Wednesday, 10 August 2016

A City Rebuilding - Christchurch; Part 2


Continuing on from Part 1

On the corner of Cashel Street and Oxford Terrace there's a new concept in shopping; a pop-up mall made from a colourful collection of shipping containers. 

The temporary Re:START Mall has allowed many central city retailers to trade while permanent buildings are being built around them. And it's helped bring people back to the inner city.

A symbol of Christchurch's rebirth, the Re:Start Mall has already been relocated once, from a site further down Cashel Street, as new developments get under way.

The Re:Start Mall has had such a positive response from residents & visitors alike that there's talk of it becoming a permanent fixture of the new city centre, albeit not on the site it occupies at the moment. 

There are some very interesting sculptures located in the alleyways between the shopping containers. Entitled Avonside Drive, Hannah Kidd has designed four characters; everyday heroes based on people she saw in Christchurch communities offering gestures of kindness, supporting others, or maintaining familiar routines, following the earthquakes. 

Made from recycled roofing tin and steel, each character has a name; Mrs Parsons, Noel Peterson, Timothy Stableman & Tanya Brown, - an elderly lady peeping through her blinds, a man in his suit watering his local school garden (I missed capturing him), a man mowing an absent neighbour's lawn and a woman feeding stray red zone cats. They are fabulous pieces of art, I just love the look on the animals' faces, especially the adoring look on that little dog's face, the artist has captured them well. 

I finish wandering through the Re;START Mall and make my way back out onto Cashel Street. This is looking back towards the Bridge of Remembrance and it's the first time I get a sense of deja-vu, the trees and tramlines remind me of the pre-quake pedestrian mall. As does the facade of Ballantynes, Christchurch's iconic department store to my left which was one of the first shops to reopen, 8 months after the quake.

I'm heading east along Cashel Street now, the afternoon is drawing in but I still have a couple of sites I want to visit. There are many abandoned and derelict buildings along the way...

...some look abandoned but behind the boarded-up exteriors- like the Pagoda Court building here- work has begun on gutting the interior and rebuilding retail spaces inside the earthquake-sound structures.

One of the reasons I was keen to visit the inner city was to capture some of the many street art murals around the city. In 2014, the RISE Street Art Festival commissioned more than a dozen street art paintings to be painted on some of the larger blank walls in the city. This one on Manchester Street is by Jacob Yikes, one of the city's most active street artists.

Many are now disappearing due to the rebuild, including my old favourite, The Ballerina and this one called 'Blueprints' which is on the site of the old Westpac Tower.

Parts of Cashell Street & High Street are closed due to a very large crane being dismantled and loaded onto two truck and trailer units. It's the reason the tram tour I took earlier in the day was discounted, as it couldn't travel around this section of the city.

I pass a forlorn looking 'Urban Living Wall' on the corner of High Street. I'm not so sure the vision has quite hit the mark- Through this project we aim to create urban spaces and make nature a part of the city's fabric, with more places for plants, insects, spiders, small creatures, biodiversity and a greener urban environment- I think the spiders will be the only ones appreciating it.

As the sign says...

Further on along Cashell Street I finally reach one of the sites I wanted to visit; 185 Empty Chairs, is a poignant tribute to the 185 people who lost their lives in the earthquake.  

Click to enlarge... 185 Empty Chairs by Pete Majendie

The chairs' future is uncertain, like the re;Start Mall, they have also been moved once. Originally placed on the site of the Oxford Tce Baptist Church they are now on the site of another quake-destroyed church; St Paul's Trinity Presbyterian Church. 

It's a very moving memorial made all the more so because of the uniqueness of each individual chair representing the victims, including a baby's car seat.

If I had lost a family member or friend in the quake I could see that I would have selected a suitable chair to come and visit, to sit and contemplate, to reflect and remember that person. 

I'm not sure if it's by design or not, but this new site is diagonally opposite the site of the CTV building whose collapse saw the most loss of life (115 people) in the quake. 

And directly opposite the Chairs is the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral also known as the Cardboard Cathedral due to the 98, 16-20 metre, 120kg cardboard tubes used in the ceiling construction. Each tube is coated in polyurethane, and laminated timber has been inserted for strength. This is the world's only cathedral made substantially of cardboard.

The Cardboard Cathedral's triangular window design has 49, 1.2 metre tall panels which incorporate images from the Cathedral's original rose window (which was lost in the later June 2011 earthquake quake). And although the Cathedral is temporary, it's expected to have a life span of over 50 years....surely enough time to sort out the legal battle on the future of it's predecessor. 

Loud voices and laughter carry across the empty lots as I make my way back to my carpark; groups of construction workers on their way home after a busy day's work.

I have time to capture a few more pieces of street art along the way. This is 'Calendar Girl' by Seb Humphreys, a three story high naked woman that adorned the side of the Calender Girl Strip Club building. I say 'adorned' because she is no longer. Just a couple of weeks after I took her photo, the building was demolished. 

Les Mills' less risque lady was smiling at her opposition across the empty space. 

More street art by Jacob Yikes; a mexican restaurant on the corner of Hereford & Manchester Street simply called 'Mexico'.

I pass the old State Insurance building- which was the Arts & Design College at the time of the quake. It seems a little ironic that it's future is still in limbo because of an insurance dispute.

I cut back past the Heritage Hotel at the back of Cathedral Square, squeezing through a gap in the chain fencing and ducking under some wonky railing separating a number of empty lots, one of which used to hold the Heritage Tower building and carpark- a place where we would have parked our rental, while staying at the Heritage, on our visits to Christchurch.

All that is left of the multi-story buildings that filled this large space is a concrete stairway.

And around the walls that surround this temporary carpark which straddles the old Westpac Lane are dozens of pieces of street art and graffiti. Cookie Monster competes with a Prince memorial, there are many elaborate designs in an explosion of colour and with varying degrees of talent; all vying for attention as I wander past.

Here graffiti has covered up one Jacob Yikes' larger art works.

I'm parked in the carpark below this abandoned high-rise on Hereford Street, the former Christchurch International College building known as Malvern House which seems to have been the target not only of graffiti artists but squatters and vandals too. Just 3 days previous, a fire was set inside the building late at night, most probably squatters trying to keep warm.

It's time to head back to Weedons, a journey that takes me at least 45 minutes due to rush hour traffic. I've enjoyed my day exploring the Red Zone, even though it was a little sad in places. I take my hat off to the stoic people of Christchurch, Christchurch certainly is a city rebuilding but it still has a long way to go. 

And I still have much more to see; I'll have to do another walking tour the next time we are in Christchurch to join a few more dots. 

If you'd like to see more of my Christchurch photos from the day click on this link.


  1. Both sobering and inspirational photos Shellie. The artists have an outlet ....I wonder about the others..... everyday people who still live with this fallout of the quake...surrounded by, and still desolate and stuck.
    The human spirit is a beautifull and fragile thing!

  2. Thanks Jimu, much appreciated. And I quite agree with you, there will be hundreds of people; everyday ordinary folk, that most of us know nothing about, still stuck in limbo. I feel very sad for them.


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