VACANT SPACES

VACANT SPACES add

Dr Ryan Reynolds, one of the founders of the Gap Filler initiative in Christchurch, makes a convincing argument that good design does not necessarily mean designing for the conveniences of modern life.

It could even be viewed as bad design.

He gives an example that was relayed to him recently... of Ted Simon, the British journalist who circumnavigated the globe on a Triumph motorcycle in the late 70s and wrote a book about it.

Later in life he repeated the journey but this time on a modified BMW R80GS, a bike with a strong following among adventure motorcyclists for its solid and reliable design making it easy to access and simple to service.

"The trouble was", says Reynolds, "his second book was nowhere near as good as his first one."

"Because Simon's Triumph kept breaking down, he would find himself in a community in the middle of nowhere and he would have these unique experiences and adventures with strangers helping him to get his bike back on the road. On his BMW he made deliberate, chosen stops which put an end to the spontaneity and unexpected. So while I wouldn't dismiss the precision engineering and superior performance of the BMW, you could argue that maybe the Triumph is the more superior design - because of its ability to deliver a rich lifestyle and more meaningful experience."

Reynolds moves on from this parable to describe his bus ride home:

"For example I can be sitting on the bus and I spend the entire journey interacting on my phone. Digital culture and the digital revolution has meant that previously I would spend time interacting with the human sitting next to me. But now I would rather be interacting with someone in cyberspace… we're making it all automated and eliminating the human."

Gap Filler, a creative urban regeneration initiative which aims to temporarily activate vacant sites within Christchurch with creative projects, is designed to do the exact opposite, by inviting human interaction, in the same way a guy broken down in the middle of an epic motorcycle journey would.

"A lot of the work we've been doing in post-quake Christchurch encourages social interaction and opens up new opportunities for social interactions."

Reynolds says he often describes Gap Filler in two ways - invitational and propositional. Invitational, in that through the aesthetic and design the project will invite a certain behaviour. And propositional… "…because we put something out there and gauge the response."

"Take the Dance-O-Mat. It was there and it was an invitation. There were many people in Christchurch who thought the idea would never fly. "They said 'people in Christchurch won’t dance in public - they are way too conservative…' And we almost believed them."

Reynolds says because the Dance-O-Mat was coin operated they were able to measure its use, which added up to five and a half hours a day every day, for three years.

ADNZ CEO, Astrid Andersen, says Gap Filler has been an amazing initiative in terms of bringing the community together and triggering thinking about what we do with space - both public and private. "Gap Filler showed the community what could be done when just a very simple framework is offered, like the Pallet Pavilion. Gap Filler has shown us how easily human interaction can be encouraged. This can be read as a challenge to the concept of 'good design' and as a challenge to the design community." says Astrid.

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