Pop Up Public Art in Christchurch

boxparkOn 22nd February 2011, Christchurch New Zealand, was hit by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake. It caused widespread devastation and killed 185 people.

It was recently the five year anniversary and a number of news stories reflected on what has occurred since the earthquake in New Zealand’s second biggest city.

The rebuild is set to cost an estimated NZ$40bn and has been faced with criticism in its efforts and timescale. Despite this, as The Guardian reported, ‘residents in Christchurch say it [the earthquake] has also given them a chance to thoroughly examine and debate what they want from their new home, and allowed creativity and innovation to flourish’.

Accordingly, a number of charitable organisations have worked with the notion of creativity in Christchurch since the earthquake. Gap Filler, an initiative described as  ‘filling the gaps of Christchurch with pop up creative projects’ suggest that ‘before the quake, people thought of Christchurch as quite conservative, but now the opportunities have given people a blank canvas, if nothing else, and people are very open minded about what the spaces could be.’

Similarly, Greening the Rubble – a charity providing parks and outdoor community spaces on empty land in the city state that ‘‘…art is even more important after traumatic events. You can’t always put into words how you feel.’

Throughout Christchurch, this notion of a new lease of life through creativity is clearly evident.  Despite the fact the centre is filled with the sound of drills and shells of former buildings, there is pop up artwork and creativity around every corner. Exploring the city is a sensory voyage involving immersion in new and emerging public art and sculpture.

Reflection of Loss of Lives, Livelihoods and Living in Neighbourhood is an installation by Peter Majendie consisting of 185 white chairs. Representing each of the 185 people who died in the earthquake, each chair is different and reflects a bold memorial to the loss Christchurch experienced.  Visitors are invited to sit on the chairs and take time to reflect.


The Transitional Cathedral is a temporary space for worship and reflection as the city’s cathedral was severely damaged in the earthquake.  Designed by the architect Shigeru Ban, the Transitional Cathedral is made out of cardboard and seats up to 700 people.


Shipping containers are a common sight around Christchurch. They have been, and still are, used to block entrance to dangerous areas and hold up semi fallen buildings in the city. However, since October 2011, they have also been used as part of Re: START – a unique retail space consisting of temporary buildings made from shipping containers. The space also consists of a multi-media attraction named ‘Quake City’ which tells stories of Christchurch’s earthquakes.

The inclusion of creativity and art in the process of rebuilding Christchurch is uplifting, and allows for the injection of colour, imagination and vibrancy juxtaposed with rubble and construction. It has built new spaces for people to enjoy, rebuilt new places of worship and importance and allowed for an expressive way to work through the grief and impact of such a traumatic event. Christchurch highlights the importance of public art and creativity within the process of healing and will remain visible as the city rebuilds.