Pallet Pavillion

Artist: Gap Filler
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Year of completion: 2012
Researcher: Elisa Yon

From September 2010 to February 2011, a series of earthquakes struck the city of Christchurch and its surrounding areas. It was estimated that over eighty percent of the buildings in the city center were destroyed, with repair costs over $40 billion. In response to the first earthquake in September 2010, Coralie Winn, an arts coordinator, and Dr. Ryan Reynolds, a lecturer in theatre and film studies at the University of Canterbury, formed Gap Filler, a multi-disciplinary team of creative professionals dedicated to reactivating the growing number of vacant sites left by the devastating earthquake, with temporary, transitional, community-based and socially engaged projects. Since 2011, Gap Filler has expanded and is now administered by the Gap Filler Charitable Trust with a board led by co-founding member Ryan Reynolds. The core operating team includes: Coralie Winn (Gap Filler Co-Founder and Creative Director), Trent Hiles (Lead Project Coordinator), Richard Sewell (Project Coordinator), Hannah Airey (Administration), Sally Airey (Education and Outreach) and Claire Cowles (Sponsorship and Fundraising).

Pallet Pavilion is an open-air community gathering space, built using over 3,000 wooden blue CHEP pallets and additional donated, loaned, and repurposed materials. It is sited in the city center of Christchurch on the former site of the Crown Plaza hotel, which was demolished in 2012. The pavilion was designed to support a variety of cultural and social programs, offering over 250+ events during its time in existence. Due to the strict site and building regulations, a core team of designers, key building professionals, and dedicated community volunteers led the design of the pavilion. It took an estimated 150+ people and 2,500 hours of skilled and unskilled labor to build the pavilion in six weeks, engaging volunteers aged 16 to 65. Over 55+ community partners and sponsors are acknowledged on their website. Site amenities included food and drink vendors, security, power, site maintenance, audio-visual equipment, on-site administration team, toilets, and waste collection. From December 2012 to April 2013, an estimated 25,000 people participated as visitors, volunteers, vendors, and performers.

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In just six and a half months, Gap Filler successfully coordinated and engaged multiple key personnel, volunteers, skilled laborers, city representatives, community partners, sponsors, vendors, and audiences in the making and programming of a community venue and gathering place. In May 2013, Gap Filler launched a crowd-funding campaign to extend the life of the Pallet Pavilion. They successfully raised NZ$82,000 to cover the pavilion’s operational costs for an additional year. In April 2014, the pavilion was deconstructed. The site continues to be known as “The Commons” and is now home to a handful of post-quake organizations including Life in Vacant Spaces (LiVS), Volunteer Army Foundation (VAF), The Arcades Project, and a series of ten laminated timber archways developed by FESTA (the Festival of Transitional Architecture). The site continues to support transitional projects through an agreement between Christchurch City Council and (LiVS), and is even governed by an evolving set of aspirations for the site.

As social practice continues to evolve in contemporary public art practice, it is perhaps necessary to begin to evaluate projects initiated by multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary collectives that emerge to respond to unique situations involving urban rehabilitation and regeneration initiatives. In this context, Pallet Pavilion may be understood as an example of a temporary, community-based, socially engaged public art installation. The project transformed a prominent city center site devastated by the earthquakes into a much-needed gathering space to welcome residents, city workers, and businesses back into the urban center. Their collective team skills and experience allowed them to successfully fuse art, design, education and outreach programming together to bring back and nurture community participation, collective and individual creative expression, and dialogue in a city devastated by the earthquakes.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency