Gap Filler breaks new ground with The Inconvenience Store

4 March 2014

The prominent post-quake art-meets-urban-design initiative, Gap Filler, is continuing its creative pursuit of a sustainable DIY urban rejuvenation culture in Christchurch with a new project, The Inconvenience Store.
Lamenting a suburban shopping mall culture whose prime virtue is convenience, Gap Filler co-founder Ryan Reynolds says “Convenience breeds regularity and conformity, a proliferation of the same. Even the government’s recovery plan for the central city is modelled on convenience, creating physically discrete precincts of monocultures (the innovation precinct, the performing arts precinct) in place of an integrated variety of activities everywhere.”
Gap Filler joins a growing countermovement with this project; the slow food lobby, the resurgence of crafting and the prevalence of home brewing (to name a few) all indicate a fairly widespread sense that ‘inconvenience’ is somehow appealing, or meaningful, in our fast-paced consumer society. Christchurch’s transitional city movement is rife with such time-consuming activities, from urban farming project Agropolis to ‘waste wood into furniture’ social enterprise Rekindle and more.
Gap Filler’s Inconvenience Store is a “9:30-to-5:30” hybrid of a store and an art project or residency, located in a temporarily vacant shop in Cathedral Junction, brokered by Life in Vacant Spaces. Every week someone new will fit-out, stock and operate the store. The only parameters are that it must create a memorable customer experience, speak to the theme of inconvenience, and that at least one item must be purchasable in some form of currency. Proposals received include a two-hour shop - a jewellery and accessory shop where customers must spend two hours of their time to make a purchase; a shop stocking only orange products; a mystery untitled cake shop; a store bartering abstract concepts; and much more.
In one of the weeks, Gap Filler itself will run the store on the principle of transparency, revealing the provenance of everything sold, and offering products in various stages of convenience. For instance, they will sell a tin of baked beans; a kitset of heat-treated beans, tomato sauce, and other ingredients, with a recipe; and a more primitive kitset of soil and seeds to grow the beans and tomatoes.
“Long before the earthquakes, Christchurch’s central city was struggling because of all the massive – and incredibly convenient – suburban shopping malls,” Reynolds says. “Many people want to push the inner city down that path towards more convenience, with free parking everywhere and a central air-conditioned mall. We feel that the central city needs a point of difference, that we should embrace inconvenience and turn it into an asset and point of attraction for the city.
“So the Inconvenience Store might fulfil a genuine central city need; raise a critical voice; be absurd, silly, enjoyable; lead to new ideas for the central city; be a ‘real’ store, or an art project, or a performance piece, or pretty much anything that responds to this terrain. The inconvenience might be in the physical layout of the store; in the products it carries; in the mode of payment; in the checkout procedures or interactions with the customers; or anything else.”
This store continues the theme of other recent transitional city projects. Gap Filler’s Sound Garden is a collection of large and playful musical instruments – giant drums, a PVC pipe aerophone, percussive fire extinguishers – left out 24 hours a day for anyone to discover, nestled in a temporary garden made by Greening the Rubble. RAD Bikes is a home-built community bike shed where volunteer cycle mechanics teach anyone how to fix their own bike, using spare parts salvaged from the rubbish heap. RAD stands for Recycle A Dunger, ‘dunger’ being Minister Brownlee’s pejorative term for old heritage buildings whose demolition he has been endorsing.
Gap Filler’s iconic Pallet Pavilion will be deconstructed in April, with the vast majority of building materials being re-used. The 3000 pallets will go back into circulation for shipping and the concrete foundation slabs, salvaged from the demolition of the Clarendon Hotel, will become bridges over culverts on Canterbury farms.
After more than three years of rolling out creative projects that have brought life to many of the vacant sites around the city and much international attention to Christchurch, Gap Filler is increasingly interested in bringing an engaged, critical voice to Christchurch, questioning through its projects how the rebuild and recovery is taking place and offering new possibilities. The Inconvenience Store is one such project.
Background Information
Location: Shop 4, Cathedral Junction, City (between Worcester and Gloucester Streets)
Project duration: March 4 – April 13 (approx.) Check Gap Filler website for exact dates.
Opening hours: 9:30am – 5:30pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Mondays for project changeover.
Gap Filler is a post-quake initiative in Christchurch that activates post-quake vacant sites with temporary, creative projects for community benefit. It was started in November, 2010 and has completed more than 40 projects in that time. Gap Filler projects blend art, urban design and architecture and all involve volunteers.
Ryan Reynolds, project coordinator for Inconvenience Store.
021 143 3653