Thursday, January 7, 2016


In September 2010, Christchurch was hit by an earthquake. It was early one Saturday morning, and once the dust had settled, everyone was thankful that no one was killed,  "just" damage to many buildings. Just five months later in February 2011, another massive quake struck and the outcome was devastating. This happened on a weekday just after noon. Almost 200 lives were lost when two major buildings collapsed, and many other buildings incurred irreparable damage. Now, almost five years later, the rubble has been cleared away and rebuilding is well underway, however there are MANY empty lots. Some of these are clearly in use as community spaces, for example I saw one corner lot that contained benches, sunshades and shelves with books. Some have public art installed. Others are behind construction fencing, and nothing is happening behind the fence. 

Shipping containers use for storage or temporary premises. Still more are active construction sites. 

There are signs advertising for skilled trades workers--apparently this has become a diverse multicultural community as people have come here from around the world to work. (I wonder where they're all living?) 

The harsh reality is that about 7,000 homes had to be destroyed, and the properties never to be built on again because of liquefaction. This is called The Red Zone, and encompasses the suburbs to the east alongside the meandering Avon River. The plan is for this to become public green space. I think there will be a lot of public green space throughout the city. Apparently many people have moved out to the safer Canterbury Plains, and businesses have moved as well. The big public projects are continuing apace...a convention centre, the Town Hall for performing arts, and the Christchurch Arts Centre...and will open/reopen within the next 4 years. The iconic cathedral sustained massive damage (its spire collapsed as did the end wall with the rose can see in this photo that the supports put up after the first quake didn't help prevent the collapse in the second...

I felt that I needed a break from this destruction and paid a visit to the Canterbury museum for a couple of hours. As you have probably figured out, I love museums, and this place is no exception. There were fascinating exhibits on the local Maori, the extinct Moa, and how the people adapted to its extinction by turning to farming. The settlement of Christchurch by the English was described in great detail...As evident from the name, it was a religious settlement and the first permanent buildings were Anglican churches. English names are predominant, e.g. Latimer Square, Durham St, Salisbury Street. Another fascinating exhibit was in the Antarctic section describing how some shipwrecked sailors survived 100 years ago in the Auckland Islands to the far south, by building a coracle with driftwood. The coracle was on display along with the clothing that they fashioned from the sails scavenged from their ship. 

After a splendid three hours in the museum I dropped into the art gallery, newly reopened. The gallery was first opened in 2003 and survived both quakes so well that it was used as the headquarters for disaster/civil defence teams. This article describes their experiences with shifting the artwork and permanent collection first to accommodate the new use, and then for the building repairs:
On display for this reopening is their permanent collection. One artwork I was particularly taken with was by Ralph Hotere, a Maori artist known for using a lot of black. Imagine several large panels which at a casual glance appear to be solid black, some with a large circle of a saturated colour. Looking more carefully, words become obvious...Malady, Melody...and in the solid black panels, large circles became obvious when I used my peripheral vision. See more about him here:

Back to the Christchurch Cathedral...the decision has been made finally to rebuild, but no decision on what. A temporary structure, the Transitional Cathedral, is a fascinating structure of cardboard and plywood, erected a few blocks away. "Sono" tubes, reinforced with laminated beams up the centre of each one, form the A-frame ceiling and rest on ubiquitous shipping containers forming the side walls.

We left Christchurch yesterday to drive along the coast south to Dunedin. On the way we went through the town of Ashburton, home of Ashland spinning wheels, fibre and yarns! So of course we stopped and I had a happy browse. We are now in Dunedin for another night, and it's raining this morning. Hmmmm, this might be another museum and gallery day. We also hope to get out to the end of the peninsula to the Albatross centre. More on that in the next post.

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