This is Drew Clark, SCC Christchurch team member. It’s Saturday and raining here in Christchurch, perfect weather for the Smarter Cities Challenge team to head down to the Gap Filler HQ and Pallet Pavilion (more about this in a minute) for some good old fashioned roll-up-your-sleeves volunteer project work. Like many things happening in Christchurch these post-earthquake days, Gap Filler is a for-the-people-by-the-people initiative whose mission is to literally fill the gaps left by fallen and deconstructed (yes, that’s a word) buildings. In many of these now vacant spaces, Gap Filler has erected – through an all volunteer labor of love – dozens of artful yet practical community spaces where people can engage with live music, food and treats, performance & other events, city-wide mini golf, repurposed appliances such as washing machines that play music, and other assorted fun activities.
So off we went, down to the GF pavilion to see what needs doing there. It’s called “Pallet Pavillion” because, well, it’s made up entirely of hundreds of stacked wooden shipping pallets, all painted – in this case, a striking blue color.
Given that there’s a seemingly endless number of projects that need doing there, we had no trouble getting right to work on something interesting: taking apart and carefully separating (for proper recycling) a lovely old wooden standup piano that had somehow made it’s way to the GF site. Fresh from breakfast and full of energy, the team dispatched the sad-looking instrument in short order, sorting all of the wood, metal and other materials into their respective bins and containers for repurposing and reuse.
Next up was another interesting challenge: using repurposed materials on hand, design a simple and easy-to-use bike rack to encourage Pavilion visitors to come by bike,and hopefully setting a good example for other urban travelers. Natch, we looked to the seemingly endless number of pallets available as our base platform, and whipped up this utilitarian but robust design that we believe will perform well in this task. Note especially our custom astroturf bumpers that will protect wheels and fenders while securely parked in our stand.
Alas, after 2 bike stands complete and piano sorted, it was time for the team to move on. All agreed that we felt we had accomplished something special for Gap Filler and Christchurch, but it wasn’t really anything physical we’d built or taken apart. It was in helping to fill the emotional gap that the people of Christchurch feel among the fallen buildings and empty spaces that once were the heart of a vibrant city. By filling these spaces with art, music, and fun, these gaps begin to close and are replaced with rich new experiences that bring people and city back together as well.