Christchurch Revisited II

The latest Hanmer, Kaikoura, Seddon, Wellington quakes have shifted focus off Christchurch but it is still far from business as usual.


Christchurch: a work in progress under a grey Nor-west blanket

Back near the shortest day (late June) I had another day wandering the streets of Christchurch, essentially a year on from my last visit . Some of those inner city things that had been done to liven it up had been abandoned


A living fence is …well dead

but new buildings are on the rise and there isn’t much left to come down. It should look prosperous when it’s all done but I hope they don’t keep doing the current grey themes. Grey to match the grey of the gravel underneath and the grey of the Nor-west sky that so often hangs over the city to be relieved at days end when the sun briefly traverses that narrow strip of blue the “Nor-west Arch” painting the city and hills in golden light.


Durham St, Christchurch: kissed by late afternoon sunlight peeking under the Nor-west arch. Roadworks continue and stone buildings on the left have protective structures built over them for the meantime

The brand new bus exchange


Christchurch bus exchange

There are still a lot of otherwise bland surfaces exposed by the demolition of adjacent buildings that have been decorated in a range of styles

When I came across this mural by BMDISYOURFRIEND, it took a moment to work out what was going on… and it was only as I walked away, that I realised my sense of disorientation came not from the mural, but that the carpark had previously been occupied by the hotel where my parents stayed, on their return to NZ, after getting married in Australia.

08-rimg3100 09-rimg3101

10-rimg3102 11-rimg3103

Pollarding plane trees stopped many years ago. The current trend is to pollard the buildings

London plane: a pollard no more

London plane: a pollard no more

Modern Pollard

Modern Pollard


There are lots of new open spaces, greyfields

22-rimg3141 21-rimg3139

The site of the modern office building where Kirsty worked.

The former site of the modern office building where Kirsty worked.


Durham St, Methodist Church. Opened in 1864 it was the oldest stone church in Christchurch.

and greenfields


A whole city block temporarily turned into a park


From Latimer Square a vista not seen in decades

and soon to be built over fields


Pegs in ready to rip

It amazes me that so many of the early bridges came through unscathed

06-rimg3093 07-rimg3091

You see this bridge and the next one along are at least partially brick when you take a peek under them.  That they’ve withstood modern trucks and buses is amazing enough for something 130 years old.

Then there are still plenty of buildings that haven’t fared so well and are still waiting to be reborn.  Like these old Christchurch City Council offices, brick and limestone didn’t cope so well when half the ground underneath moved toward the river.

Others are getting the grand treatment


If 2 red brick stores get restored, there'll be 8 red brick stores waiting to accidentally fall down, 8 left hanging

If 2 red brick stores get restored, there’ll be 8 red brick stores waiting to accidentally fall

but now we can see that our reality is distorted

vista’s worthy of Mr Brown

Has the Anglican Cathedral ever been visible from the bridge on Victoria St before?

Has the Anglican Cathedral ever been visible from the bridge on Victoria St before?


I always liked the look of this hotel but click on the photo below and take a closer look…

Earthquake repairs

Earthquake repairs

have a deco at New Regent Street’s new art deco

New Regent Street, Christchurch.

New Regent Street, Christchurch.

Rescued piano in the public dance space

Rescued piano in a public dance space, Victoria St.

I made this visit with a documentary fresh in mind “The Art of Recovery” and sought out some of the places that were shown. If it comes your way take the time to watch it, sad, funny, a commentary on resilience, lost opportunity and what happens when business interests take control of rebuilding a community. For a time, Christchurch new what it was to have a soul even though the body was

piano rescued from a bar now on Victoria St.

piano rescued from a bar now on Victoria St.

broken, it’s unclear if the soul will remain when the concrete and glass facades of commerce dominate the city streets.

Here’s the official trailer

If you’re in NZ it’s available at TVNZ on

Where the foofy Crown Plaza Hotel once stood

Where the foofy Crown Plaza Hotel once stood

demand I doubt it will work from other countries but it won’t hurt to try.

Next to the Bridge of Remembrance on Cashel St, is what remains of the post earthquake shopping area ‘The Container Mall’


Bridge of Remembrance, Christchurch

Bridge of Remembrance, Christchurch

I stumbled across ‘185 Empty Chairs’, many of the chairs were personal possessions of those killed, donated and painted by those nearest to them.

185 Empty Chairs leads naturally to the Cardboard Cathedral

The temporary Anglican 'Cardboard' Cathedral from 185 Empty Chairs, Christchurch

The temporary Anglican ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral from 185 Empty Chairs, Christchurch

If the following seems a little weird and you don’t get the references, not to worry, for me it’s a bit of fun but I hope it works for at least some of you. Not without it’s serious note mind but I have been inspired somewhat by Rick of Massachusetts and his often witty and slick Blue Oak Blog. So there’s a nod here to some Old World and some New World workers of post and beam, summers, bays and trunnels, mortice and tenon paired with the slick and knocked into place by a beetlish commander. If I’m lucky my effort will rate a 1 on the Rick-ter scale.

To set the scene a cousin took this photo of the Cathedral the day before it fell.

Christchurch Anglican Cathedral 21st February 2011

Christchurch Anglican Cathedral 21st February 2011

At the old centre of knowledge, behind bolted doors art and atoms are soon to re-emerge into the light


within the spaces where Lord Rutherford learnt his craft. Here he had his alpha days but his beta days came in England where he devised the art of elemental riving.

The former Canterbury University, now the Christchurch Arts Centre approaching completed restoration

The former Canterbury University, now the Christchurch Arts Centre approaching completed restoration

The house of law has been reformed

64-rimg3257 63-rimg3255

and The Chalice catches the Light in front of God’s House

Love it or hate it. The Chalice, Cathedral Square, Christchurch, caught by late light under a Norwest Arch

Love it or hate it. The Chalice, Cathedral Square, Christchurch, caught by late light under a Norwest Arch

Fallen into dereliction

and bondage


abandoned by the shepherd, but guarded by the flock

for now, from the wrecking ball but dung and rain will take their toll

where proud Kings balance on reeking beams


hammered onto crumbling masonry

at the edge of the void where the bells once pealed

and the roof is now slated to do the peeling.


The Anglican Church wants to flatten the cathedral and put up a modern architectural and engineering masterpiece, however a stalwart group the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) want to see the cathedral rebuilt, but time is a wasting. The GCBT have a website where anyone who shares their ambition can make a donation toward the cause. Amongst other things the website displays a letter from the American Timber Framers Guild offering assistance.

In front of the mound that was the nave a stack of stones of a different order, stands

The Cairn, Cathedral Square, Christchurch

The Cairn, Cathedral Square, Christchurch

Memorial to Democracy plundered


to rivers dried, streams fouled, wells polluted and a way of life erased

where once a patchwork of crops blanketed the dry plains beyond the city


all is changed

for water is the new oil that greases the fields, to feed the cows to make the shit that feeds the algae that poisons the rivers that means the only safe place for children to experience flowing water is in the concrete creation of the waterpark by the Avon,


the Avon which is only safe to look at despite the quotes of founding fathers awed by her purity not so long ago.

A river of water so pure

“A river of water, clearer than crystal indeed the  finest water I ever saw.”

The long story of how the ‘cairn’ came to be can be uncovered in “Franzi and The Great Terrain Robbery” by Sam Mahon. It’s the story of how a community came together to protect their river and having won their cause through the correct and proper channels had the water stolen from under their feet by a central government determined to turn Canterbury into a giant milk factory.

Sam’s response was to turn to his art and protest through it, the ‘cairn’ was just one of several projects and it came together mid-winter not long before the shaking started, in his words (heavily abridged) this is how it was built:

“…’This song is for the rivers’ said Ariana ‘and as it’s being sung I’d like those of you nearest the trailers to take stones and pass them to your neighbours. In this way we can create two rivers of stone flowing to the cairn behind you.’ …Ariana was still singing …but where were the two rivers of stone?….I scooped up a boulder. A woman stood with her back to me. I took her by the arm and as she turned I offered her the stone. She smiled at me, she was already cradling one in her arms. I turned to the person beside her, he had one too. Everyone had a stone. But they weren’t passing them, they were standing facing the centre of the square. And now I understood; something unscripted was taking place. The bishop was standing beside the cairn, she was sprinkling water on the stones, and she was blessing them.

When it was over, the crowd began…passing their boulders to people on steps beside the cairn. Now there came a continuous dry clattering …for a few minutes it was constant, and then suddenly it ceased. I saw Lesley* walking up with a last great boulder clutched to her stomach.

‘There’s no more room, lady,’ someone said. She glared up at him; she had come an awfully long way with her offering from the Mandamus.

‘Don’t you tell me what to do,’ she said. The stone was passed up and as it nestled in among the others the crowd applauded and the mesh lid was wired down tight.

….I walked across to the seven tonne column of river stones. It had been built in twenty minutes by three thousand people. Mothers and fathers, grandparents, young and old…each had taken a stone in their hands…Some of them bore the names of rivers; Waimakariri, Rakaia, Hurunui, Waipara, Waitaki, Haast attached at eye level was a plaque of etched steel:


Chris appeared at my side…’Tell me…what other public art work has been crafted by nature, built by the people, explained by a dean and blessed by a bishop?’ “

*On a personal note I know Lesley, she grew up on a rugged high-country farm surrounded by high peaks feeding the Mandamus River, she has been a champion of wilderness and nature all her life and there is no way I’d be brave enough to tell her what to do.

Sam has an interesting website: gallery, sketches, paintings, videos, bronze casting …. check it out

Somewhere in the intervening months between my visit and now, Sam installed a new public work outside the Regional Council offices. ‘Vigil‘ is a bust of the late Cathy Sintenie who campaigned for sensible water use and clean water in South Canterbury.

This entry was posted in art, Christchurch, Environment, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Christchurch Revisited II

  1. Greetings. It is really good to see that you found our Durham Street Methodist Church website useful in garnering information on the history of the old stone church that stood on the 309 Durham Street site until 22 February 2011. I just need to note that the church on that site opened in 1864, not 1854, as mentioned on this page. A lot of information on your page – must now take more time to go through it all …

    Best wishes –



    • graemeu says:

      Thanks I’ve fixed the date.
      I always liked the building and hadn’t seen the site since walking in from Ilam (had to park the car) to get Kirsty from the ECAN offices. She helped in the search for the organ restoration team. A lot of mental images that day, all I remember thinking is how small a pile of rubble and match sticks the Church had become, sorrow for the organ repair crew and regret that I hadn’t taken the time to get photos of the Church and other buildings earlier.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s