Filling the Gaps
One of the most renowned and interesting organisations to appear since the Canterbury earthquakes is Gap Filler (administered by the Gap Filler Charitable Trust). Gap Filler is a creative urban regeneration initiative that activates sites around inner Christchurch with temporary creative projects that bring social activities, ideas, installations and more back to the city's many empty lots. From small beginnings in 2010, Gap Filler has quickly become known for creating and facilitating quirky, experimental and innovative projects and events, and has been a key driver in efforts to make a more interesting, dynamic, and vibrant post-quake Christchurch.
From the beginning, UC CEISMIC has been aware of the importance of documenting Gap Filler's projects in Christchurch and so we are very excited to announce that a collection of material from Gap Filler has been added to the archive this week. This collection holds reports, and photographs from many Gap Filler projects as well as a copy of their Deed of Trust, their submissions to the Christchurch City Council Draft City Plan, a time-lapse photography series of the construction of the Pallet Pavilion, and more.
In the three years since the earthquakes that damaged the Christchurch Central City beyond recognition, Gap Filler has coordinated over 27 community-based projects, as well as helping with countless others. These have ranged from murals and artworks to markets, event spaces (such as the Pallet Pavilion, the Dance-O-Mat, and the Film in a Gap project), mini golf courses, outdoor bowling alleys, concerts, petanque courts, a life sized chess set, saunas, cinemas, and more. All of these projects have been located in the vacant sites left by demolished buildings, brightening the gaps in Christchurch's landscape, and bringing activity back into damaged areas.
But Gap Filler is about more than just entertainment, as so many of their projects focus on restoring social activities and forms of expression that have been displaced by the earthquakes. Projects such as the Dance-O-Mat, the Think Differently Book Exchange, and the Pallet Pavilion provide ways for people to dance, to discuss and exchange books, to listen to live music, and to socialise - experiences that in some cases have become unique to post-quake Christchurch and famous across the world.
Gap Filler's projects are temporary and experimental by nature. Most sites are only activated for short periods of time while the landowner is waiting on building consent or insurance payout and are an opportunity to try out new ideas without large capital expenditure or major construction. The Cycle-Powered Cinema, for example, was created by local engineers who designed and built ten bicycle generators. The cinema was set up on the former site of the Cycle Trading Company, and featured a cycle-powered projector and sound system powered by members of the audience. What is admirable about projects like this is the fact that Gap Filler is focussed on the now. They are giving everyday people a way to contribute to the city's regeneration while so much is being demolished and rebuilt, rather than passively waiting for someone else to do the job.
Photograph of Gap Filler Project 14, Cycle-Powered Cinema
In many cases these temporary projects have become so popular that their stay has been lengthened or they have been implemented elsewhere. In the case of the Pallet Pavilion, the venue was only intended to be a summer project, built in December 2012 and demolished in May 2013, but was extended due to public enthusiasm for the project. As the end date neared, the public began to express their wishes to extend the project, so Gap Filler ran a crowdsourcing campaign on PledgeMe asking for people to donate money to fund the Pallet Pavilion's stay. In just 30 days, over $80,000 was raised, allowing the Pallet Pavilion to stay for the summer of 2013/2014. This level of support demonstrates not only the value of Gap Filler to the public but also the way that temporary projects can be used to gauge public interest for more permanent structures. Some projects might disappoint, but an unsuccessful temporary project costs relatively little time and money, and is far outweighed by the opportunity to experiment with new ideas.
In some ways, the Gap Filler collection has also filled a gap in UC CEISMIC; while the archive began by documenting people's experiences during the Canterbury earthquakes, we are just as interested in the rebuild of the city and people's lives during this process. Gap Filler provides innovative and engaging activities and sites for Cantabrians during this transitional phase, many of which have been very popular, low-cost and sustainable. This collection ensures the ingenuity of the Christchurch Community and Gap Filler's many staff and volunteers is recorded in a permanent archive and can be shared by all.