Designworks’ Sven Baker: New Zealand’s design industry must unite to help Christchurch

We have to mobilise the New Zealand design community around the relief and rebuild efforts in Christchurch. This means we have to coordinate our own meaningful industry response. We have an important role to play in assisting both now and throughout the rebuilding of a shattered city. And I think this can work at two levels.

1. Provide some immediate help.

The Directors, leadership team and staff of Designworks have agreed that we will not be entering the Best Awards this year and instead, we will be donating the money we would have invested in preparing, entering and attending the awards (which historically is rather a lot of $) to a relief fund for Christchurch.

I would like to invite the rest of the design community and Best sponsors though DINZ to consider joining Designworks in this tangible demonstration of support. It would be a powerful industry response. It would add up to a significant donation if we could get everyone on board with this idea.

To replace the Best Awards we propose organising a ‘showcase’ of work form the year in another format. We suggest that each participating company or individual be invited to exhibit their favorite pieces of work from the year in a public exhibition that would travel to the three main centres. Donations would be invited for entry to the ‘Design Aid Exhibition’.

I appreciate this is a big call for individual companies and there are impacts on DINZ and Best sponsors we need to consider, but for Designworks it’s one area of discretionary spend that we can commit right away.

We will also be mobilising the STW Group by inviting all our 80 sister companies across Australasia to get involved in some way.

Martin Sorrell, worldwide chairman of WPP has also kindly offered his assistance.

2. A strategic design vision for rebuilding a city.

We look to convene an industry task force of architects, urban designers, artist etc from the ranks of DINZ membership to develop a long term strategic vision around the renewal process which will need to happen over the years to come. We harness the talent and capability of the design profession in a way that contributes meaningfully to the future of Christchurch. We sponsor bringing to New Zealand a global authority of Urban design renewal in the face of devastation. This needs to be a ‘one voice’ coordinated process that positions the design profession at the forefront of thought leadership.

Designworks is also currently exploring teaming up with a nationwide plumbing client to launch a campaign entitled ‘Shit Happens – lets fix it!’. In which we connect residences in Christchurch with plumbers who are donating their time to fix domestic plumbing damage as a result of the earthquake. As you know, water, sewage and waste water is one of the most pressing issues.

Our client will be contributing all materials free! An online disaster repair ‘dating agency’ website will be central to this. We’ll also be inviting other clients to be part of this initiative.

Having narrowly escaped from the disaster on Tuesday, I feel compelled to do something meaningful to help and to drive a powerful industry response. I’m sure if you had been there you would also feel so inspired.

We are coordinating an informal meeting of industry leaders at DW office in Auckland (and Wellington if required) as soon as is practical to kick this process off. Ideally this would be a whole of industry action. A coordinated voice from the design industry. Design can make a valuable contribution in helping shape a brighter future of Christchurch.

Are you with me?

  • Baker was in Christchurch at the time and was lucky to escape, as this article about his experience in the Dominion Post attests. The 15 staff in the Designworks office, which was opened in June last year and which is shares with Haines recruitment, all survived the quake.

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