Breathing new life into an underutilised space can be achieved through a variety of approaches, from light touch installations of movable street furniture, to long term collaborative projects that build on community strengths and knowledge.

People queue to purchase food at a food truck

Cathedral Square food trucks

See the below examples of Enliven Places projects that make spaces welcoming, and encourage activity and interaction. For guidance on running your own community event or project, visit our Shape Your Place toolkit

A space for community activity and small business to support post-earthquake regeneration.

An aerial view of a plot of land featuring sheds and garden spacesA large vacant site at 108 Stanmore Road has been activated with "tiny shops" that include a café, second-hand goods and craft, cycle repair, play space, shared project spaces, and a community garden.

The project opened in 2018(external link) in response to the high proportion of vacant buildings and sites in Linwood Village as a result of the earthquake sequence and an identified need for more services for the local community.

The project is a collaborative effort. Local community organisation Te Whare Roimata has an ongoing presence at the site and ran initial community engagement to develop the vision.

Landscaping and site preparation was completed by The Green Lab (former Greening the Rubble), and Variant Design helped to design and construct some of the shops.

Fun and playful professional lighting installations activated Cathedral Square at night.

The Central City Action Plan recognised a need for small scale lighting projects to improve perceptions of safety, and add interest after dark.

In 2019 we sought proposals for fun, eye-catching and innovative displays from lighting specialists. The competition sought to showcase local industry talent and encourage wider participation in shaping city spaces. 

2000 people voted for their favourite lighting display from the top three finalists. ‘Spire’ by Shades Arcade took out the competition, featuring nine spires that changed colour as people move around the installation. 

Also supported by the Enliven Places Programme, ‘Talking Tree’ came alive at night to tell jokes and offer suggestions about where to explore in Central City. This project was designed by artist Tim Budgen in collaboration with animation students from Ara Institute of Canterbury.

Spires and Talking Tree were active in Cathedral Square from August to November 2019 and will return to the city in June 2020 for part of the winter season. 

Three community-designed gardens popped up in Cathedral Square to bring more nature into the city.

People walk behind a small garden featuring low round planters and stained glass wallsPublic consultation on the long term vision for Cathedral Square(external link) showed that locals want to see nature and greenery breathe life back into The Square.

We sought designs for small, pop-up gardens to test this idea. The many quality submissions showcased creativity and vision for public spaces. 

The public voted to select three winning gardens, which were installed for summer of 2018 - 2019.

  • ‘Stained Glass Garden’ references the stained glass of the Christ Church Cathedral and the laser cut steel of Neil Dawson’s Chalice sculpture. The garden was designed and delivered by Tamsin Harrington and Dirk Visser, and can still be found east of the Christ Church Cathedral.
  • ‘Time to Heal’ represented that the time has come to revitalise the heart of the city as part of the post-earthquake healing process. The sun dial inspired seating was surrounded by healing plants and herbs particularly used in rongoā Māori traditional medicines. Designed by Avonhead School and supported by Katherine Booker, the garden now lives permanently at the school. 
  • ‘Noodlescape’ used soft pool noodles to encourage the public to explore and interact with the garden. At the centre was a cosy oasis filled with native plants. This quirky installation was designed by GEDES Studio and delivered by The Green Lab (former Greening the Rubble).

Community-built temporary huts attracted and delighted visitors to this seaside suburb.

Three children spin the sections of a rotating hut


New Brighton is home to the highest concentration of artists anywhere in New Zealand. Residents take pride in the creative, positive energy that flows through this coastal community. 

A competition invited members of the public to submit designs for tiny huts, to improve amenity and increase activity in this earthquake-impacted suburb. 124 unique designs were submitted and displayed at a public exhibition where people voted for their favourites. 

Visitors enjoyed the five winning designs in New Brighton during the summer of 2016-2017:

  • ‘The Shell Chapel’ provides a beautiful structure to take photos under and enjoy the view of the sea. Designed by Ting Lin. Located beneath the New Brighton pier.
  • ‘Art-omat’ created a little shop space for the display and sale of art and craft. Designed by Sasha Samardziska. Located in Brighton Mall. 
  • ‘Wharau’ was constructed as a miniature marae and used solar to provide a place for people to charge their electronic devices. Designed by Manaia Wilson-Moses. Gifted back to Shirley Boys High School.
  •  ‘#MyBrightonHut’ was inspired by historic entertainment in New Brighton - slot machines, ice cream and tea rooms. Sections of the hut could be rotated to create a new pattern on each side. Designed by Marike Uys. Gifted to the Children’s Sensory Garden in the Rawhiti Domain. 
  • ‘The Turret’ framed the beautiful views of New Brighton. Visitors could shelter from the elements in the indoor reading seat or ascend the staircase to look out towards the library and the pier. Designed by Tessa Forde and Elena Lochore-Ward. Decommissioned.

Artists transformed three empty shop fronts to highlight the new buildings being built in the Central City.

Colourful box lanterns on the floor of a vacant shopThe Central City is host to a variety of new commercial spaces for lease.  In 2018, a competition invited the public to submit creative ways to breathe life into these spaces and encourage potential new tenants. 

Two categories for submissions ensured that a wide range of people were invited to enter the competition. An open category was available to the public and designers, while a student category encouraged youth to get involved. 

Five open designs and three student designs were shortlisted and a public vote secured the top three(external link):

  • ‘Light it Up’ by year ten students at Hagley College used box lanterns to reflect heritage architecture and Christchurch’s bright future. 
  • ‘Pompoms’ by Shades Arcade danced and twirled to a light sequence. 
  • ‘Until Works End’ by Audrey Baldwin and Khye Hitchcock shows whimsical dioramas that encourage the viewer to see the everyday with a child’s sense of wonder. 

The installations were active from June 2018 – May 2019. 

Some of our other activations