Pallet Pavilion

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. It was a fully consented built structure and unlike anything else in Christchurch at the time and existed for two summers before being deconstructed.

A temporary structure made with love

The 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. The capacity of the venue was 200 people.

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.


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!

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. 




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, shade 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.

Who, what, where, when

Date: Ocotber 2012 – May 2014

Locations:  70 Kilmore Street, City

Client/Funder: Christchurch City Council

Key people: Camia Young, Jason Mill, Andrew Just, Matt Lester, Sean Belling, Jordon Saunders, Luis Castillo, Mark Willard, Rose So-Beer, David Elliot, Paul Martini, Andrew Johnston, Dan Freeman, Kevin Cawley, Simon Gurnsey, Sally Airey, Jess Smale, Sharon Moreham and many more!

Values: Experimentation, Collaboration, Resourcefulness

Support/Sponsors: Aotea Electric, Aurecon, Steel & Tube, CHEP, City Care, Daikin, Beaver Landscapes, Outlandish Landscapes, ZNO, Higgs Construction, Marley, Waterforce

Volunteers: More than 500 and too many to name. Thank you.

Remarkable resourcefulness! 

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 500 volunteers and 50+ businesses partnered up and offered their time, energy, expertise and enthusiasm to the project. 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 at the end of the project. The furnishings were made from CHEP’s plastic crates, and they are were returned and put back into circulation. Plants were donated, umbrellas were sold, scrap wood was kept for future use, rebar was put to use for other projects and so on.


An incredible crew – we salute you!

While everyone who came to make this project possible deserves acknowledgment there are a few key figures that deserve a standing ovation for their contribution. Trent Hiles and Coralie Winn from Gap Filler managed the team, sourcing 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 led 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) who brough the paivlion to life at night.  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. Ka pai!


I immersed myself in the project, working alongside a vast team of volunteers, who all shared the feeling of stewardship which grew from bringing the venue to life.  It provided an arena where the community felt at liberty to meet and create events, it became a hub for idea makers, and granted people freedom of control over a project in a city where so much of it’s reshaping seemed taken out of their hands.

Anita Gann