June 27, 2013


AB: The Human Scale documents that 106,000 ideas were submitted for the Christchurch rebuild. What would be one idea you’d leave for Christchurch?

AD: I think the really interesting story about Christchurch is not the specific ideas that came up, but the fact the citizens became engaged in what kind of city they wanted. Suddenly they had this shared story about what they wanted for their city. Everywhere it’s always a struggle between different interests, economic interests, political interests, and so forth. In Christchurch they managed to create this unified public voice about what they wanted: a low-rise city. There were huge economic interests pushing for that idea not to prevail. But the government wasn’t able to overrule it simply because they would get in so much trouble with the public. So I think the big story of Christchurch is how can you create this public shared story?
AB: Tell me about a strong memory from your visit to Christchurch.

AD: I’ve been one of the few people who were actually able to go in to the red zone and spend time there. Most citizens of Christchurch have been blocked out of the city centre, the red zone, for security reasons. They haven’t been inside their own city centre ever since the earthquake. I was able to move around this dead city, with everything just left the way it was the day of the earthquake. Coffee cups were still standing on the tables, some of them with coffee in them still. Walking around this landscape that was without people, it really made a very strong impression on me, that cities are really about people. Because once the people are not there, it’s just empty; it’s like an empty stage set. There was a really weird, really eerie feeling to walk around this death city. It was an incredible experience.

-- Alexander Bisley talks with Andreas Dalsgaard (The Human Scale, 2013) ahead of its New Zealand Film Festival screenings. Read it at Lumiere Reader.

To produce this spectacle meant colossal engineering works. For 20 years it was dust, dust, dust. Vienna, said the writer Karl Kraus, was being ‘demolished into a great city’.

-- from The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, 2010.
Image from Christchurch City Libraries.