Oliver Latimer is taking a closer interest in plans for Christchurch’s exciting Youth Hub than most – he helped design it.
The 26-year-old knows what a brilliant concept it will be for at-risk youth in the city, especially those dealing with mental illness – he freely admits he was once among their number. He first visited Dame Sue Bagshaw’s 298 Health Youth Medical Centre in inner-city Barbados Street at high school.
“I was really struggling with depression when I first reached out for help,” says Ollie. “Sue was really there for me from the start, helping me deal with troubling issues both at school and home. I had lost my mum to breast cancer when I was just four. The welcoming, non-judgmental atmosphere at 298 Health really helped me.”
Once stronger, Ollie left Christchurch to spend the next five years in Auckland, studying for a degree in Spatial Design.
“Unfortunately my Dad took his own life soon after I graduated so I moved back down to Christchurch in 2017. I was really struggling to cope with renewed grief and turned once again to Sue for counselling. That was super important for me and I was able to pick up again where we left off from high school. Sue is incredible. I spent many hours with her through it all. What she does to support youth is amazing. She is there for so many young people, she’s just so selfless and caring.”
Sue knew Ollie needed some direction in his life and sensed an opportunity to involve him and his skills with her ambitious one-stop-shop Youth Hub plans, then in their infancy. She asked him to a meeting where he was introduced to the Field Studio team, who were soon engaged to design the Hub. Sue and Field Studio Director Andrew Just thought Ollie’s skills would be a good fit for the project and Ollie was invited in to the firm’s office to join the project team.
“It was a wonderful opportunity. It was a bit of natural progression really. I first started by helping model the neighbourhood surrounds of the Salisbury Street site to collect vital information, then went on to help with the site design itself, the modelling and key visualisations. It gave me a strong project to be connected with and showed me what a working career as an architect might look like. They were really supportive and encouraged me all the way.”
Andrew Just says Ollie was an integral part of the design team.
“We really valued having his youth perspective. He was involved in workshops and interviews with key stakeholders as well as the hands-on design work. As a member of the project team he formed strong working relationships with us all and a real friendship developed. It was amazing to see his skills and confidence grow over time.”
Ollie was involved in the project for well over a year before leaving Christchurch once more, this time to complete a Bachelor of Architectural Studies majoring in Architecture at Wellington’s Victoria University. He has just finished his 3-year degree and is now hoping to find work in the capital where he lives with his partner.
“I’m proud of the fact I’ve played a small role in the design of the Youth Hub and helped turn ideas into really great working plans. I know its going to be a positive and inclusive place for young people needing support, as I once did. It will be a place for not only medical and mental health support but put youth in touch with organisations which can offer practical support. The onsite accommodation will be especially beneficial. Making that transition from home life to flatting straight from high school is a huge challenge for some and the Hub will help bridge that gap wonderfully. I’m so proud to have been involved.”