Monthly Archives: August 2013

Keep Our Town Hall

This is a letter that was just sent to a group of people supporting the retention of the Christchurch Town Hall.

Dear Keep Our Town Hall supporters.

We have reached a critical point in the effort to stop the demolition of the Town Hall.  The Council is meeting on Thursday to make a decision, and this is likely to be the final one.  An extraordinary campaign is being run by The Press in favour of full (or partial) demolition.  I have counted around 14 articles as either editorials or opinion pieces in the last month arguing for the demolition.   The supporters of the Town Hall have not been able to get a single article to articulate the views in favour of it. We now face the very real possibility of losing the vote on Thursday.

With this in mind I ask that if you want your voice to be heard as part of the campaign, can you please take the opportunity to email the Councilors who are voting on the issue.    The email addresses for the 13 councilors and the Mayor are:

barry.corbett@ccc.govt.nz,

bob.parker@ccc.govt.nz,

claudia.reid@ccc.govt.nz,

glenn.livingstone@ccc.govt.nz,

helen.broughton@ccc.govt.nz,

jamie.gough@ccc.govt.nz,

jimmy.chen@ccc.govt.nz,

ngaire.button@ccc.govt.nz,

peter.beck@ccc.govt.nz,

sally.buck@ccc.govt.nz,

sue.wells@ccc.govt.nz,

tim.carter@ccc.govt.nz,

yani.johanson@ccc.govt.nz,

You can just copy and past all there addresses into one email. The vote is first thing Thursday morning, so I think the emails need to be sent either today or tomorrow so there is time for the Councillors to read them.   (please also bcc us: keepourtownhall@gmail.com)

Update

Recent articles about the Town Hall can be found here:

Ian Lochhead: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/perspective/8823394/Symbol-of-great-innovation

Barnaby Bennett: http://info.scoop.co.nz/Barnaby_Bennett

Since we last emailed you in March the key development is that a large rebuild cost-sharing agreement between the local Christchurch City Council and the Government was signed in late June.   The result of these negotiations was that the development of Town Hall and Arts Precinct was handed over to the Council to continue (along with the Library and Stadium).

Initially this was greeted with some positivity by those working to protect the Town Hall as the Council has been consistent in it efforts to keep it, most notably in the unanimous decision last November.

The Council staff have been working on options for the full retention for the past 9 months and these were presented to the councilors at a workshop a few weeks ago.
The Council were to vote on this, but the campaign by the Press and some members of the business and arts community have been vociferously calling for a reconsideration of the decision to keep the Town Hall.  This is based on the legally questionable idea that the insurance money from the Town Hall can simply be transferred to a new arts precinct.  The Press is arguing for the complete demolition of the Town Hall and for all the funding to go towards a new arts centre on the south side of the river, and others are asking for the demolition of all but the auditorium, with the remaining $80 million (or less) to go to the new arts precinct.

Sir Miles Warren, Ian Lochhead and Barnaby Bennett presented to the  Council’s Community, Recreation, and Culture committee last week, and the committee recommended the full retention option to the full Council.  However the pressure has really turned up this week, so it is likely some Councillors will turn.

Our main points are:

  1. The Council has already consulted on this and there is widespread community support for the full retention.
  2. The Council itself has already unanimously voted in favour of full retention.
  3. It is a heritage one listed building and the Council would be breaking its own guidelines to vote in favour of even partial demolition.
  4. The money to repair, and upgrade, the building has already been budgeted and approved as part of the Councils Three year plan.
  5. There is now reasonable cost certainty over the price of the repairs, and the total includes fees and many large contingencies for unforeseen cost increases.
  6. The building is a civic building and so the idea of demolishing it to make way for an arts precinct is culturally questionable.
  7.  It is an internationally recognized, and gold medal award winning, building of great quality.  In the context of a city that has lost 80% of its down town buildings and over half of its heritage listed stock it would be an travesty to add this building to the rubbish heap.
  8. The cost includes a full upgrade to current fire, structural, and services standards.  The acoustic improvement of the James Hay is also included and some previous issues with accessibility.

Even if you have already written to us or the council in support it is important to remind them again. If you have the time please do write a few comments about why you think the Town Hall should not be demolished, this is a critical moment.

Thanks you for your contribution to saving this important and amazing building. We can hopefully come back with good news on friday!

Regards

Keep our Town Hall group

Sir Miles Warren

Maurice Mahoney

Dr. Ian Lochhead.

Duncan Craig

Dr. Jessical Hallliday

Barnaby Bennett

 

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Voices for Equity in the Profession.

It is the last week to provide feedback to a set of important gender equity guidelines being developed in Australia for the architecture profession.

The commentary and resources published by Parlour and their researchers are formidable, and their conference Transform earlier this year was the most engaging I had been to in a long time. Parlour is probably the most important and articulate voice in the profession right now, and they want to talk to you.

It’s immediately clear that a great deal of care, experience, and intelligence has gone into these guidelines. I believe Neph Wake and Naomi Stead are to thank for the hard yards in producing these documents (please correct me if I’m wrong), which is yet another significant outcome of the parent project ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work and Leadership’ funded by the Australian Research Council through the Linkage Projects scheme, made so much more accessible thanks to Parlour, edited by the “effective” Justine Clark. (This wonderfully cryptic and completely deserved title was recently used to introduce Justine).

They explain:

The Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice are being developed to help architectural workplaces facilitate change towards a more equitable profession. Aimed both at employers and employees, the guidelines will address the specificities of small, medium, large and regional practice. They will provide hints and tips, and guides to thinking on a range of issues relevant to the architecture profession in Australia today.

As tailored as these are for the culture of the architecture profession, these really have relevance to all workplaces, so if these issues ring true, regardless of your professional penchant, I’d recommend a good sit down with these.

The ten Draft Guidelines address:

1. Pay equity: Moving towards equal pay between women and men in architecture.

2. Leadership: How to promote and support women to senior roles in architecture.

3. Recruitment: Equitable recruitment and hiring diverse talent in architecture.

4. Mentorship: Mentors, sponsors and career champions in architecture.

5. Negotiation: Negotiating flexible working conditions in architecture.

6. Long hours: Challenging the long-hours culture in architecture.

7. Part-time: Meaningful part-time work in architecture.

8. Flexibility: Making flexible patterns work in architecture.

9. Career break: Returning from parental leave and other career breaks in architecture.

10. Registration: Supporting women who choose to register in as architects.

11… Parlour also offers suggestions for other areas they haven’t already addressed.

 

If you can, these drafted guidelines should be devoured at length, they are highly addictive and very readable. Even if you take a crack at two or three of the issues close to you heart, it’s worth offering your contribution this way as the online form below allows specific feedback to each individual theme, so every bit counts.

You can download the Draft Guidelines here, and link to the feedback form on that page. Following consultation, the finalised Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice will be published later this year.

www.archiparlour.org

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Festival of Transitional Architecture 2013: Expressions of interest.

After the successful launch of Christchurch: The Transitional City at last years festival Freerange is beaming with joy to be again involved with this year’s Festival of Transitional Architecture (FESTA).  We are going to launch our Journal Freerange Vol.7: The Commons at the event!

Please put these dates in your calendar and book your tickets, the festival occurs over a packed long weekend and the programme is looking amazing.

FESTA has put a call out for Expressions of Interest to to involved with this years event.

Idea’s for project, performances, publications, or events due this Friday!

Expressions of Interest

We welcome expressions of interest from those wishing to present a transitional project or event during the Festival of Transitional Architecture (25-28 October 2013). 

The first and only festival of its kind in the world, the annual Festival of Transitional Architecture is a free, public event that engages with the city of Christchurch (New Zealand) by exploring urban regeneration through large scale collaborative projects and interventions.

We would love to hear what you could bring to transform Christchurch’s urban environment. To find out more about this opportunity, please download the Expressions of Interest document or contact info@festa.org.nz

Make sure you have a look at our updated website and the fantastic photos from last year’s headline event, LUXCITY: http://festa.org.nz/luxcity

 

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NZ Barn Owl Bird-of-the-Year Poster Brief

Freerange is supporting the annual Bird of the Year  competition which launches at the end of September and run by Forest and Bird New Zealand.

http://www.birdoftheyear.org.nz/

Our task is to get as many people as possible to vote for the bird that we are supporting: The New Zealand Barn Owl.

The NZ Barn Owl is New Zealand’s newest native bird.  It is not uncommon for the Barn Owl to make their way here occasionally, or to get blown over in storms from Australia, but it is only recently that a few pairs have started breeding.  Freerange supports the rights of immigrants so we say we should acknowledge and welcome our new feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic (warm-blooded), egg-laying, vertebrate avian friends.

It’d be rude not to, eh?

Barn_owl_darrelbirkett

Information about our little hero is here:

Forest and Bird.

Wingspan.

NZ Birds online.

Poster Competition.

As part of the general profile raising that we are tasked with for this project a poster is needed.

So this is a call out to ALL designers, (and non-designers) that Freerange is running a small competition to come up with the best poster to support our goal of getting the Barn Owl to be the favourite NZ bird of the year.

The winning entry will receive: $50 cold-hard cash, and a subscription to Freerange Journal.

Brief.

1. The brief is to design an a colour A3 poster.

2. It needs a a punchy one line sentence/tagline (no longer than 15 words) that sums up why people should vote for the Barn Owl.

3. Poster needs to be given to the Bird of the Year campaign on the 15th of September. So we are closing our competition on the 10th of September.

4. The poster needs to be 300 dpi and version in both CMYK and RBG as it will be both printed and used online.

5. This url needs to be on it: www.birdoftheyear.org.nz

6. email me and I’ll send you the photos of the BarnOwl Forest and Bird have given us, and the freerange logo.  (barnaby@projectfreerange.com)

Examples of previous posters are:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/33450140@N03/sets/72157631770313710/

Questions and Submissions to:

Barnaby@projectfreerange.com

BarnOwl_TonySutton

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Why a completely new Arts Precinct in Christchurch is a stupid idea.

The local newspaper the Press has recently published several articles (here, here, and here) arguing why it is in the best interests of the city to demolish the Town Hall and put the insurance money into a new arts precinct.  I think this is a very misinformed view that seems to be based almost entirely on information from press releases from the office of Gerry Brownlee.   I’d ask that if The Press is going to weigh in with a strong editorial position on the city, they should, at the least, do their homework.  This article argues the case against a new large arts precinct.

[I would like to compare the editorialising of the Press to a recent article in the NZ Herald  about the St. James building in Auckland. It consists of actual research, interviews, and factual information.]

In my view any decision to demolish the Christchurch Town Hall is more than likely to lead to a new development that will: A. take longer to build than it will to repair the current Town Hall, B. be more expensive, and C. be of a lower quality.

Before explaining these a little bit of background:

In the middle of 2012 the government launched its blueprint for the city, and one of the anchor projects in this blueprint was a new arts precinct.  This precinct was based on an assumption that the Town Hall was unrepairable, and that the $70 million dollars of insurance money from this should go to the new arts precinct.

In November last year the Christchurch City Council was asked to vote on whether they would pay for the full repair of the building which was estimated to be around $127 million dollars.   After some public discussion and lobbying by groups (including one I am part of) who argued for the unique heritage, arts, and civic values of the building, the council voted unanimously (!) to pay for the full repair.  The decision was based on overwhelming support for the retention of the building in the public submission for council city plan.

The Minister in charge of Earthquake Reconstruction, Gerry Brownlee, was obviously unhappy with the decision and said all sorts of half-truths to undermine the decision (which I have previously commented on here and here). In the large cost-sharing agreement between the council and CERA that was announced in July, the Town Hall and the Arts Precinct have been passed from CERA to the Council to develop (with ultimate approval from the Minister).

A short time after this cost sharing agreement the Council ran a full public meeting about the Town Hall and the Arts Precinct outlining the work they have been doing and their recommendations.   On Tuesday the 14th of August the plans and costings for the new recommendations were made public and presented to the elected councillors.  The recommendation is that the Christchurch Town Hall is fully repaired at a cost of around $127.5 million which includes large contingencies, and around $40 million to be spent on a new arts precinct to house space for the CSO, new Court Theatre, and the Christchurch Centre for Music.

Contrary to some commentary there has been very clear decision-making about this from the Councils position.  In November last year they voted, based on popular support and expert opinion, to keep the building. This year staff members and consultants have been working on: A. what needs repairing, B. what needs upgrading. C. how long it will take, and D. How much this will cost.

A ‘final’ vote will be made by council on the 29th of this August to pick which option to proceed with.

All this information can be downloaded here from the council. [full status of Christchurch Town Hall and Arts Precinct Projects]

I would like to make a note comparing the clarity and rigour of this process with the complete opacity of the other CERA led projects.  We don’t even know the brief for the other projects like the public river park, the convention centre, or the stadium.

To explain my claim that demolishing the Town Hall and replacing it with anew precinct will lead to a slower, more expensive, and lower quality outcome here is a better explanation:

Note: The following points are made on some assumption that if we are going to knock down a world-class building we need to replace it with something of equivalent quality.   I have based my comparison on recent world-class concert halls.  We currently have an internationally recognized venue (with full repair plan and money set aside to pay for it) so it’s fair to compare to the equivalent contemporary projects.  (I’d be interested to see any examples that provide counter arguments.)

A. The executive director of the CSO Richard Ballantyne was in the paper this week stating that the 4-year repair is too long and will affect the running of the CSO.   Does he really think a new arts precinct, for which the land is not even purchased and the brief isn’t even written yet will be ready in less than four years?   History doesn’t support him.

  • The Christchurch Town Hall itself was built on time and under budget and took 6 years from Warren and Mahoney winning the competition till opening.  It opened in 1972.
  • The Copenhagen Concert Hall is smaller than the Town Hall and took 6 years to construct.  (From start of construction, so doesn’t include the long design and pre-construction processes).  This building opened in 2009.
  • The Disney Concert Hall in L.A took 15 years to construct.   (The car-park alone cost $110 million and took 9 years!) The building was constructed between 1999 and 2003.
  • The Casa Da Musica in Lisbon by OMA took 6 years from the announcement of the winner of the design competition, and was opened in 2005.

These examples illustrate that it is naïve to think we can have a new world-class facility within four years. Especially when this is going to be happening in the middle the biggest building boom in NZ history.

B. $160 million dollars sounds like a lot of money.  It is a lot of money.  It really is a lot of money. $127.5 million to fix a building is a lot of money.  But the critical point that needs to be stressed here is that $160 million isn’t much for a world-class facility to be constructed (esp. in the middle of a construction boom). The costs for the buildings mentioned above are: Copenhagen Concert Hall (which is smaller than the Town Hall) was US$300 million dollars, the Disney Concert Hall was US$274 million, and the Casa Da Mucisa cost 500 milllion euros (the amount it went over budget was the total amount we would have to build a new building).   The idea that we can get a facility anywhere near the class of what we have already for this money is deeply questionable.  Demolishing a great building and then trying to quickly and cheaply get a new facility up and running is recipe for cultural ruin.

The CERA led campaign to demolish the Town Hall frequently states that the ground quality below the Town Hall is ‘the worst in the city’.  It did suffer from lateral spread and this has damaged the building.  However the proposed site of the new arts precinct is in worse condition and will be an expensive exercise to build there.  The engineers have come up with an injection method which will stabilise the ground and bring the building up to 100% of contemporary code.

C.   There is a commonly used project management rule of thumb that a project can be delivered quickly, cheaply, and to a high quality, but that you can only get one or two of these aspects, not all three.  The task of managing a project is to pick the most appropriate factors (after the quakes, speed was obviously the most important factor). Given the obvious need to get good quality venues into the city, speed is important, and given that we have only $160 million to spend on a building, budget is a problem.  This leaves the obvious conclusion that quality will be the first victim of this process.  Given that we have a quality building already in the city it seems obvious that demolishing an existing project is not wise.  (And that’s not even accounting for the important heritage and civic value of the building).

The Town Hall was innovative when it was built in 1972.  It is an exemplary building of a global architectural movement. The acoustics were the first of its kind and have been copied around the world.  It is an award winning, internationally recognized, and important building.  You might think it is ugly. That’s fine.  It has more international status than any other building in the country.   The new plans developed by the firm Warren and Mahoney, in conjunction with the original architects, upgrades the building to all new fire, services, and earthquake codes.  Problems such as the back stage entry and accessibility will be fixed with new extensions and interventions.  This is not just a repair but a major upgrade of the building. Buildings age and the demands on them change with time, so the opportunity to spend substantial sums adapting this building for another 50 or 100 years of use is a great one.  In my mind the question should not be whether we demolish and start again, but how to best adapt the Town Hall for future use.

It is easy to put up a nice argument and say we can have our old tired Town Hall or a new shiny arts precinct.   But its more accurate to say we can have a repaired, refurbished, modernized Town Hall that we know is a world class facility, or we can take a huge risk of hoping for some design and construction miracle to deliver something quickly with little money of the same quality.

The whole mantra of this reconstruction is that we are building for future generations, and this means we have to be prudent and wise with our decisions and not make big risky gambles.

Note: My last comment would be that we should now turn our attention to making sure the smaller $40 million dollar arts precinct fulfills its potential.   We need to make sure that it is a public facility that supports the arts across the whole city. I worry that it is becoming home to a few large organisations and won’t support a wider accessibility to arts. The brief for this new centre is based off an audit done by CCDU in secret that is not publically available.  So we are making $40 million dollar decisions on information citizens can’t access. It’s crazy.

The CCDU have actually done a bit of a dirty job with the arts precinct, and given them a bit of land south of the river between Gloucester and Armagh to use for this project.  The land north of Armagh would have been much better in my opinion. It would have had north facing river frontage, be next to Victoria Square, which will be something of a cultural centre, and would be next to the Town Hall.  Again, this is the type of strange decision-making happening in this city. Major urban planning decisions being made by an organisation with no public accountability.

Perhaps the Press should be concentrating on the radical lack of public input into urban planning in this city rather than lobbying for the demolition of our cultural heritage?

Recommendations:

  1. We need a proper audit of the arts needs of the city to see what the city needs and how the council can best assist that with facilities.
  2. The function of James Hay theatre should be reviewed and perhaps requires a radically different design that offers more variety and easy reconfiguration.
  3. The CCC should be lobbying CERA to get the piece of land next to the river so the arts precinct can be close to the Town Hall and designed around the river.
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Boycott the Russian Olympics

Copied below is an open letter written by Stephen Fry to the British Prime Minister.   The same letter deserves to be written to the leaders of all countries attending the Russian Olympics.  Please read it for it is an extraordinary piece of writing that explains an issue that deserves utmost attention. 

Dear Prime Minister, M Rogge, Lord Coe and Members of the International Olympic Committee,

I write in the earnest hope that all those with a love of sport and the Olympic spirit will consider the stain on the Five Rings that occurred when the 1936 Berlin Olympics proceeded under the exultant aegis of a tyrant who had passed into law, two years earlier, an act which singled out for special persecution a minority whose only crime was the accident of their birth. In his case he banned Jews from academic tenure or public office, he made sure that the police turned a blind eye to any beatings, thefts or humiliations afflicted on them, he burned and banned books written by them. He claimed they “polluted” the purity and tradition of what it was to be German, that they were a threat to the state, to the children and the future of the Reich. He blamed them simultaneously for the mutually exclusive crimes of Communism and for the controlling of international capital and banks. He blamed them for ruining the culture with their liberalism and difference. The Olympic movement at that time paid precisely no attention to this evil and proceeded with the notorious Berlin Olympiad, which provided a stage for a gleeful Führer and only increased his status at home and abroad. It gave him confidence. All historians are agreed on that. What he did with that confidence we all know.

Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law. Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment. It is simply not enough to say that gay Olympians may or may not be safe in their village. The IOC absolutely must take a firm stance on behalf of the shared humanity it is supposed to represent against the barbaric, fascist law that Putin has pushed through the Duma. Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions. Let us realise that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics. The idea that sport and politics don’t connect is worse than disingenuous, worse than stupid. It is wickedly, wilfully wrong. Everyone knows politics interconnects with everything for “politics” is simply the Greek for “to do with the people”.

An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillehammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.

He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it. I know whereof I speak. I have visited Russia, stood up to the political deputy who introduced the first of these laws, in his city of St Petersburg. I looked into the face of the man and, on camera, tried to reason with him, counter him, make him understand what he was doing. All I saw reflected back at me was what Hannah Arendt called, so memorably, “the banality of evil.” A stupid man, but like so many tyrants, one with an instinct of how to exploit a disaffected people by finding scapegoats. Putin may not be quite as oafish and stupid as Deputy Milanov but his instincts are the same. He may claim that the “values” of Russia are not the “values” of the West, but this is absolutely in opposition to Peter the Great’s philosophy, and against the hopes of millions of Russians, those not in the grip of that toxic mix of shaven headed thuggery and bigoted religion, those who are agonised by the rolling back of democracy and the formation of a new autocracy in the motherland that has suffered so much (and whose music, literature and drama, incidentally I love so passionately).

I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.

“All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” so wrote Edmund Burke. Are you, the men and women of the IOC going to be those “good” who allow evil to triumph?

The Summer Olympics of 2012 were one of the most glorious moments of my life and the life of my country. For there to be a Russian Winter Olympics would stain the movement forever and wipe away any of that glory. The Five Rings would finally be forever smeared, besmirched and ruined in the eyes of the civilised world.

I am begging you to resist the pressures of pragmatism, of money, of the oily cowardice of diplomats and to stand up resolutely and proudly for humanity the world over, as your movement is pledged to do. Wave your Olympic flag with pride as we gay men and women wave our Rainbow flag with pride. Be brave enough to live up to the oaths and protocols of your movement, which I remind you of verbatim below.

Rule four: Cooperate with the competent public or private organisations and authorities in the endeavour to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace.

Rule six: Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement.

Rule 15: Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education.

I especially appeal to you, Prime Minister, a man for whom I have the utmost respect. As the leader of a party I have for almost all of my life opposed and instinctively disliked, you showed a determined, passionate and clearly honest commitment to LGBT rights and helped push gay marriage through both houses of our parliament in the teeth of vehement opposition from so many of your own side. For that I will always admire you, whatever other differences may lie between us. In the end I believe you know when a thing is wrong or right. Please act on that instinct now.

Yours in desperate hope for humanity

Stephen Fry

This post first appeared on www.stephenfry.com

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