At a planning hearing some time ago a traffic engineer with an interest in topography discussed the nature of the Timaru townscape. He described the landform as a series of ridges falling eastwards towards the ocean rather like the outstretched fingers on the upper side of one's hand. Many millions of years ago these ridges would have been enlarged by the flow of molten material from the eruption of Mt Horrible – our Timaru bluestone. Then followed millions more years of accumulation of windblown rock dust from the main divide. This is the yellow loess – clay as we call it – that one strikes in Timaru when digging below the topsoil.
In considering the attributes of the Central Business District in Timaru, it is readily apparent that streets, roads and lanes have been formed in harmony with this undulating topography.
Whereas cities such as Christchurch and Dunedin had orthogonal (ie. rectangular) street layouts imposed upon them by surveyors from afar, the Timaru CBD has grown organically in response to its landforms. This is a significant attribute in providing character, interest and curiosity to the CBD.
The wonderful plan of the centre of Milan in Italy shown here, is rich in intrigue. There is immediate appeal in the organic pattern; a web of streets, lanes and piazzas, not to mention the names of landmark buildings that command attention.
In an ideal world, certain heritage buildings will act as markers and emblems in the townscape. Within its gently rolling terrain Timaru has the towers, spires and key buildings to perform that task in style, and hence need careful protection.
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