A panel discussion on ‘Imaginary Cities’ included three authors, and an urban designer from the Christchurch City Council.
Anna Smaill spoke of how memory is accessed differently in the city where you grew up. In a city you can be alone yet sociable, and every new city you move to has the potential to be utopia (or dystopia).
Hamish Clayton spoke of Wellington – how the geography there intensifies the city, and the university is close to other institutions such as Government. He cautioned that Wellington may be turning towards self-satisfaction.
Hugh Nicholson, principal adviser in urban design at the City Council, pointed out that cities are always changing, and Christchurch is changing at speed. The compexity of cities makes them vibrant and exciting, and the changes are the accumulation of millions of individual decisions. He lameted the fact that there’d been no opportunity to turn ‘Share an Idea’ into a process.
Fiona Farrell read from the first chapter of her book “The Villa at the Edge of the Empire” (which sold out within a week). The book has been described as being written with an angry mind, a philosophical spirit, and a wise and forgiving heart. She pointed out that changes are often driven by politics, power, and the impulse to profit.
There was discussion of how memory is so much tied up with place, and that the loss of place can bring psychic disturbance. However a novel can be comforting, bringing possibility and hope. In Christchurch it’s dangerous to forget about streams and faultlines. In the Blitz the City of London lost 45% of its buildings, and in Central Christchurch we have lost 70%. The blueprint is essentially utopian, but utopias are always beyond our reach, while a city is continually changing and always in a state of becoming.
“How could our city yet evolve
is not a question we can solve.”