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EXIT’s 30+ architectural answers to post earthquake community

02 Nov 2018

A building suspended over ruins is one student’s response to the challenge of designing a modern space that meets the needs of a post-earthquake community, given to Ara’s third year architectural studies students.

EXIT, an impressive collection of over 30 models and designs, is on display from today [2 November] to 9 November at Ara’s Kahukura building, City Campus.

Caleb Skene’s response to the brief was a suspended, modular art studio space above the ruins of the Hotel Inn, on the corner of Cashel and High Street.

“I wanted to create a place of story, a join between history and future where we could monumentalize the ruins and create a piece of art in the building itself.”


Caleb Skene with his project- set above the ruins of the Hotel Inn, on the corner of Cashel and High Street.

Caleb identified a need for more art spaces for local artists. His building includes studios to be used by the community, something as an ex-fine arts student he felt was valuable.

“We have the larger galleries for the ‘professional’ artists, but there’s a lack of space for up and coming talent, I wanted to create a space where everyone could be creative.”

Caleb has also thought about the future with his design. His design is modular, with the ability to swap parts of the building out, so its function can change based on the needs of the community.

“Because the building itself is suspended, I’ve designed what I’m calling ‘service towers’ which parts of the building can attach to. If there was some kind of emergency, for example, and we needed housing then my building can adapt to that.”


Caleb Skene's project

Over 30 architectural studies students present their projects at the exhibition, which is the culmination of three years of study in Ara’s Bachelor of Architectural Studies.

For their final project they were tasked with identifying community needs and designing spaces that reflected the culture of the city and its residents. They studied buildings such as Tūranga, the new central library, to explore how public spaces can achieve this. The brief gave the students the creative freedom to inject their personality as a designer into their work.

“It’s been interesting to see what the students have come up with in response to the brief,” Architectural Studies tutor Bernadette Muir says. “They all think about community in their own way, and they’ve identified all sorts of things that the city needs to appeal to people.”

Cutting edge technology enabled students to translate their ideas to reality with a high level of precision. Students have used 3D printers and laser cutting technology to create detailed models and graphical renderings of their spaces.

“The technology we had access to was crucial to making my design for the exhibition possible,” Caleb says. “We aren’t restricted to flat planes and 2D elements, we can take our designs from the computer to real life.”  

EXIT also celebrates the close relationship Ara has with the wider architectural industry in Christchurch.

Throughout the year students work closely with architects and engineers from award winning companies such as Warren and Mahoney and Beca.

Students worked in a professional environment through an internship programme as part of their studies, and have presented their work to architects within the industry. Architects, urban designers and engineers have offered their perspective and expertise to the students through guest lectures and workshops. This practical experience within the industry is reflected in the students’ work and how they approached their designs.

“Having such great industry involvement helps you understand your own design in a different way, and helped me create something meaningful,” Caleb says.

EXIT is also an opportunity for students to showcase their work to future employers, with a wide range of businesses and organisations participating in the event.

At the EXIT award ceremony on 1 November, industry leaders presented five awards to students whose designs best integrate the concepts of sustainability and technology.

Award winners:

  • NZIA Canterbury Branch Award – Olivia Shackley
  • Beca Structural Design Award – Hamish Barnett
  • Jasmax Sustainable Design Award – Georgia Graham
  • Warren and Mahoney Architects Award – Niall Stewart
  • ADNZ Design Technology Award – Lucas Fennell


NZIA Canterbury Branch Award – Olivia Shackley


Olivia Shackley's project 

EXIT is open weekdays 9am-4pm.

Read about architectural studies at Ara.