Whose Fault Is It?A WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 22: IN WHICH THINGS GET A BIT SHAKY
Days 24 & 25: Christchurch, NZ. In early 2010, Christchurch was known as the Garden City, an urban area that dedicated more than most cities to green space. Grand old buildings sat amid stately beech and chestnut trees along the city's picturesque streets, and its population had recently surpassed that of Wellington to make it New Zealand's second largest city.
|Worcester Street, Christchurch, in July, 2010 (photo from fishingmag.co.nz)|
|Christchurch Cathedral, September, 2014|
Due to instability in the area of greatest destruction, a "red zone" was established after the February 2011 quake, excluding all but emergency personnel from the central city. As rubble was cleared, the zone shrank in size until the final barriers were removed in June, 2013. Today large areas of the devastated garden city remain unrenewed. Hulking shells of critically damaged buildings still await demolition. Miles and miles of temporary fencing stand between the curious and these unstable structures. In some instances, shipping crates have been employed in an effort to keep historic facades from crumbling.
|Saving this old facade, but for what purpose?|
|One of many vacant lots in the central city|
But people needed to get on with their lives. While those in power in the central city dawdled, construction began in the areas just outside the CBD that weren't affected by the quakes. Today law firms and other major tenants for downtown office space have signed multiyear leases in these structures, eliminating the opportunity to fill new buildings which still have yet to be built in the central city.
The church's plan to demolish the ruins of the cathedral and rebuild were waylaid when preservationists invoked court interference based on the historic value of the original structure. In the interim, the congregation employed a Japanese architect who specializes in designing temporary post-earthquake structures. Created from massive cardboard tubes, timber and steel, the Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral opened its doors in August, 2013 several blocks away from the ruins. Designed to serve for fifty years, the new structure seats 700 and has become a popular event space as well as a center for worship.
A Christchurch local told us of watching a television documentary recently about the 1995 earthquake that decimated Kobe, Japan, leaving more than 150,000 buildings destroyed and more than 4,000 residents dead. "After four years, you couldn't even tell there had been an earthquake there," the local marveled. "And look at us after four years."
It is immediately apparent that Japan, with the world's third largest economy, had infinitely more resources to support the Kobe recovery effort. But money aside, protracted conflict and mistrust among levels of government seems to have sapped the wind from the Christchurch recovery sails. Potential foreign investors are losing patience and looking elsewhere.
In twenty years, Christchurch will probably be restored, or reinvented, into a vibrant city again. But that's another generation away. How many of those who grow up amid the rubble will remain?
FRIDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER & SATURDAY, 27 SEPTEMBER, 2014
More Photos from Christchurch
|Asbestos removal crews are doing a booming business in the city|
|After prolonged insurance settlements, some residences are just now being restored.|
|It's not every day you see a bank in a shipping crate.|
|A window on Christchurch|
|Since the Red Zone was eliminated, rolling street closures permit demolition work to continue.|
|The compromised Town Hall performing arts center sits vacant, waiting for its turn with the wrecking ball.|
|Like New Orleans after Katrina, Christchurch still has buildings which bear the visible remains of search and rescue efforts.|
|Planted Whare, a city council sponsored project to provide "a hopeful presence" in Cathedral Square|
|The Avon River continues its peaceful flow through the heart of the city.|
|The Arcades Project, a transitional project in the square where the Crowne Plaza hotel once stood.|
|185 Chairs: Even this memorial to the victims of the 2011 earthquake has an air of impermanence.|