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Otakaro Avon River Corridor regeneration project, New Zealand

Bringing to life Regenerate Christchurch’s Otakaro Avon River Corridor with digital engineering tools

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. Aurecon has been working on regeneration projects all over the city since the earthquakes. Most recently, 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 Otakaro Avon River Corridor.

The Otakaro Avon River Corridor winds its way through the heart of Christchurch. The regeneration of the corridor and surrounding land is a decision of enormous magnitude and importance as it will potentially shape the east of the city far into the future.

Visioning the future of the river

As part of the Otakaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Plan there was a public exhibition developed for the community and stakeholders to provide feedback on potential options for the future use of the River Corridor.

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:

  1. Virtual reality kayak experience
  2. Augmented reality sandbox
  3. Geospatial interactive story maps

The three immersive experiences were an engaging way to connect people with the project’s concept design in a meaningful way. The community responded positively to the displays that were educational but light-hearted at the same time. Learn more about these immersive experiences in the case study below.

Virtual reality kayak

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 Aurecon’s digital spatial database and 3D models of the corridor 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.

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.

Augmented reality 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.

It was identified that the previous stop banks along the Otakaro Avon River Corridor could be moved back from the River 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 for the public exhibition, Aurecon created a tactile installation 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.

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

Geospatial interactive story maps

A series of interactive online story maps was created for the regeneration project website to inform the general public about the proposed changes to the Corridor area. With the spatial data that Aurecon collected to design the virtual reality kayak and augmented sandbox, the interactive online maps were able to be designed to extend the project story beyond the public exhibition to a broader audience.

The statutory entity tasked with developing the plan for the future, 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 included a variety of media including images, videos and embedded web mapping applications showing a background map image with interactive icons that, when clicked on, activated informative pop-up windows.

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

Not simply an engineering project: the Otakaro Avon River Corridor project is focusing on the creation of infrastructure and community spaces for the people of Christchurch, and the stories that bind them together. Aurecon is proud to continue playing a part in the rebuild of Christchurch.

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