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Luxcity 2012: a hopeful, makeshift, magical glow

Christchurch city radiated with a wonderful light on Saturday night.

Nothing prepares you for your first walk down Gloucester Street these days, past haunted, fenced-off streets, the spectral remains of the demolition-ravaged Farmers building, the gaps, the Red Zone dust on your shoes and the loss.

But by the time we arrived on a Saturday afternoon the street was alive again with an army of ferociously-focussed architecture and design students in multicoloured hard hats. They were fighting a cheerful and seemingly impossible battle against time and wind to reinvent the centre of the destroyed CBD as “city of light for one night”.

Luxcity was the ambitious star of the Festival of Transitional Architecture (Festa). Vast structures seemingly made out of snowflakes, cobwebs and plastic cups, held up by cranes and demolition machinery, waited for dark to come and the lights to be switched on.

Some of the installations didn’t work as expected. One or two didn’t work at all. We watched as gusts of wind threatened to rip apart an undulating canopy called Murmur. It lived somehow to flutter valiantly, gorgeously lit, behind chef Richard Till’s Filthy Burrito stand.

There were towers of light, the Kloud dance party, fashion models in plastic globes … Personal favourite: In Your Face, a huge balloon floating about the crowd onto which faces of passing punters were projected.

There was a sense of party, potential and solidarity. “Thanks for coming and making a difference,” said a punter to the Auckland students still toiling away on the spectacular light grid, Etch-a-Sketch.

There was even some drama as the expected 2000 visitors turned into a briefly immobile mass of somewhere around 12,000. Good humour was maintained, fences were moved, traffic flowed and we headed off for possibly the world’s best gin and tonic.

The tubes above the ad hoc bar were full of tonic that was meant to glow in black light. They didn’t but no one cared. The night radiated enough of a hopeful, makeshift, magical glow to be seen from space.

Rebecca Macfie's Luxcity preview is here.

The Festa photostream can be viewed here.