August 29, 2015

Five year quake anniversary and a "Construction Boom" for Christchurch

Five years next week.
Sept 4th 2010.

This time five years ago we were blissfully unaware of the changes that would be inflicted on us so suddenly.  You all know about the demolition and upheaval and changes that have become the new normal here.

Let me quote from Deb at "Works in Progress" - she writes so brilliantly on subjects that I can't begin to put on paper... but she captured the feeling of the rebuild perfectly to me... do go and read her essays that she is writing on sociology for her degree!

Here's what a guy called Thomas Gieryn wrote about buildings...
"Buildings stabilise social life. They give structure to social institutions, durability to social networks, persistence to behaviour patterns. What we build solidifies society against time and its incessant forces for change."
There is a song on the radio at the moment which has a line that says, "you don't know you are up till you are down and you don't know what you've lost till it's gone". Here is Christchurch we are definitely living the truth of that. As time goes on it feels like the city gets less familiar and more alien as time goes on rather than the other way around. I would have thought with the buildings starting to go up, we would feel like we are getting some kind of form to the city again.
But we have no connection to the buildings at all and so seeing them just reinforces that you are in a strange place rather than the feeling of being home that the city previously gave us.
This is what Walter Benjamin writes about, when he talks about the relationship between the space and the memories that we have of the space. By taking away the buildings, this synergy is taken away also, leaving us feeling adrift in the space.
We are finding out the hard way that there is no magic recipe for creating a city. A city that can be experienced grows over time; when people design and build, alter and adapt their environment and actually live in the city. Living means leaving traces and it is these traces of living that make a city experience more authentic.

So here we are surrounded by construction on a massive scale... there are huge steel frames at every corner you drive through in the town centre.  Last night I went through the central city at night and I was reminded of a recent trip I made from Lyttelton to Diamond Harbour by ferry at night. We bobbed around on our tiny boat under the massive container ships that rose high above the water; imposing, brightly lit, steaming and mysterious.  Driving through the city I felt the same ... steel girders and cranes and spotlights soaring above. No they are not high rise - probably only 4-5 stories high, but they were there and imposing and new and unknown....

Theres a good article here from the papers this week...

How many times have you visited the centre of Christchurch and had a really good look around? A few times, sometimes, maybe not for a long time? You can live easily in Christchurch and not journey to the city centre at all.
But it's worth it. Why? Because it will give you a sense of progress since the devastating 2010-11 earthquakes. Plus a sense of how much more is still to accomplish.
Each time I have had a good look around, the city has felt quite different.

and I agree with this...
Large billboards depict what most of the completed buildings will look like, although admittedly it is hard to visualise the way the whole city will look. It is constantly evolving.My admiration goes to those rebuilding the city; their determination and positive energy deserve recognition.
There are still big issues to grapple with, like parking. An inner city shuttle bus would make sense. More people will want to live in the city, and once residential projects go ahead they will change the atmosphere once again.
The new Christchurch is unfolding before our eyes. Make sure you do not miss this historic opportunity.

I am lucky I see the city as I travel to work, on different routes weekly to avoid roadworks so I get to watch the areas change, trying to accept that I don't often know where I am, or where to find things, or what was there, or what is being built there now. Totally disorientating. But, I eat out with friends a couple of times a week in the new exciting places appearing - we are constantly exploring and watching for places and ideas. Gradually making new favourite places.. returning for second/third meals to the ones we love.  So, if "Living means leaving traces and it is these traces of living that make a city experience more authentic." then we are doing our bit to keep Christchurch as home and learn to love it all over again.

Chris Lynch from Newstalk ZB recently posted this video to facebook:

or if you don't have facebook, watch it here and see the new buildings ... it is worth it :)
About 20 seconds in is the building that felt like a container ship....


  1. I still admire the courage and bravery of everyone who decided to stay - I don't think I would have been able to, the shock and trauma and fear of a repeat would have been too much for me.
    Is it really five years? Incredible how quickly they have gone by.

    1. I'm not sure bravery was the reason... but jobs, property, family, friends... all too good to abandon!

  2. So many awesome changes and additions!

  3. Replies
    1. Yes it's hard to believe... Time forges on. But it's been a vivid, memorable journey that will remain in my memory more than other blocks in my life. Calm is good. The earth being steady is good. Progress in the rebuild is good. It feels like everything is measured on that scale.

  4. Well it's taken me several days on and off and a lot of follow ups getting through this. It's strange looking at it almost dispassionately now because all I have is memories and the new city would be totally alien to me if I were to arrive there. Your post has made me consider quite a lot of personal things too. Napier has changed since I lived there. How will I feel when I (hopefully) am able to return. I'll have no home and no car. Will I still belong? So how you must feel having everything familiar taken away from you is beyond my comprehension. I know that that is not the first time I've said that in relation to the last 5 years either.

    I hope that one day I will visit Christchurch again too. Time will tell.

  5. Thank you GB...yes it packed a lot in one post.... But you know what it's like when there has been a blog drought. It felt good to care enough to write it.... All I can say it is unsettling, sad, disorientating, and sometimes incredibly interesting and exciting. Napier is a good reminder of their post earthquake reinvention. It turned out ok.... And when you return, it is the people that will ground you, even if there are changes again.....


Comments welcome....always love to hear what you think!


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