Case Study: Gap Filler

Christchurch’s artistic community creates for the city’s future

Christchurch on Crates - Image: Guy Jansen, supplied courtesy of Gap Filler
Christchurch on Crates - Image: Guy Jansen, supplied courtesy of Gap Filler

Christchurch’s arts community is helping to keep the city vibrant and is playing a role in supporting businesses and communities after two major earthquakes devastated much of the central city. 

With the help of Gap Filler, artists and arts groups are using events and interventions to reconnect and involve Christchurch people with the recreation of the city’s CBD.  A temporary venue built from 3000 pallets, a library in an old fridge, a cycle-powered cinema, or an outdoor dance-hall are just a few of the innovative and successful Gap Filler projects bringing life to empty spaces in the city.

A city that is open for business and to business

Crucially, business leaders recognise these transitional projects are improving the economic health of the city. Gap Filler’s work has supported existing businesses, attracted start-ups and redefined Christchurch as a place to invest or test out new, small-scale ideas in. Coralie Winn, Co-Founder and Director explains how a knock on effect of Gap Filler is the stimulus of start-up businesses:

“Megan started and managed Café Woohoo – a wee caravan inside our Pallet Pavilion project. She volunteered across the Pavilion’s first Summer in the outdoor cafe and then, when the Pavilion was retained for one more year, stepped up to run the cafe component and bought herself a caravan from which to do so. Before this experience with us, she hadn’t even made a coffee!”

Chef Alex and cook Martine started A Local Food Project on site at The Commons (a Gap Filler site) using the on-site earthen pizza oven. They sold delicious pizza using mostly local ingredients, developed a following and now have moved on to run a successful restaurant showcasing local, sustainable produce at Shop Eight in New Regent Street, city.”

“Te Waka o Maui Watene Māori, our Māori Wardens who provided security for the Pallet Pavilion set up their own company with our help. This meant they could do other security work around Christchruch.  We’re proud of all the people this project helped support.”

An Enjoyable, Unique City

Gap Filler’s impact is far wider than the communities and artists it works with. Small-scale, temporary activity on vacant land or shops are contributing to the energy, vibe and positive perception of the city.  Visitors are interested in the authentic expressions of identity and ingenuity these sorts of projects embody. Transitional projects in Christchurch have been recognised by the global press, including The Guardian, New York Times, and Lonely Planet. Tourists are visiting Christchurch to witness a city’s ‘creative rebirth’ as it is ‘rising from the rubble’.

Image Supplied courtesy of Gap Filler taken by  Murry Irwin
Image Supplied courtesy of Gap Filler taken by  Murry Irwin

Creating, Experimenting and Working Together

Gap Filler brings life and energy to the central city while creating opportunities for a greater number of people to be involved in the recovery of their city.  Gap Filler does whatever is necessary to make an idea work – they create, design and lead, enable, facilitate, mentor, design venues and more. Successful projects are handed back to the community to run. All sorts of creative ideas are tried, some fail, some fly and through both a creative, cosmopolitan and connected city is re-emerging. Gap Filler sees its role as connecting everyday people with the re-imagining and rebuild of their city, encouraging active citizenship through opportunities to participate.

Gap Filler’s primary funder is Christchurch City Council. They also receive essential funding from a range of arts and community funders. Alongside their public funders they have cultivated business partnerships to provide philanthropic and in-kind support, for both the organisation and individual projects. Key partners in the delivery of projects include Life in Vacant Spaces (an off-shoot organisation), FESTA (Festival of Transitional Architecture) and Greening the Rubble. Gap Filler also willingly shares their experience and facilitates links to their projects with schools and suburban communities.