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Digital Expertise: Case study

Regenerate Christchurch – Digital tools for innovative public engagement

A city to rebuild

In 2010 and 2011 Christchurch was shaken by a series of devastating earthquakes: in September 2010, the city was awoken by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, and was followed by a massive 6.3 magnitude aftershock on 22 February 2011, which struck near the heart of the city.

Rebuilding central Christchurch is one of the most ambitious projects in New Zealand’s history and is about recreating and planning for a new, resilient city. Not simply an engineering project: this rebuild is focusing on the creation of infrastructure and places for the people of Christchurch, and the stories that bind them together.

Aurecon has been working on regeneration projects all over the city since the earthquakes and is proud to be playing a part in the rebuild.

Regenerate Christchurch has been tasked with investigating and developing a plan for the future use of the Otakaro Avon River Corridor.

Aurecon used digital engineering tools to compose interactive exhibits that brought to life Regenerate Christchurch’s vision of a Green Spine for the city — the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor.

Regenerate Christchurch is the statutory entity leading the regeneration of Christchurch. It has been tasked with investigating and developing a plan for the future use of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor.

Among other potential land uses, Regenerate Christchurch has identified the opportunity for the Corridor to accommodate a network of community spaces and infrastructure (including floor protection and stormwater treatment).

This is not simply an engineering project. It’s a rebuild that will create a future for generations to come.

The green spine through the city

Revisioning the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor can offer a network of spaces for communities, and provide important infrastructure for flood protection and stormwater treatment.

The future of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Area is a decision of enormous magnitude and importance as it will potentially shape the east of the city far into the future.

“The regeneration of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor is just one of Christchurch’s rebuild projects that Aurecon is a part of. We’re proud of our contribution to date, in using digital engineering to present interactive concepts and experiences for the project’s public exhibition,” said Aurecon Project Manager James Sturman.

Visioning the future of the River

As part of the process of developing the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Plan, Regenerate Christchurch hosted a public exhibition for the community and stakeholders to see, and provide feedback on, potential options for the future use of the River Corridor.

Aurecon designed a virtual reality experience to demonstrate the Regeneration of the Otakaro Avon River Corridor.

5 weeks, 8000 people attended, 3500 engaged online

Aurecon played an important part in this phase by using digital engineering tools to present Regenerate Christchurch’s vision in an immersive and interactive way. The three immersive experiences were an engaging way to attract visitors to the exhibition, and connect them with the project’s concept design in a meaningful way.

Aurecon Digital Practice Leader Rebecca Strang said that Regenerate Christchurch was excited by the virtual reality experiences that show the design of the river corridor area to the community.

“By using digital engineering we were able to create visual and interactive displays for people to immerse themselves into the proposed future of the river area. Everyone responded positively to the displays that were educational but light-hearted at the same time,” said Strang.

Aurecon used digital engineering tools to present Regenerate Christchurch’s vision in an immersive and interactive way.

Aurecon created three immersive experiences to attract visitors to the exhibition, and connect them with the project’s concept design in a meaningful way.

1. Gliding along the River in virtual reality

The immersive experience of the virtual reality (VR) kayak provided a vibrant way of connecting people to the project’s concept design. Combined data from the digital spatial database and 3D models was used to build a virtual reality experience for people in a kayak exploring the River.

Exhibition visitors sat in a stationary kayak and lowered virtual reality goggles over their eyes to be transported onto a conceptual river, gliding over the water. With a VR tracked paddle in their hand, each kayaker could explore a 200 m section of the river with wildlife and vegetation along its course, and structures visible on the river bank.

Exhibition visitors sat in a stationary kayak and lowered virtual reality goggles over their eyes to be transported onto a conceptual river, gliding over the water.

Imagine yourself gliding along the Ōtākaro Avon River, taking in the sights of people enjoying the river. You see wildlife darting in and out of vegetation. You sense the vibrancy of the area… yet this scene hasn’t been created yet.

Aurecon engineers can still recall the excited expressions of people interacting with the virtual river environment.

This method of combining technical information with human interaction was a much better way to convey the intent of the project’s concept design. It generated deeper discussions between the community and stakeholders about the proposed options for the regeneration of the river area.

2. Building the future in a sandbox

Stop banks are continuous mounds of earth that are higher than a river’s water level. They are important in Christchurch because they’re the final flood protection between the River and nearby properties.

Regenerate Christchurch identified that the stop banks in Christchurch could be moved back from their current position to give people better access to the river, and be able to install paths, trails and a new ecosystem whilst still protecting surrounding properties.

To demonstrate the role of a stop bank, Aurecon created a tactile installation for the public exhibition using a sandbox. The projection created a game for people to use their hands to form flood protection with the sand, before the simulation game made the riverbanks flood.

Aurecon created a tactile installation for the public exhibition using a digital sandbox to demonstrate the contours of the Otakaro Avon River Corridor.

This virtual game generated a better understanding around the importance of stop banks, but also how they could be an inclusive part of the design of the regeneration area.

The sandbox was a visually stunning and accessible educational tool. Importantly, both the sandbox and kayak appealed to all ages and encouraged more meaningful and prolonged engagement between the Regenerate Christchurch team and the public. Annabelle Dunn, Programme Manager, Regenerate Christchurch

3. Telling the story of the Ōtākaro Avon River with interactive story maps

A series of interactive online story maps was created with the spatial data that Aurecon collected for design of the virtual reality kayak and sandbox. By reusing the spatial data, Aurecon was able to create interactive online maps and extend the project story beyond the public exhibition to a broader audience.

Regenerate Christchurch wanted three custom online interactive maps as a resource for the community and stakeholders to understand and appreciate the incredible opportunities that the regeneration area presented.

Each story map includes a variety of media including images, videos and embedded web mapping applications showing a background map image with interactive icons that, when clicked on, activates informative pop-up windows.

The story maps are visual and comprehensive to provide information about the project and allow users to fully understand the project design concept.

We received plenty of positive feedback from people visiting both the exhibition space and on social media about the story maps being very comprehensive and a great resource. Annabelle Dunn, Programme Manager, Regenerate Christchurch

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