traffic flow? (Trains/buses/cars)

You could look at the elevated garden city as a super cheap way to get an underground set of roads and car parks. Rather than having multi-storeyed car parks you could have the bottom floor of most buildings as car parks. Think how much energy and time is wasted going up and down multi-level car parking buildings.

For shops rather than having one or two car parks outside you could have 10-20 directly under the shop for your customers making it super easy to have access.

Think how cheap it would be to have a ground floor bus exchanges of real scale and usefulness.

It could be possible to future proof the design with space for light rail network on the ground level.

Hasn’t this all been done before?

Gardens on roofs are not new. Re-building a CBD linking them all together to have an elevated city space is new. Christchurch will be a world first to demonstrate a new model for the 21st century that people will love to live in and just works better for everyone, pedestrians, cyclists, buses and cars.


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Economics/Cost

Who is going to pay for all of this?

Just like normal developments building owners will probably pay for the development of their elevated space and they can choose to get as grand or as cheap as they like. If you do something creative/attractive you can charge higher rent than something less expensive or less interesting.

Why would I want this added expense as a building owner?

If I was a building owner I would much rather own land and buildings in an iconic world city than just another city….(or worse just a small suburban center.There is large a cost of being boring too.)

Also there may well be a number of building owners that get paid insurance for more expensive buildings (high-rise) than the it costs to build the low-rise replacements so they will have some extra cash to do something more interesting.

Why would the council/government pay extra for public spaces?

Same reason they do it in the rest of the city – it creates a better place to live and work and if we as a city don’t attract and keep people in our city it will struggle.

Is there a less expensive way to create an iconic world city?

Possibly – we are very keen to hear other ideas that are similarly exciting. If all this site does is stimulate better ideas then that’s a wonderful outcome. We just don’t want Christchurch to be just another boring city. The cost of doing something like this vs the potential kudos that comes from it makes seem worth a punt!


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Safety

Surely bridges are expensive and unsafe in earthquakes?

Not if they are only for foot/bike traffic. On an engineering scale this is relatively easy to design for.

Can you have big trees on a roof?

Well you don’t have to have massive ones…..but who knows there are some clever folks out there so there may be a few. Could be interesting to plant tall trees on the ground level that aim to be part of the elevated city scape over time (e.g. poplars)

What happens to all this in earthquake?

No-one died in any CBD building that meets the current building regulations (can anyone confirm this?). The Feb earthquake had 4 times the accelerations of the Japan earthquake in any town and the new low rises are likely to be even safer.

Will there be more crime?

No reason there should be really….if anything it would be harder for offenders to get away.

Surely you need high rise buildings in a modern city?

Probably agree – and this plan allows for them but in the short term most high rise properties will struggle for tenants. While there are lots of individuals happy to go in high rises most companies have enough people who will not want to work there (and very understandably!) . Given this the new buildings are likely to be low rise 2-4 stories.

Probably the first new high rises will be hotels that look out over the new elevated garden city. It’s not that we will put our guests in there because they are unsafe (none of the older high rises fell over) but they are not likely to have the same memories us Chch folks have.

Will bikes and pedestrians in the same space be an issue?

It is easy to have clear cycle and pedestrian areas in the elevated space. This is a much safer mix than cars/bike/pedestrians.


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High Rises

Surely you need high rise buildings in a modern city?

Probably agree – and this plan allows for them but in the short term most high rise properties will struggle for tenants. While there are lots of individuals happy to go in high rises most companies have enough people who will not want to work there (and very understandably!) . Given this the new buildings are likely to be low rise 2-4 stories.

Probably the first new high rises will be hotels that look out over the new elevated garden city. It’s not that we will put our guests in there because they are unsafe (none of the older high rises fell over) but they are not likely to have the same memories us Chch folks have.

Will there be high enough urban density?

If long term the full four avenues area was 2-4 story linked buildings this would probably be higher urban density than we currently have.

If we don’t make the central city at least vaguely interesting then very few people are likely to come back. We do need something to create a reason for enough people to want to live, work and visit our central city.


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Flow of people/traffic

Will there be high enough urban density?

If long term the full four avenues area was 2-4 story linked buildings this would probably be higher urban density than we currently have.

If we don’t make the central city at least vaguely interesting then very few people are likely to come back. We do need something to create a reason for enough people to want to live, work and visit our central city.

If there aren’t enough people on street level surely there won’t be enough to be on the top as well?

If we wanted to be bold we would design it so that all foot/bike traffic was designed for the garden level – all shop windows etc on this level. This would have the advantage of pedestrians never needing to worry about crossing roads and the traffic below could actually flow better, unimpeded by pedestrian traffic.

Won’t the bottom floors be too dark?

Could actually be lighter with fewer high rises – putting gardens on the top of low buildings doesn’t block light. The foot bridges are not likely to make much difference. The buildings could still advertise what is in the shops/cafes above. Or the buildings could be covered in ivy etc to continue the garden to the bottom.

Also there are light engineering systems that can duct sunlight down into a building through skylights.

Isn’t it going to be horrible in the winter?

Probably nicer than the pre-quake city was – there are still likely to be covered walk ways around shops and buildings on the elevated level. Chch is actually pretty sunny in the winter and it will be a lot lighter in the elevated level than the current city.

Would be quite nice to not have high rises shading some of the nicest parts of the city (eg New Regent St) and there are lots of opportunities for creative wind breaks to be developed in the elevated garden areas too.

How will people get up and down easily?

Pretty much every new building is likely to have a combination of stairs and elevators. For the businesses that want foot traffic (shops/cafes etc) this is a great way to have additional shop window opportunities with people going up and down.  How many people complain about going down then up in multi-story car parking building at the moment?

What will happen to vehicular traffic flow? (Trains/buses/cars)

You could look at the elevated garden city as a super cheap way to get an underground set of roads and car parks. Rather than having multi-storeyed car parks you could have the bottom floor of most buildings as car parks. Think how much energy and time is wasted going up and down multi-level car parking buildings.

For shops rather than having one or two car parks outside you could have 10-20 directly under the shop for your customers making it super easy to have access.

Think how cheap it would be to have a ground floor bus exchanges of real scale and usefulness.

It could be possible to future proof the design with space for light rail network on the ground level.

Why don’t you ban cars all together?

This is just not realistic in the short term. There will be lots of opportunities for folks living in the central city to get around without the need for a car in a safe convenient way on the bike/walk ways.

If the traffic flows better and cars don’t spend so much time going up and down car parking buildings it is much more energy efficient too.

Will bikes and pedestrians in the same space be an issue?

It is easy to have clear cycle and pedestrian areas in the elevated space. This is a much safer mix than cars/bike/pedestrians.


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The Website, Concept and Visualizations

Why are the buildings boring, grey, rectangular? Where is the chalice? Why are the gardens so boring with mostly grass? Why are the bridges/railings so tacky…

We were in a hurry, and detail is not necessary for the initial simple model to illustrate the concept.  Hopefully you can imagine how much better it will be when our talented local architects and designers add their  flare with curves, split levels, colour, ponds, paths, different gardens.

There is no doubt it will be vastly more interesting than this quick and dirty model.

Hasn’t this all been done before?

Gardens on roofs are not new. Re-building a CBD linking them all together to have an elevated city space is new. Christchurch will be a world first to demonstrate a new model for the 21st century that people will love to live in and just works better for everyone, pedestrians, cyclists, buses and cars.

So what next? How can I help?

Spread the word so lots of people know about it and feel free to chip in with ideas. We are very keen to have people create sketches/models that can add more detail to these ideas.


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One Response to FAQs

  1. Rachael Robinson says:

    Love it! Eco, Garden City, tourist destination, neat place to visit and to work, safer etc.
    Will the botanic gardens and river walkways still be used and linked into this concept aswell? I see the the rise starts at the Cathedral square.

    I’d also like to see a memorial/art walk throughout the city. At each place where a building has been pulled down, there would be an artistic expression memorialising that building etc. People will also be able to go to a museum or information centre that shows the memorial walk and has two model cities to look at: what was before and what’s coming/is.
    There would be photos etc. of each building, a history and photos of the earthquake damage and what’s rebuilt in their stead.

    While I like the idea of restoration, if it’s not possible to have the same buildings then I feel it’s almost a shame to try to replicate them… but the historic architecture should be honored somehow and incorporated into the vision for the new city.

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