The Canterbury earthquakes were among the most traumatic events in New Zealand’s history. 

In 2016 Story Inc was hired by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA, now Ōtākaro Limited) to develop a Memorial Experience Strategy for the National Earthquake Memorial which was due to open the following year, on the 6th anniversary of the fatal 22 February quake.

By the time that Story Inc was brought on board to consult on the memorial, ground had been broken at the memorial site on the Ōtākaro/Avon River, between the Montreal Street bridge and Rhododendron Island on Slovenian architect Grega Vezjak’s design “The Memorial Wall: Riverside Promenade”. 

CERA recognised that although Vezjak’s simple, yet beautiful design was fit-for-purpose and fulfilled the brief, there were a number of additional factors to consider in regard to the overall experience in order to create the most moving and effective memorial experience possible. Story Inc was engaged to explore the available options and produce a Memorial Experience Strategy. 

To do this we facilitated and lead a series of workshops with the project team and other stakeholders. The recommendations that came out of those sessions were then refined into a coherent strategy which was then used to brief the development of specific visitor experience concepts.

Visitor experience elements that were examined through the consultancy were:

  • Media options e.g. Lighting, plaques, engraving, tributes, projection, audio, apps – the strategy narrowed down which of these options were appropriate and how they could be utilised to enhance the experience.
  • Content – what content needed to be included at the memorial site and where it should be located;
  • Physical design – entrance ways and thresholds and how they can be subtly communicated to visitors through design cues
  • The online memorial experience – what it needs to say/do and how it could say/do it;

The response to the Memorial since its opening in February 2017 has been overwhelmingly positive, with many visitors describing it as a “moving experience”. Though we played just a small part in its creation, Story Inc was honoured to be involved with this project of national significance.