The Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 caused substantial damage to land and buildings in the Christchurch area, with significant ongoing psychosocial impacts on the city’s residents. Many buildings collapsed or had to be demolished, resulting in many vacant spaces. This created opportunities for space activations which could bring these spaces to life and help Christchurch residents to connect with their city and each other in the aftermath of the quakes.
Gap Filler Trust formed after the first earthquake in 2010 and began hosting placemaking events and activations in vacant lots around Christchurch. Gap Filler has led over 100 space activations since its founding and facilitated many others. These include:
Most Gap Filler installations are temporary, though some, like the Think Differently Book Exchange, have run continuously since their establishment. Others, like Super Street Arcade and #chchswing, have a 10- to 25-year material life but are easily relocatable to another site.
While the impacts of their work have not been formally measured, and the psychosocial effects are difficult to assess, a case study evaluation of their work found Gap Filler had:
Issues identified across some of their projects include:
Gap Filler has evolved from a grant-funded charity into a social enterprise providing goods and services to clients. From a project-based organisation, they have expanded into other areas which support city-building, such as working with corporate partners and sponsors to build permanent installations. Projects like the Super Street Arcade installation demonstrate this shift in Gap Filler’s focus from short-term gap-filling to exploring how fun and creative community-mindedness can be embedded into the permanent city.
Gap Filler helps other cities innovate and replicate their successes. For example, they have done consulting work and held many placemaking workshops across the country and internationally. They have also developed some of their successful Christchurch projects into products; for instance, the Dance-O-Mat has since been replicated in Tauranga and Auckland locations. Increasingly, Gap Filler is partnering with property developers and government development agencies to make more innovative and community-minded permanent developments, including roading projects.