Coralie and Ryan's Christchurch

We are two of three founders of Gap Filler, which was formed after the earthquakes to put some fun and energy into empty spaces. The projects (180 so far!) became a test-bed for urban placemaking and now many of our projects and methodologies are in demand with other cities who are looking for ways to make their urban areas more pleasurable, creative and ultimately healthier. We believe cities should be participatory, fun and equitable. We enjoy the wide range of activities one can access in Ōtautahi Christchurch - urban life, hills, forested mountains, sea and snow. We also feel part of a wonderful community here.

Dance in public at the Dance-O-Mat

129 Gloucester Street, Christchurch Central

The Dance-O-Mat is a coin-operated dance floor on an empty site opposite Tūranga. It’s powered by a repurposed ex-laundromat washing machine that’s been rigged up to speakers and lights. $2 gets you 30 minutes where you’re the DJ. What we love about the Dance-O-Mat, is the way it inspires random social interactions and takes people out of their comfort zones. We’ve seen hip-hop crews dancing with mums and their kids, swing dance practices, school groups and more. There are now Dance-O-Mats in Auckland and Tūranga and one on its way in Adelaide.

People dancing on the Dance-o-Mat.

Meet urban farmers at Cultivate Christchurch

156 Peterborough Street, Christchurch Central

Cultivate is an urban farm in the city centre, growing amazing produce on fallow post-quake land that is being remediated by their work. Their kaupapa is about providing meaningful work and support for young people. Cultivate is a great example of what’s possible for empty land in a city. Growing food is so fundamental. You can visit the farm and have a chat with anyone who might be around. It’s a great project to support.

A worker carrying boxes of vegetables.

Spot the Sequoia in the Botanic Gardens

Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch Central

Gap Filler is all about encouraging people to slow down and take notice of their place, finding those secret little things that you might not otherwise discover. We’re also passionate about public amenities that are free and accessible to anyone. The Botanic Gardens is a much-loved institution in our city. Not far from the Canterbury Museum and the Peacock Fountain, there’s an enormous Sequoia tree with branches that curve towards the ground. The wood has been polished by the thousands of bodies that have sat upon it over decades. We love coming here with our two young children. 

A massive tree at Botanic Gardens.

Rip it up on Detour Snake Run

214 Manchester Street, Christchurch Central

Encouraging adults to play more in the city is really important as joyful play is good for our health and wellbeing. Detour is a Gap Filler project that was originally designed to inject a bit of fun into the everyday bike or scooter commute, cutting the corner of Gloucester and Manchester Streets. It was designed by professional track builders and works for anyone on wheels - something to discover for a little moment of play and delight.

A man on a lime scooter.

Head to the hills at Crater Rim

Port Hills, Crater Rim, Christchurch

The Crater Rim walkway loops around the Lyttelton/Ōhinehou side of the Port Hills. We love this walk because you get a sense of place from a macro level. You can see the city, the hills and the ocean. And you get a sense of the history too from the geology. When we’re up here, we think of the tangata whenua and of those who came on the first four ships and walked over these hills to Ōtautahi Christchurch. It’s a stunning walk with incredible views. You can walk sections or the whole thing, depending on how you’re feeling.

Two people on the Crater Rim looking out towards Christchurch.

Catch the views at Tūranga

60 Cathedral Square, Christchurch Central

Our new library, Tūranga, is an absolute delight. The building itself is wonderful architecturally, with large staircases and huge windows that give amazing views of the city and the hills. The building’s design and construction was based on mātauranga mana whenua – the body of knowledge that originates from the people of this place (Ngāi Tūāhuriri). The golden panels that cloak the building are reminiscent of harakeke. Tūranga connects with the kaupapa of Gap Filler - fun public spaces that are open to anyone.

Levels of stairs inside Turanga.

Experimental scoop at Utopia Ice

153 High Street, Christchurch Central

Simply the yummiest ice cream there is. Small batch, made with local ingredients (some from their customers’ gardens and traded for ice cream). The flavours are fresh and interesting, from plum and Earl Grey sorbet to tonka bean brulee -  there’s always something experimental and tasty. Lots of plant-based options too! We did a project with Utopia Ice last year where people were invited to scoop sundaes to give away to strangers.

Kids hanging out inside Utopia Ice.

Explore the (former) Residential Red Zone

Red Zone, Burwood, Christchurch

This area follows the Avon River / Ōtākaro where liquefaction led to 8000 homes being demolished. This 600ha area is beautiful, sad and at times peculiar, full of traces of those families who lived there for many years. Nature has reclaimed the area now, and it functions as a huge green space for foraging, cycling, walking and just spending time. We love to go riding with our kids there and enjoy foraging for fruit, flowers and nuts in season.

A woman picking fruit.

Experience Lyttelton community

London Street, Lyttelton, Christchurch

We think it’s wonderful that the Lyttelton main street shuts every Saturday from 9am-1pm for the Lyttelton Farmers Market. Lyttelton is a wonderful wee town full of character, steep streets and interesting locals. The market provides an important connection to food producers. You’ll find produce, bread, coffee, cheese, honey, eggs, meat, beer and pastries, along with live music, crafts, second-hand goods and more. The Lyttelton Market has been a great example of community building and helping people connect to a place.

Close up of carrots.

Discover local art at Ata Ceramics

50 London Street, Lyttelton, Christchurch

Coralie has been a ceramicist for a while, but she ramped it up last year when she had the opportunity to teach and take up a studio at Ata ceramics. Ata is a shop and a working studio in one. The shop features work made by some talented Canterbury potters, including master potter Frederika Ernsten, founder Grace Uivel, Gael Abraham and Coralie. Much of what’s in the shop is made on site. Ata is also home to Lyttelton Pottery, which produces the Deksel all-ceramic keep cup (a world first) designed and made by Rob Uivel.

A customer browsing ceramics at Ata.