The Breathe Urban Village Competition: Why did it fail to deliver?

Lin Roberts has been a key part of The Viva Project since it began, and teaches at Department of Environmental Management, Lincoln University, New Zealand.


Lin has has just completed a paper (published in the Lincoln Planning Review) about why The Breathe Urban Village Competition failed as a key anchor project.


Successful urban regeneration projects generate benefits that are realised over a much longer timeframe than normal market developments and benefits well beyond those that can be uplifted by a market developer.

Consequently there is substantial evidence in the literature that successful place-making and urban regeneration projects are usually public-private partnerships and involve a funder, usually local or central government, willing to contribute ‘patient’ capital. Following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that devastated the centre of Christchurch, there was an urgent need to rebuild and revitalise the heart of the city, and increasing the number of people living in or near the city centre was seen as a key ingredient of that. In October 2010, an international competition was launched to design and build an Urban Village, a project intended to stimulate renewed residential development in the city. The competition attracted 58 entrants from around world, and in October 2013 the winning team was chosen from four finalists.

However the team failed to secure sufficient finance, and in November 2015 the Government announced that the development would not proceed. The Government was unwilling or unable to recognise that an insistence on a pure market approach would not deliver the innovative sustainable village asked for in the competition brief, and failed to factor in the opportunity cost to government, local government, local businesses and the wider Christchurch community of delaying by many years the residential development of the eastern side of the city. As a result, the  early vision of the vitality that a thriving residential neighbourhood would bring to the city has not yet been realised.

Read the full article here


VIVA Says a Final Goodbye to the Breathe Project

This press release was recently sent out by the Committee:

Jasmax/Viva! - Aerial ViewOne of the finalists in the Breathe Urban Village Anchor Project, The Viva! Sustainable Urban Village was last week told by CERA/CCDU that the Breathe Urban Village idea is no longer being pursued. It has been replaced with a residential precinct concept.

As a result the Viva Project is withdrawing intentions to create a sustainable urban village within the areas controlled by CERA in Christchurch City.

This is an economic decision as the price CERA is expecting for land is not financially viable for a community focused village concept as promoted in the Breathe Competition that they sponsored.

How sad – what was the purpose of the competition?

It turns out that the 58 New Zealand and International entries had no chance of adhering to the competition requirements and developing a community focused village that worked financially. No chance at all!

CERA, you have wasted our time and made a fool of Christchurch on the international stage.

In a recent email received from CERA, following an inquiry into purchasing land for residential development, land prices of $1500m2 up to $5000 & 7000m2 for some high value parcels were quoted. Oh really? Not for residential development in our city. Where are the developers that will take that on, and if they do what price will the housing need to be?

Look how Victoria St has gone ahead in an interesting an innovative way, without constraints that CERA has imposed on the central city.

It is difficult to see how the target of 20,000 people living in the central City will be achieved while CERA holds fast to obtaining the prices it paid for more expensive commercially valued land and expecting residential developments to be viable. And all this on earthquake damaged land.

The Viva! Project has exciting options outside of land controlled by CERA and looks forward to working with Christchurch people and the CCC in creating a sustainable urban village that will be a flag ship for what is possible in city developments.




Viva Responds to Gerry Brownlee

The Christchurch Press gave some coverage to Minister Gerry Brownlee who “slates Breathe Urban Village”, VIVA! Responds below

BrownleeA $30 million urban village planned for central Christchurch “should never have started in the first place”, Gerry Brownlee says.

Construction of the Breathe residential development was due to start in April, but the developers have not yet applied for building consents and there has been no news on the project for months.

Brownlee, who is the Earthquake Recovery Minister, criticised the the eco-friendly, timber-clad village project on Newstalk ZB Friday morning….  More more if you really want to

Christchurch, when do we get our say?

Jane Quigley of The ViVA! Project responded like this:

I’m confused? Minister Brownlee says Breathe Urban Village (Competition?) “should never have started in the first place”.  Has the $100’s and $1000’s of dollars spent on the designs of the 58 NZ and International entries all been wasted?

AerialView_BannerThe Breathe Urban Village Competition gave such hope following the earthquakes; it was meant to be the first anchor project built, something we could all be proud of.

The Viva/Jasmax entry, I was involved in, was one of the finalists. We held 8 design workshops – Christchurch community working with design professionals to create a design the people would be happy to live in. Ours was a sustainable and community focused village.

Now we have Fletcher, chosen above local bids, to develop the east and north frame precincts. “it’s a pretty sad day for Canterbury”.

Viva! is pursuing other land options and remains ready and willing to build however our success needs to be a whole community collaboration.  No one group can successfully create our future in isolation – not CERA, CCC, Ngāi Tahu, Fletcher, nor the people of Christchurch.

Let’s work together with kindness, respect and co-operation, allowing trust and the creativity to arise – then we can create the city we will be proud of.  Our community making a difference and showcasing what is possible in our City.

The following letter was published in the Christchurch Press recently

Viva Ready and Willing

Jasmax / Viva! - North EntryIn 2012 an innovative competition was launched to find a winning design for a sustainable urban village in Christchurch. The competition gave hope following the earthquakes and reflected feedback from the Share an Idea Forum.

The entry from the Viva community, with Jasmax, was one of the four finalists. The Viva Project involves Christchurch people wanting to make a difference in the city they love, building examples of modern day sustainable, community focused urban villages.

Jasmax/Viva! - CourtyardWe had detailed plans, based on extensive community consultation, and 80 parties wanting to buy/purchase in the village. However we did not submit final plans as more time was required to solve the tricky issues of land damage and affordability.

In October 2013 an Italian consortium, partnered with Holloway Builders, were announced winners from over 57 NZ and International entries. There has been little heard of them since although clear expectations were conveyed to the finalists that construction should begin within months of the award.

Viva is pursuing other land options and remains ready and willing to build, but what has happened to Breath

VivaLogoChristchurch, let’s find a way to deliver on the intentions of the Competition. Our community making a difference and showcasing what is possible in our City.


Viva Finalist in The Breathe Project

The Jasmax & Viva! Project ‘Living Village’ design entry was shortlisted in the Christchurch ‘Breathe’ competition.  The competition saw designers around the world entering a design competition aimed at rejuvenating a neighbourhood in the heart of Christchurch City.

The ‘Living Village’ team comprised the Viva! Project, a 300-strong collective of Christchurch citizens passionate about creating a sustainable rebuild for Christchurch, and award-winning New Zealand architectural practice, Jasmax, with additional support provided by team of consultants and developers – people whose mission is to create affordable and sustainable living environments.

Jasmax Principal and Design Team Leader Greg Boyden commented, “The collaborative vision for the ‘Living Village’ community is to create an innovative village model, based on social, environmental, cultural and financial sustainability.  The design incorporates a housing model that optimises the needs of the individual as well as the wider community”.
The combined strengths of the Viva! Project and Jasmax make for a powerful team. Viva represents the collective voice and participatory leadership of the people of Christchurch. Jasmax brings cutting-edge design experience, as well as the sustainable values of the Living Building Challenge – the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard.

The judging panel, including international judge Kevin McCloud commended the design stating “The village uses natural materials and native plants to harness rainwater and capture energy from the sun to deliver an exemplar of ‘one-planet’ living. The design delivers a strong sense of place and community created through its diverse housing and shared amenities surrounded by an inviting garden city setting. A further strength of this unique community-based development model is that its modest approach addresses housing affordability issues”.

The design draws on local identity and wisdom reflecting both Tangata Whenua and Pakeha influences. Innovative design features include solar electric panels, organic food-growing areas, on-site water treatment, a café, green space, a community house and positioning of homes to encourage social interaction.

[Design Boards]

Viva! Project Co-Convener, Jane Quigley said “Being short-listed in the competition was a huge honour and an endorsement for all involved in this ‘people-led’ design. We believe that such a Living Village will serve as a flagship example of what can be achieved not only in Christchurch, but around the world. We also commend the organisers of the competition for giving the people of Christchurch the opportunity to have an authentic say in the rebuild and revitalisation of their city”.


For more information:

For media enquiries:
Catherine Dilly, Media Relations + 64 22 322 8972,

The Viva! Project
Jane Quigley, Project Co-Convener + 64 274 592 371,

Results of Breathe Urban Village Competition

The Viva! Project was absolutely delighted to be a finalist in the Breathe Urban Village Competition, and congratulate the winning team, Rome-based Anselmi Attiani Associated Architects who teamed up with the Cresco Group and Riccarton-based Holloway Builders, for their outstanding effort in creating a design for leading-edge residential living in Christchurch.


The Viva Sustainable Urban Village Project is an exciting development initiated by a group of like-minded Christchurch people who are passionate about their city and are committed to making a real difference following the devastating earthquakes.

Guided by our vision ”To create a vibrant urban village – an innovative and inspiring example of sustainable design and connected community”, the core community team including a number of volunteer design professionals have run numerous integrated design workshops with hundreds of passionate Christchurch people.  The outcomes from these workshops have been tightly aligned with many ideas coming out of the CCC ‘Share an Idea’ initiative and helped set the benchmark of what is wanted by people living in the new Christchurch.

As an example, a central ‘heart’ space as part of a site layout supports a strongly connected community and is designed as a contrast to the urban context.  Our Breathe entry features numerous other strong social, environmental and affordability innovations.


We thank the competition organisers and our partners Jasmax, Arcus Developments, WT Partnership, eCubed Building Workshop and MLB Consulting for the extraordinary opportunity that the collaboration on the Breathe Urban Village competition provided.

Together we will create a beautiful, ‘people-led’ Christchurch that is viable, liveable, innovative and distinctly sustainable!

For more information please contact:
Jane Quigley (Ph 0274 592 371,
or Jürg Hönger (ph 021 633 130,