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The Wrong Side of the Tracks

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posted on 14.11.2021, 10:56 by Wiesen, Jorle

Christchurch was struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on the 22 February 2011. The quake devastated the city, taking lives and causing widespread damage to the inner city and suburban homes. The central city lost over half its buildings and over 7000 homes were condemned throughout Christchurch. The loss of such a great number of homes has created the requirement for new housing to replace those that were lost. Many of which were located in the eastern, less affluent, suburbs.  The response to the housing shortage is the planned creation of large scale subdivisions on the outskirts of the city. Whilst this provides the required housing it creates additional sprawl to a city that does not need it. The extension of Christchurch’s existing suburban sprawl puts pressure on roading and pushes residents further out of the city, creating a disconnection between them.  Christchurch’s central city had a very small residential population prior to the earthquakes with very few options for dense inner city living. The proposed rebuild of the inner city calls for a new ‘dense, vibrant and diverse central hub’. Proposing the introduction of new residential units within the central city. However the placement of the low-rise housing in a key attribute of the rebuild, the eastern green ‘Frame’, diminishes its value as open green space. The proposed housing will also be restrictive in its target market and therefore the idea of a ‘vibrant’ inner city is difficult to achieve.  This thesis acts as response to the planned rebuild of inner Christchurch. Proposing the creation of a model for inner city housing which provides an alternative option to the proposed housing and existing and ongoing suburban sprawl. The design options were explored through a design-led process were the options were critiqued and developed.  The ‘final’ proposal is comprises of three tall towers, aptly named the Triple Towers, which condense the proposed low-rise housing from an 11000 square metre footprint to combined footprint of 1500 square metres. The result is an expansion of the publicly available green space along the proposed eastern frame of the city. The height of the project challenges the height restrictions and is provocative in its proposal and placement. The design explores the relationships between the occupants, the building, the ‘Frame’ and the central city.  The project is discussed through an exploration of the architecture of Rem Koolhaas, Renzo Piano and Oscar Niemeyer. Rather than their architecture being taken as a direct influence on which the design is based the discussion revolves around how and why each piece of comparative architecture is relevant to the designs desired outcome.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Kebbell, Sam