I’m glad that we got the chance to return to Christchurch for another week. The dust has settled so to speak on the initial shock at seeing the level (and seeming freshness) of destruction in the downtown/CBD Red Zone. This time I think we could begin to see more of the signs (and freshness) of the community resilience in the downtown core.
These are some photos of my favorite bright spots in Christchurch. Roll call in order of appearance:
1) Greening the Rubble and the Gap Filler projects, and specifically their shared space at the Sound Garden made of recycled found post-quake artifacts such as fire extinguishers, battered metal street signs, Aussie flip-flops and the like. As you can see from the photo, the Sound Garden is fully wheelchair and bicycle and stroller-friendly. While I was there a father and his school-aged daughter rode up on a bike and they played and laughed in the garden for at least thirty minutes. From their Kiwi accents and topics of conversation, they seemed to be a local Christchurch family out for a Waitangi Day of fun.
2) Across the street from the Sound Garden are these lovely, otherworldly yet oddly inviting sculptures called Tree Houses for Swamp Dwellers by Julia Morison (Scape Public Art). As Christchurch residents now know all too well, their city is built on a swamp (liquefaction is an ongoing problem). These beautiful sculptures are sending green shoots out towards the sky. What you can’t see from this photo is that each sculpture has a little garden of plants living happily in its crown. An uplifting and happy space for me, especially given the fact that my group of students were bogeying down to their music blaring over loudspeakers at the Dance-O-Mat (another Gap Filler project) right beside these sculptures.
3) The Gap Filler’s Pallet Pavilion. Blue-painted wooden pallets stacked high to make protective walls around an outdoor cafe/bar/performance stage–complete with free wi-fi. While I was there, a very good Latin band was performing to an adoring crowd. The Pallet Pavilion is coming down at the beginning of April. A temporary installation that lasted a few years. Our students volunteered for a while there, wiping down tables (that collect dust from the building and demolition all around them) and watering plants.
4) The Transitional ‘Temporary’ Cathedral built almost completely out of cardboard and designed by the Japanese ’emergency architect’ Shigeru Ban. The very sweet church lady inside the day I visited said that the parishioners loved how light-filled the cathedral is. She laughed and said she doubted they’d want to return to the cold, dark stone cathedrals even if they are repaired. All of the old stone churches I’ve seen around Christchurch sustained extensive earthquake damage and are still closed. I was surprised when she told me that the church was built to last for fifty years. Being in Christchurch though does blur the distinction between permanent and temporary.