Life in the Face of Death

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Abstract

n February 2011, Christchurch in New Zealand suffered a series of devastating earthquakes which killed 185 people and transformed the city centre into a wasteland. Such disasters test the physical structure and social cohesion of communities; post-disaster recovery and rebuilding efforts must therefore re-establish and nurture social well-being, as well as reconstructing the built environment. We discuss how the action of “greening” for environmental transformation in post-disaster landscapes can play a significant role in rebuilding social capital and how community-based organisations responded to the disaster by re-injecting life and culture into the city through temporary installations and “greening” projects. Landscape architects were involved in large and complex urban earthquake-recovery projects but also contributed to or led many smaller-scale greening projects. We suggest that the landscape architect’s role in a post-disaster scenario is as important at the community facilitation level as it is in contributing to larger-scale infrastructure redevelopment.