The Pallet Pavilion
December 2012 – May 2014
Gap Filler completed its first temporary architecture BUILD project. Oh my! The Pallet Pavilion was a transitional architecture project that functioned as a community space and venue for events. It was built by volunteer power over 6 weeks in late 2012.
Gap Filler harnessed the goodwill and desire of Christchurch residents and businesses to construct a new temporary events venue for the city. A visually engaging and dynamic space, the Summer Pallet Pavilion was built from over 3000 wooden blue CHEP pallets and was a showcase for the possibilities of innovative transitional architecture in a city that was ready to embrace new ideas.
Designed by emerging designers, supported by established professionals, and built from loaned, reused and donated materials using volunteer, professional and community labour, it was a testament to the effectiveness of a collaborative and community-minded process. That creative ethos continued through its use, as the Pavilion hosted live music, outdoor cinema and a wide range of other events from Thursday to Sunday and was also available for hire by any individual or community organisation at other times.
Dates: December 2012 – May 2014
Skills: Collaboration, constraint and community spirit
Pivnice and ZNO
led by Camia Young with Studio Okan, Sean Belling and Jordon Saunders
Kirsten O’Connor Outlandish Landscapes. Matt Lester Earthwork
Luis Castillo, Mark Willard, David Elliot, Ros So-Beer and Paul Martini – Aurecon.
Andrew Johnston Enlightenz
A Community Venue
Over the summer, the Pallet Pavilion helped to address the city’s need for new small-to-medium sized venues, after the loss of clubrooms and community halls demolished as a result of the earthquakes. Located on the prominent site of the former Crowne Plaza Hotel, at the head of Victoria Square, the Pavilion also aimed to draw people back into Christchurch city, supporting central businesses and promoting the central city as a place for experimentation. It was a family-friendly venue and something uniquely designed for Christchurch!
The Pavilion opened in early December 2012. The blue exterior concealing a secret garden within, its landscaping creatively integrated into the walls and stepped seating. The selection of plants bloomed over the course of the summer. With a capacity of 200 people, the pavilion was open daily as a public space and hosted organised events most evenings. It was equipped with a basic sound system, a small triangular stage and a video projector and screen.
Thursday to Saturday the Pavilion was used largely as a venue for live music in a city that had lost many live music venues. For the rest of the week it was available to the community for a small hire fee. A limited number of paying corporate events contributed to the Pavilion’s ongoing running costs. The general day-to-day programming and running of the venue was done in the first Summer by local father and daughter duo, Amy and Glen Jansen with help from son and brother Guy. For the second Summer, it was operated by Rosaria Ferguson, Rafaela Bolanos, Robbie Lane and Tobin Bain-Hogg. The desire was to create an intriguing and welcoming space for people to visit, spend time and use.
The Role of Volunteers
Volunteer participation was key to the Pallet Pavilion from start to finish. It was woven into the project’s DNA.
The vision for the pavilion was to build a piece of temporary architecture from a modular item with the help of volunteers. This constraint impacted upon the design as it had to allow for unskilled people to put it together and as such had to be simple and safe. The Pavilion was then to live as a community venue, run with the help of volunteers before it was then dismantled. This dismantling would be done by volunteers once again, with the composite elements of the Pavilion returning to where they came (pallets, fruit crates, umbrellas and plants etc) or going on to new uses.
During the life of the project, volunteers kindly gave their time to helping at events, working in the bar or cafe. The on site cafe and bar provided opportunities for young people to gain valuable work experience.
In this way, volunteers and community participation were part of the project at each and every stage and made for a highly successful project.
A Hive of Newly Activated Vacant Space
The Pallet Pavilion sat alongside other interesting projects to create a temporary events square for Christchurch and reinstate public access from Victoria Street to Victoria Square. The now-visible axis between the two is framed by tall arcade structures initiated by Life in Vacant Spaces and the Festival of Transitional Architecture. The Arcades Project has hosted regular markets, an art installation and other outdoor events. In addition, CPIT architectural studies students built a public earthen pizza oven. With the support of the Christchurch City Council the area was brought back to life with a range of activities all summer long.
Collaboration, constraint and community spirit
..the story of the Summer Pallet Pavilion
Remarkably, Gap Filler achieved a project of this scale with a tiny budget and the dedication of only two and a half full-time staff. This was possible only because more than 300 volunteers and 50+ businesses partnered up and offered their time, energy, expertise and enthusiasm. Around 2600 volunteer hours went into this project!!! The Pallet Pavilion was proof that with a shared vision and common goal amazing things are possible! The restrictions of time, budget and resources forced creative solutions, experimentation, and community involvement. ‘Business as usual’ was not an option and we think that was a good thing.
Most of the salvaged and borrowed materials used in the construction were returned and put to future uses after the Pavilion’s deconstruction. The pallets were returned to CHEP and put back into circulation. The Pavilion’s temporary foundation was made up of floor slabs from the demolition of the nearby Clarendon Hotel. The slabs went off to become bridges/ culverts over streams for Canterbury farmers. The furnishings were made from CHEP’s plastic crates, and they are were returned and put back into circulation.
While everyone who came to make this project possible deserves acknowledgment there are a few key figures that deserve a standing ovation and sincere applause for their commitment and contribution. Trent Hiles and Coralie Winn from Gap Filler managed the team, materials and how to actually build the thing! This was done alongside Jason Mill (Pivnice and ZNO) who was responsible for the consent process and overseeing the design through construction. Andrew Just (F3 Design) also provided support through the design and consent process. The pavilion design was lead by the amazingly talented Camia Young along with Sean Belling and Jordon Saunders of Studio Okan. They worked in close collaboration with recent landscape architecture graduate Kirsten O’Connor (Outlandish Landscapes), who was mentored by landscape architect Matt Lester (Earthwork). The magician on the team was the lighting designer, Kevin Cawley (Lighting Design). Aurecon was integral to the design team from the very early days, sponsoring engineering services from Luis Castillo, Mark Willard, David Elliot and Ros So-Beer (structure) and Paul Martini (fire). The lighting engineer was Andrew Johnston (Enlightenz).
Dan Freeman from Higgs Construction and Trent Hiles from Gap Filler took the drawings and a flurry of volunteers and ostensibly effortlessly managed the building process and the materials. Big kids Meccano is how we like to think of it! Sally Airey, Sharon Moreham, Simon Guernsey and Jessica Smale coordinated the influx of volunteers, who collectively offered more than 2500 hours of labour! INCREDIBLE!!! In true Gap Filler fashion we designed and built this project through collaboration and community support.
OK, so WHY on earth...
OK, so WHY on earth would a tiny little organisation like Gap Filler do something that is clearly much too big for them? A mixture of optimism, naivety and bloody-mindedness is the answer.
Gap Filler had been interested in temporary architecture since the early days. There was a real lack of diversity in Christchurch in 2011 and 2012. We had shipping containers, porta-coms, marquees and geo-domes, but that was about it. We wanted to see some more creative, temporary architectural responses. There was the Transitional Cathedral and the ArtBox project was not far from being brought out en mass in the city as part of the BoxedQuarter project.
So, we thought we’d put our money where our mouth was and DO something ourselves. Pallets were chosen because they are readily available and often overlooked or discarded/burnt. They’re modular and strong. And they’re are beautiful en masse. We’ve been inspired by other pallet architecture and design projects from around the world.
We called for Registrations of Interest for the design of the pavilion back in early July 2012. We cobbled together a design team of: an architect, 2 recent architectural graduates, a landscape architecture graduate. To that we added two mentors (architect and landscape architect), structural engineers, a fire engineer and a lighting designer. We had weekly design meetings for months at F3 Design in Sydenham and worked as collaboratively as we could. It’s been great process and rather intense at times! Many things have been learned…
As part of the build, the world’s first endurance drilling championships were held with the 24 Hour Drillathon across November 2nd and 3rd, where volunteers drilled 2 holes in 2000 (ish) pallets from 12pm Friday 2 November until 12pm Saturday 3 November. A little rain interrupted things on Saturday morning, but other than that it was a grand success. And a very strange event!
Adventurers, rebuilders, visionaries, action heroes and all-round enthusiasts were needed who were able and prepared to wield a power drill with a 16mm bit and drill through pallets for a time. Teams of two worked together to locate a jig on an undrilled pallet (the jig ensured the hole was drilled straight); the holes were drilled and the pallet was removed and added to the growing stack; the next pallet collected and placed, jigged, drilled, removed and on it went, for all the pallets.
In return Gap Filler offered a once-in-a-lifetime experience, setting a possible world record, the chance to meet other interesting people, free food and the opportunity to work at 2.47am, drilling and stacking pallets. Mad? You bet!