Goldilocks and the International Backwater: Let’s start at ordinary.

I might have been a bit misleading in my last post – it’s not that the Christchurch Rebuild is short on ideas. But presenting you with a blank canvas was the best way I could think of to illustrate my point: Christchurch is the blank canvas that, actually, all of us need to practice building better cities in the future.


Artists impression of a future Christchurch – the Garden City, elevated.

And we’re going to need better cities. Economic and political reorganisation, urbanisation and population growth, climate change and ecological decline – you only gotta believe in one of them to agree with me.

At first glance (my first glance), Christchurch might be a bit of an international backwater lacking the catastrophe of Fukushima or humanity of Haiti; plenty of other topics you can concentrate your game-changing energy to. And aren’t I just a one-eyed Cantabrian anyway?

But wherever you’re from and whatever your work on, we all need practice for the really mundane task of making generic human cities better – for their people, their economy and their environment. Christchurch doesn’t have the a-typical nuclear disaster of Japan, or the soci-historic legacy of Haiti. We’re a Golidlocks, if you will. Not too small, not too big, not too bad, not too good. You can see how a real reconstruction plays out in a real city, with real human society to contend with (spoiler: it’s messier than you’d think).

So, what if I could show you Christchurch really a giant sandpit of opportunity to think about how we’d redesign and rebuild all those cities? Cities we’re going to have to sooner or later as Major Global Change looms on the horizon. We’re rebuilding our society too – neighbourhoods and boroughs, civic society, business communities: retail, industrial, educational, commercial, recreational. Here’s the reminder that you change one element, and there are fascinating chaos effects.

Like I said a few paragraphs ago, we’re not short on ideas on how to do this, really. As it seems with all big problems and emergent solutions, it’s not coming up with the ideas, it’s “turning ideas into reality”. There’s a reason it’s a clique.

No matter which part of the political or social spectrum you’re from, you’ll agree that the how-to of solving political corruption, child poverty and climate change isn’t wanting for ideas. But we still got ’em – the problems that is. And the ideas. So where do we fall wrong? In a normal, Goldilocks of a city like Christchurch, why can’t we put it all into action?

Maybe if you can answer that, you might be a bit closer to solving that problems that’s on your desk right now, atop your company mission statement, or behind your PhD. Maybe.

Christchurch is a sand-pit for me to. If I want to leave an imprint on the world, this is a pretty good place to practice. So play along side me. If you’re interested in Social Change and Development, Urban Planning and Transport, Private-Public tensions and Business v The Government, Democracy and Civil Society building Green Infrastructure and Green Buildings, or the power of big data, cities full of sensors and truly modern, connected societies, I feel so sure there’s something good to learn here.

So maybe we’ll see that Christchurch is Interesting. Not too big, not too small, just the right place to practice….

Chch Cathedral

The temporary cardboard Christchurch Cathedral, replacing the historical and central Christchurch Cathedral destroyed in the Earthquake.



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