Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (97.75 MB)

Urban Trauma: The contemporary square and the New Urbanist city - Reintegrating Christchurch Cathedral Square

Download (97.75 MB)
posted on 2021-11-14, 03:11 authored by Chalmers, Benjamin J.

This topic was chosen in response to the devastation caused to Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand following earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Working amongst the demolition bought to attention questions about how to re-conceive the square within the rebuilt city. In particular, it raised questions as to how a central square could be better integrated and experienced as a contemporary addition to Christchurch city. This thesis seeks to investigate the ways in which central squares can be better integrated with the contemporary city and how New Urbanist design principles can contribute toward this union. The research principally focuses on the physical and spatial integration of the square with the contemporary city. A drawing-based analysis of select precedent case studies helped to determine early on that overall integration of the contemporary square could be attributed to several interdependent criteria. The detailed studies are supplemented further with literature-based research that narrowed the criteria to five integrative properties. These are: identity, scale and proportion, use, connectivity and natural landscape. These were synthesised, in part, from the integrative New Urbanist movement and the emerging integrative side of the more contemporary Post Urbanist movement. The literature-based research revealed that a more inclusive approach toward New Urbanist and Post Urbanist design methodologies may also produce a more integrated and contemporary square. Three design case studies, using the redesign of Cathedral Square, were undertaken to test this hypothesis. The case studies found that overall, integration was reliant on a harmonious balance between the five integrative properties, concluding that squares can be better integrated with the contemporary city. Further testing of the third concept, which embraced an allied New Urbanist / Post Urbanist approach to design, found that New Urbanism was limited in its contribution toward the integration of the square.


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


McDonald, Chris