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The Most Potent Unifying Force: Using Architecture to Reflect the Essence of Sport in the Post-Disaster Context

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posted on 2021-12-07, 01:20 authored by Lewis, Arran

Natural disasters have immense impacts on the physical environment but they also affect communities and individuals on a widespread mental level. Disasters disrupt personal and community identity, sense of belonging and connection to the physical built environment. On the 14th of November, 2016, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the provincial New Zealand town of Kaikoura. The earthquake took the lives of 2 people and caused significant damage to buildings and homes, displacing many families and affecting many of the local businesses. Of significant impact was the damage to State Highway 1, that resulted in the roads in and out of Kaikoura being closed making travel to the north and south much more difficult and time consuming than before the event. For most of the community, their everyday rhythms and routines had been completely compromised as they adapted to their new post disaster environment.  The characteristics of sport, both through participating and spectating, have the ability to address the negative impacts of disasters making it an effective tool for disaster recovery. Sport as a support mechanism allows victims of disasters, where for many, sport will be a regular everyday rhythm, to shift their focus of attention from the experiences of loss to finding elements of normalcy in their lifestyles and routines; experiencing familiar bodily functions and re-establishing community identity and personal belonging. Sport in provincial New Zealand is culturally intrinsic and the effects of it not being as available can negatively impact personal and community identity.   Sport facilities are often the platform for which many community relationships and networks are created and it is not often that sport is disassociated from the venue it occurs in because of the shared memories and experiences that become embedded through its subconscious fabric. In response to discovering the role of sport as a tool for community resilience, a design led investigation will test how that role can be reflected through architecture. This will be in the form of a community centre that gravitates around sport in Kaikoura. Focussing on the unifying and supportive characteristics of community sport, ideas generated through a workshop in Kaikoura, rather than the traditional pragmatics and efficiency of sports facilities, this design proposal will aim to capture this role in an area recovering from a significant natural disaster.  The small coastal town of Kaikoura was selected as the site for the design research as it continues its recovery from the earthquake. The area lost two of its primary sporting facilities; the community swimming pool and high school gym that was used by many community groups outside of the high school. The closures to State Highway 1 meant that the ability to participate in sport, especially for younger generations, was effectively cut off and that as a consequence the role that sport could play in their recovery was compromised, with invisible effects. The risk also exists that intergenerational sport in Kaikoura could die as a result.  This research portfolio will conclude with a final design outcome that aims to reflect and facilitate the concepts generated through community intervention and refined through design, illustrating how the role of sport as a tool for resilience can be translated into architecture. The proposal works with the idea of creating a more resilient Kaikoura through a community sports centre in the town but also has the opportunity to serve as a future disaster centre and a community focal point and tourist destination.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture (Professional)

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Potangaroa, Regan