Feng shui may not be a typical design practice in the Western world, but a former Lincoln University student believes it could work wonders for a part of the Christchurch rebuild.
Charlotte Thompson, who completed her Bachelor of Environmental Management and Planning last year, has drawn on feng shui principles to produce a redevelopment proposal for the eastern residential red zone.
She says her design, which she created as part of a class exercise, could help protect the area from the effects of future disasters.
While Western cultures tend to view feng shui as “folklore”, Ms Thompson points out that recent examples of the holistic Chinese planning system can be seen in the designs of New York and Washington DC architecture.
“Feng shui aims to connect humans through chi (life force), promoting a symbiotic relationship with the environment,” she says.
“I believe drastic measures will be needed if the eastern red zone is to once again be developed, especially based on flooding predictions from the Christchurch City Council.
“Feng shui provides a solution and addresses a need for long-term planning in this area. It would build environmental resilience for inhabitants and slow down the chi, which is important for disaster and risk management, as well as psychological welfare.
“Restoring the chi within the red zone would add environmental value, tourism revenue, and increased wellbeing from recreation, culture and amenity values.”
Her design for the eastern red zone includes six key areas: a large and small residential region, botanical gardens, a retirement precinct, a wetland restoration zone and a freshwater lake.
The zones are supplemented by a continuous forest tract surrounding the Avon River, central to slowing down chi. Wetland restoration would enhance water quality, while connectivity is promoted with tram lines linking the city centre and lake. A cycle/pedestrian path with several river crossings is interwoven through the forest area.
“The approach I have utilised would safeguard the city by modifying the flow of the Avon River and creating hills and lakes as preventative solutions for flooding and shelter from storms and wind. It would encourage soil health and remediation, minimising pollutants, and encouraging water monitoring.”
Ms Thompson says that for the plan to succeed, a regional effort and commitment by all government authorities within the Avon watershed would have to be made to reduce pollutants along the entire river.
“It would require being totally responsible for our waterways, from the water source to the estuaries, surf breaks, and deep water zones. This would encourage societal responsibility for restoring the physical and psychological health of both the environment and the residents.”
Ms Thompson came up with the idea for her design when her third-year Environmental Planning lecturer, Associate Professor Hamish Rennie, encouraged students to “think outside the box” to devise a development plan for a local area.
Associate Professor Rennie says his planning course involves pushing students beyond their comfort zones by asking them to develop approaches from contrasting theories and applying them to local settings.
“Planning students should have a sound basis in traditional Western and Maori knowledge systems, but other cultures are important too, as many have developed sophisticated planning approaches grounded in different views of the world,” he says.
“Our students need to be exposed to different ideas and ways of doing things if they are to have the creativity to face the challenges of the future.”
See Charlotte Thompson’s article about her design in the Lincoln Planning Review.