Revivifying the Grey
The West Coast of the South Island is geographically isolated from the rest of New Zealand, divided by the Southern Alps. Small West Coast towns have developed to service the exploration and extraction of natural resources as well as forestry and agriculture. Constantly in a state of flux, these service towns are transitioning from their industrial past to the technological age, while their location means they are also likely to be subject to a significant natural disaster in the foreseeable future, as tectonic movements on the alpine fault indicate a large earthquake is predicted to strike the West Coast region. This earthquake threat, the economic decline created by the lack of work, and urban drift, resulting from the transition from its industrial heritage, have fuelled the decay of these small service towns and impacted on the livelihoods of the communities of ‘coasters’ who live there.
The importance of Greymouth, the largest town on the West Coast, and the many issues that it faces and will continue to face, are the main focus of this thesis. It explores the notion of a hypothetical, yet possible, scenario of the alpine fault triggering an earthquake, causing the West Coast region to be ‘cut off’ by road and rail from the rest of the South Island. As well as this, the probability of the government abandoning the West Coast due to the high economic cost of supporting a declining region is highly likely, leaving locals to rely on each other. This thesis examines the current context of Greymouth, both at a hypothetical and realistic level, and proposes an architectural strategy that can deal with the threat of a natural disaster and the economic problems identified whilst enhancing the connectivity of the township of Greymouth to its industrial past.
In creating a solution for the two main problems, this thesis explores multiple interventions which work together to address social, environmental and economic issues that, overall, will revitalise the township of Greymouth and increase its, and the wider West Coast region's resilience to the future impact of an earthquake and the current economic problems.