Scattered Light 96 CHRISTCHURCH

Yesterday I sent my parents along to see Anthony Powells film ANTARTICA – A YEAR ON ICE which I worked on in February, March & April this year… Its a film full of Anthonys beautiful time-lapse, along with fascinating insights into Antartica and the humans who live there. Check the trailer out & some other great footage by Anthony on vimeo HERE.
So while they were in the movie, I went for a drive around Christchurch thinking I might enjoy some nostalgia for favorite old locations (I went to secondary school, university and film school in Christchurch) So I thought I’d share some photos & thoughts about the city…

From the point of view of someone not living in Christchurch, there were two big quakes – first on September 4, 2010 and the second more destructive one on February 22, 2011. Two quakes, right? Wrong, so wrong…. This site perfectly illustrates what each of those two quakes actually consisted of, quake 1 = 12,595 individual events and quake 2 = 8,167… And to get an even better idea, check this link – it replays the events, on the top right you can see minutes ticking over… nothing much happens, but wait… approximately 30 seconds & see how fast that first quake hit & was followed by shake after relentless shake… and it doesn’t stop… Imagine experiencing a big quake like that – people often quote that the primary destruction occurred in 15 seconds – only to be followed by 8,000 after shocks!! Unreal, if only it was…

Having spent over a decade of my earlier life in Christchurch I know my way round, or I used to. I visited the city a year or more ago, but at that stage much of the city was inaccessible due to the destruction. Now, coming up to three years later, most of the city is accessible but what struck me on this visit the most profoundly, was the empty spaces…

Kia Kaha CHCH!

Streets that contained thriving businesses are deserted – much of the centre of the city, which was always the life of the city, is empty….

Kia Kaha CHCH!

I drove past a location where I had a studio for a year or two, an old church (the big 1200 sqft room had a tap in the corner, I always wondered if it was divinely sourced!?!) but the church was long gone, now just an empty flat site. But beside my old church was a massive building, its also long gone. In fact everything on that block, and the block beside it was gone. Just empty flattened spaces…..

Driving around I started to appreciate the process – if a building was still standing, there is hope it may be restored, at least in part. The street in the photo below made me think it was in the too-hard basket presently, or at least on someones to-do list…

Kia Kaha CHCH!

But the sites that provide hope, are where facades have been preserved. It must be an incredible place to be an architect at the moment. I have visited Kobe, in Japan a number of times and it is a beautiful city, with a fascinating mix of traditional and modern architecture. It was the war & relentless firebombing that motivated the fantastic architecture in Tokyo, but like Christchurch it was a massive quake that destroyed Kobe, the great Hanshin earthquake, richter 7.3 in 1995. So visiting Kobe a dozen years later provides hope for the future of Christchurch.

Kia Kaha CHCH!

There has been much debate about the Christchurch Cathedral – should it be saved? Its an emotive subject as in some ways it represents the identity of Christchurch, but as a non-religious person a church that I think of much more fondly was the State Trinity Church.
I don’t know, or particularly care if it was used for religious bizo, but back in the day it was regularly used as a beautiful venue for music. I remember seeing Bill Direen play there, and the John Paul Satre Experience and many others that I have forgotten… So it was heartening to see it still standing…

Kia Kaha CHCH!

While the future of the main Cathedral remains to be decided, a new temporary Cathedral has been built by the innovative and genius Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and as with all great architecture there has been much debate & proffered opinion about this new cathedral, the ‘cardboard cathedral’ as it has come to be known. I have bit my lip a number of times as I heard people criticise it, and yet it was only completed and opened last week. And if there is one thing I know about architecture, it is that it must be experienced. So, for anyone in Christchurch, I ask you to put aside your preconceptions and go and experience it, with an open mind.

Kia Kaha CHCH!

Kia Kaha CHCH!

Kia Kaha CHCH!

Kia Kaha CHCH!

Kia Kaha CHCH!

I can’t speak to its function as a church, but as an architectural work it is fantastic. As you can see from the photos, I visited it on a very overcast winters day – light outside was totally diffuse. But the light inside that cathedral is so incredibly beautiful, and instantly emotionally warm. And the construction is a work of genius, quoting: “The strength of the building has nothing to do with the strength of the material,” says Shigeru Ban. “Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily. But paper buildings cannot be destroyed by earthquakes.” It’s also consistently low-cost. When the ‘Cardboard Cathedral’ project was announced, many were concerned that the structure would ‘go soggy in the rain’ Quite the contrary. The over 90 enormous 600mm diameter, 20 metre tubes are protected by a polycarbonate roof above, and very solid concrete floor below. Sturdy LVL (laminated veneer lumber) inserted beams, lend further substantial support to these tubes. The Cardboard Cathedral will also be one of the safest buildings in the city. It is being built to last 50 plus years and to 100% of the earthquake code.

Kia Kaha CHCH!

Kia Kaha CHCH!

Kia Kaha CHCH!

The remaining thoughts I had about the city were that it felt inspiring. I cannot imagine living here and not being directly influenced and inspired by the city, as it is rebuilt and becomes a new city. Clever works of art appear to be embedded in the city, some of the work is intentional and the direct result of creative human input while some isn’t – its just a reflection on the fundamental change the city is going through. And the conclusion I came to as we drove south was that Christchurch is becoming a new city, and it will be a beautiful city of the future. Congratulations to Shigeru Ban for his beautiful contribution! Arigatou gozimasu.

Kia Kaha CHCH!

Kia Kaha CHCH!

Kia Kaha CHCH!

shot in Christchurch – Sunday, 11th August 2013

2 Responses to Scattered Light 96 CHRISTCHURCH

  1. Jon Clark says:

    Sobering images for someone who lives in an active seismic area that is long over due for a large quake.

  2. bassling says:

    Wow! Really enjoyed this bit of browser-based travel, cheers 🙂

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