Completing the square

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Thorpe, Taylor
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Architecture (Professional)
Unitec Institute of Technology
Schnoor, Christoph
Jadresin-Milic, Renata
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Cathedral Square (Christchurch, N.Z.)
Christchurch (N.Z.)
multipurpose buildings
public spaces
civic centres
Christchurch 2010-2011 earthquakes
Christchurch rebuild
urban regeneration
New Zealand
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Thorpe, T. (2021). Completing the square. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Architecture (Professional)). Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand. Retrieved from
RESEARCH QUESTION: How can new architecture revitalise an urban space while remaining sensitive to its historic significance? ABSTRACT On 22nd February, 2011, a devastating earthquake struck Canterbury that changed the city of Christchurch in an instant. Cathedral Square, the geographic and metaphoric heart of the city, suffered some of the worst damage. ChristChurch Cathedral, a symbol of the city, had fallen, as did many others. Much of the Square’s fabric was lost. Although the Square has seen many changes since its creation by European settlers in 1850, nothing was as dramatic as the changes it suffered on that day. Ten years on from the earthquakes, the Square is still a shell of its former self. Only three new buildings have been constructed, and the process of rebuilding the Cathedral has only just begun. This poses a question: how can new architecture act as an element that revitalises an urban space? With the vitality of the old Square missing, it is in desperate need of life to remain the city’s heart. The theories of Camillo Sitte and Colin Rowe provide a framework from which a response can begin to develop at two scales: an urban masterplan level and a building level. At a building level, Rem Koolhaas’ approach to programme and circulation is investigated through the process of collage and model making. However, there is also another layer to this. How can this new architecture remain significant to the historic qualities of the site? James Strike’s theories on sympathetic design provide a useful tool for analysing the designs response to its context. Aldo Rossi’s The Architecture of the City provides an overarching theoretical framework that links these areas of research together. This project has developed a response that solves several issues that the Square currently faces.
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