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.

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

St Asaph Street Basketball Court

A new basketball half-court, and a spray can street art display, bring new life back to a vacant site.

A sizeable vacant site at 207 St Asaph St transformed into a vibrant, temporary youth space from March 2023. The space includes an outdoor half basketball court, along with six giant spray cans, seating and street art murals. 

Three of the giant spray cans are 'free spaces' where everyone is welcome to have a go, while the remaining cans had new murals created by DTR Crew and Kophie.

Artist Nick Lowrey's mural enlivens the eastern substation wall with native bird and plant life. Dr Suits' ground floor artwork transforms the basketball court with vibrant, geometric blocks of colour.

The project was in partnership with ECan, with consultation from Watch This Space.

Cathedral Square urban park

A transformed vacant site to enable pedestrians and aid vibrancy in Cathedral Square.

A prominent vacant site at 9 Cathedral Square was temporarily transformed into an urban park by its owner in 2021.  

The site was cleared and hard landscaping put in. The Enliven Programme relocated planter boxes, seats and solar light art columns to the site. 

The site makeover provides a pleasant, safe space for Central City pedestrians to travel through and supports the ongoing growth of Cathedral Square.

Pop-up gardens

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. It has now been removed from Cathedral Square and gifted to the Common Ground in Southshore. 
  • ‘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).

ShoPOP vacant shop activation

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. 

Linwood tiny shops

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.

New Brighton tiny huts

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 by the New Brighton Beachside Playground, and He Puna Taimoana Hot Pools.
  • ‘Art-omat’ created a little shop space for the display and sale of art and craft. Designed by Sasha Samardziska. The Hut was gifted to the New Brighton Community Gardens in 2022, and is used for shelter, seed collecting and drying.
  • ‘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 in 2017.
  •  ‘#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 in 2018 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. The Hut was decommissioned in 2017.

Some of our other activations