Revisiting Utopia: How a Legacy of Idealistic Plans Resonates with Christchurch’s Rebuild

Jacky Bowring


Imagined landscapes find their form in utopian dreaming. As ideal places, utopias are set up according to the ideals of their designers. Inevitably, utopias become compromised when they move from the imaginary into the actual. Opportunities to create utopias rely largely on a blank slate, a landscape unimpeded by the inconveniences of existing occupation – or even topography. Christchurch has seen two utopian moments. The first was at the time of European settlement in the mid-nineteenth century, when imported ideals provided a model for a new city. The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 provided a second point at which utopian dreaming spurred visions for the city. Christchurch’s earthquakes have provided a unique opportunity for a city to re-imagine itself. Yet, as is the fate for all imaginary places, reality got in the way.

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