On 23-24 October 2014, in the days leading up to Christchurch’s unique Festival of Transitional Architecture, a bevy of architects, planners, activists, developers, government officials, academics, artists and community advocates gathered in Christchurch to join forces at the first International Congress on Adaptive Urbanism.
Adaptive urbanism is a nascent term referring to the growing practice of residents, artists, community groups, and more getting actively involved in conceiving, designing, implementing, activating and maintaining flexible city spaces. This empowered mode differs from conventional public and private city-building where most residents are solely consumers of ‘permanent’ developments created for them – rather than active producers of, and participants in, evolving public space.
Christchurch is undoubtedly the per-capita world leader in adaptive urbanism since the devastating 2010/2011 earthquakes, with the still-ravaged city attracting accolades from Lonely Planet (2013) and the New York Times (2014) as a crucial place to visit to witness, and participate in, its incredible grassroots creative response of adaptive urbanisms. This movement of adaptive urbanism – if it can be called such – has been widely embraced and is now prevalent in Christchurch. But now, as the large-scale commercial government – and developer-led rebuild starts heating up, these grassroots initiatives are having to rethink their strategies, justify their existence and better articulate their reasons for being. This report summarises some key findings of the two-day congress, and its associated events, as edited transcripts, photos and summaries.