Christchurch’s new city waterfront is transforming how people engage with the city and Te Papa Ōtakaro/Avon River. Architect Craig South explores this exciting addition to the central city.
It was a day for celebration and discovery when Christchurch’s new City Promenade opened on 25 November with a scavenger hunt, live music, face painting and eel feeding. A few weeks before the official opening I was lucky enough to be invited on a tour of the new waterfront on the north side of Te Papa Ōtakaro/Avon River between Christchurch Hospital and Manchester Street/the Margaret Mahy Family Playground. It is a key part of Te Papa Ōtakaro/Avon River Precinct.
Seeing the new riverside up close is inspiring. I can’t speak highly enough of the design that features broad, well-designed paving. In pre-quake days, few would have braved the river’s grassy banks but the City Promenade can today be safely and easily accessed by people of all physical abilities and ages.
How we interact with this part of the city is going to change as a result. Instead of just driving through it, people can now enjoy a leisurely walk or cycle along the river. My recent tour of the area gave me a fresh appreciation of how lucky we are to have such a beautiful natural environment in the heart of our city. Vehicle traffic will likely dwindle through the streets next to the river as more people embrace the waterfront. Activities such as riverside entertainment and market stalls will no doubt evolve in response to the City Promenade.
The rebuild provided an opportunity for Ngāi Tūāhuriri/Ngāi Tahu identity to truly become a part of the city and it’s great to see how this has been woven into the river precinct. A self-guided walk has been created to highlight Ngā Whāriki Manaaki – Woven Mats of Welcome, a series of 13 weaving patterns adapted for the riverside using stone pavers of varying shades and colours.
They reference the whakamanuhiri process of welcome and support the Ngāi Tahu guiding principle of the rebuild, ‘Kia atawhai ki te iwi’, (care for your people). The designs were made by expert weavers Reihana Parata, QSM and Morehu Flutey-Henare, Master of Applied Indigenous Knowledge with technical support from artist Wayne Youle, Bachelor of Design. Personally, I feel moved and impressed by the Whāriki, which so eloquently embed mana whenua history and values in the city.
My walking tour was a real journey of discovery: altogether, the City Promenade includes 34 artworks and various site-specific displays/information. Around 500 trees, 29,000 plants and 600,000 pavers went into its creation. The river winds by the Canterbury Earthquake Memorial and the Bridge of Remembrance. It passes by The Terrace hospitality hub and the Riverside Farmers’ Market site, the Convention Centre, Victoria Square and the North Frame to the Margaret Mahy Playground. It goes without saying that this is a wonderful walk for families.
Te Papa Ōtakaro/Avon River Precinct simultaneously rolls out a welcome while leaving room for introspection and reflection and encouraging a spirit of exploration. Personally, I got a lot out of my day on the waterfront. If you have friends and whānau/family visiting over summer, I recommend taking them to see it so they can experience a unique Christchurch welcome.