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Rebuilding Canterbury #2: Buildings of the future

(Off-topic again following our recent Earthquake!)

So, the resurrected Mayor Bob Parker announced last week an Architectural task force led by “Architectural Ambassador” the eminent Ian Athfield: see http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/canterbury-earthquake/4129202/Row-grows-over-rebuilding

My personal thoughts:

– I love futuristic architecture (see the video above). I used to live in central Edinburgh and loved the historic buildings there too, but I always felt that the “heritage” of a place often stifles innovation and preserves an obselete past in aspic. The fact that everything is built to be (relatively) temporary here in NZ is actually quite enabling. (Unfortunately the down-side of this is too many lowest common denominator strip malls and big-box retail sheds…)
– We need one or more landmark “phoenix” buildings which commemorate the earthquake event and the optimism that we now feel in Canterbury to rebuild with confidence. We should leverage Christchurch and NZ’s eco-image as well, and deliver a world-class eco-building cluster as an example for the rest of the world. In fact, let’s make the Chch CBD an architectural theme park! Let’s get our own Sydney Opera House out of this.
– The CBD needs more technology businesses: instead of building an “innovation park” out on some anonymous industrial estate near the airport, let’s make the whole CBD an innovation zone, and a new type of technology campus in itself: let’s get citywide wi-fi, hot desks and rent-by-the-hour office facilities. The majority of cloud-based tech businesses which we deal with these days need only a desk, a wireless internet connection and a good laptop. (And educated capital, natch, but that’s another post…)
– The ability to renew some of the uglier older buildings in town (now that the Post Office has been transformed into CCC’s new HQ: in my opinion that building, amazingly regenerated inside, really gives the city a renewed confidence), check out the practice of adding Building Skins http://buildingskins.blogspot.com/
– Ultimately everybody realises that this is an opportunity to add to Canterbury’s international brand as a modern, thriving and vibrant (ok, niche) business centre, and to continue to provide commercial and community facilities which attract more inward investment and skilled migration. Lots of landmark buildings please Mr Athfield!

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Rebuilding Canterbury the smart way #1: Libraries

So…. going off-topic a little…I’ve been thinking about our future here in Canterbury after Saturday’s earthquake, and about what the positive opportunities are to invest wisely in our future.

First off: libraries. My wife is currently a student at University of Canterbury, whose libraries were devastated by the quake as shown in these shocking pictures: http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/photos.shtml

So the questions I’d be asking are: how much money is available to rebuild a library, and how should it be best spent?

Option 1:

  • Renovate or completely rebuild the building
  • Buy a load of new shelves
  • Purchase a library-full of replacement books
  • (Not to mention chop down forests, use litres of ink, ship the books from A to B and pay someone to catalogue them and stack the shelves….)
  • AND: the knowledge in the book is out of date the moment it’s set to paper

Option 2:

  • Ensure that all study materials are published online from now on
  • Provide campus-wide free wifi
  • Subsidise all students to buy a tablet with e-reader software (see http://www.androidtablets.net/ for some examples)
  • AND the knowledge is updated without needing a reprint, plus everyone gets accessible wireless internet access to carry around with them.

So if you’re in charge of the business case for rebuilding UC’s libraries, think forward rather than backwards! Books are just too obselete now to support a modern learning environment, and commodity technology is well ready to replace them.

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Canterbury Earthquake – free emergency help available for businesses without email

What a weekend.

I was out in central Christchurch until 11:30pm on Friday night for my wife’s birthday, and then 5 hours later the parts of town where we’d been were under a pile of rubble after Saturday morning’s 7.1 richter scale earthquake. (#eqnz and #nzeq on Twitter). It was an incredible jolt and went on for nearly a minute (felt longer!) – but due to the time of day, amazingly there have been no fatalities. We have been so lucky. My kids have been progressively calming down as the severity and frequency of aftershocks have reduced steadily over the weekend. We’re still getting regular jolts, but hopefully that’s the worst of it over.

The Civil Defence, Police and volunteers seem to have done a superb job of managing the crisis – mayor Bob Parker in particular has been excellent in the media: competent and empathetic.
After a few hours during Saturday morning without electricity and water, normal utilities have been restored to most areas of the city and things are past the initial emergency reaction and into a second phase of damage assessment.

At Memia, we currently have no access to our offices in Cashel St due to the emergency cordon, but our team will be working online during the first few days of the week at least. Also, Tuesday is the Software Summit at the Grand Chancellor hotel – currently happening as planned, to my knowledge.

One item in particular: if there are any businesses which are without email and other IT systems due to the earthquake, we’re here to help. If you need an emergency solution for your business email (eg to your team @yourdomain.co.nz), we can get email flowing again usually within hours implementing Google Apps standard edition. If we can help out just get in touch 027 344 6808 and there’s no charge. (You will need access to your DNS records).

So – I’m looking forward to getting Christchurch up and running again. Hopefully the Twisted Hop is still standing as well! 😉