Is there a gap to fill outside your office?

What’s it like outside your workplace? What’s your view and what’s to do? Lots? Not a lot? If not, what can you do about that?

Man playing a piano painted in bright colours outside in an empty section

A Musical Gap Filler

I’ve found that when working with these companies, it is often hard to encourage staff to go out for a walk at lunchtime because the immediate surroundings can be quite unpleasant. There are large concrete factories, sometimes emitting unpleasant smells, noisy workshops, large trucks moving up and down the road creating both noxious fumes and noise – hardly an inviting place to go for a walk! Previously, many central city workers would walk down to eat their lunch on the river banks or meet up with friends at a cafe with street side tables.

So, with these thoughts in mind, I went along with interest to one of the lunchtime talks on urban design being held as part of the Studio Christchurch summer school at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT).

Studio Christchurch is a collaborative Christchurch based research and design platform for architecture and related disciplines. The vision of an exemplary Christchurch rebuild is seen as a shared opportunity to bring together tertiary institutions, local industries, the profession and governmental bodies. It was mainly students that attended the lunchtime talk which was a shame as there was some interesting material many of us already in the workplace could have benefited from hearing.

Word cloud full of words relating to urban planning

Urban planning thoughts

Urban designer, Andrew Russell from Aurecon explained about the approach that urban designers now take, emphasising that it is essential in any larger scale development to have a ‘masterplan’ which integrates individual projects together. I liked the holistic approach of looking at “Who is going to be using this space? For what purpose? How can it be sustainable? How does it fit in with the surroundings? And, who else do we involve in this process to get the best result?”. End users may sometimes be involved in the process, but not so often for public spaces. This made me realise how lucky we have been in Christchurch to have the Share an Idea opportunities right at the beginning planning stages for rebuilding our city post quake. Whether some of these ideas are abandoned because of cost constraints remains to be seen.

The second speaker was Coralie Winn who developed and continues to facilitate the Gap Filler projects. Gap Filler ideas have come from the community wanting to brighten up overgrown and empty sites throughout the central city following the earthquakes.

A Gap Filler poster and colourful cartoon picture of a girl in a bright red dress up on a fence next to a quaken section in Christchurch

Always He Tangata

Any Gap Filler project has had to rely on volunteer labour, donated materials and time to become a reality, but the fact that there are a large number of these projects around the city (and still growing), is proof that ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. The small pockets of cheerful, colourful and sometimes slightly bizarre gap fillers – brightly painted benches, book exchanges in old chiller cabinets, old pianos, again brightly painted and free to play – add an unexpected and encouraging visual delight to otherwise barren areas of the city. It’s these fun and enjoyable spaces which will encourage people to get out and go for a walk, get some fresh air, more oxygen to the brain, Vitamin D on the skin, as well as some exercise – great for the body, great for the brain.

So if your workplace surroundings are less inviting or inspiring than you would like, get creative and  think about what could enhance them. What difference might you be able to make? However small it might be – as Coralie has shown us…even something little can fill a mighty big gap.

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