The latest Hanmer, Kaikoura, Seddon, Wellington quakes have shifted focus off Christchurch but it is still far from business as usual.
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
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.
The brand new 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.
Pollarding plane trees stopped many years ago. The current trend is to pollard the buildings
There are lots of new open spaces, greyfields
and soon to be built over fields
It amazes me that so many of the early bridges came through unscathed
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
but now we can see that our reality is distorted
vista’s worthy of Mr Brown
I always liked the look of this hotel but click on the photo below and take a closer look…
have a deco at New Regent Street’s new art deco
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
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 http://artofrecoveryfilm.com/
If you’re in NZ it’s available at TVNZ on
demand https://www.tvnz.co.nz/ondemand/the-art-of-recovery 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’
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
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.
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 house of law has been reformed
and The Chalice catches the Light in front of God’s House
Fallen into dereliction
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 http://restorechristchurchcathedral.co.nz/ 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
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.
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 http://www.sammahon.com
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.