Our Christchurch campsite offers a few suggestions under the heading of, “what on earth shall we do today”. One of the suggestions is to visit “Museum – Quake City”. Well, for our last day in New Zealand, we skipped the museum but we did visit Quake City. We hopped on a Blue Line bus just outside the campsite. For NZ$8.00 each, it took us into Christchurch with no worries about parking Busby – we could leave him pressing the camp cat. We disembarked at the central bus interchange (i.e. bus station) which was well positioned for the sites that Francine had in mind.
Any disaster is moving. Loss of life in the face of the forces of mother nature show our vulnerabilities; just how fragile we are. The centre of Christchurch, still suffering from the effects of the 2011 quake, is certainly a moving sight. The pattern of damage looks difficult to explain. Some old buildings that might have been expected to be damaged remain apparently unaffected. Whereas St. Paul’s Cathedral in London miraculously survived Hitler’s onslaught in 1940, Christchurch’s cathedral did not survive the 2011 earthquake. The open-ended skeleton remains.
With an unusable original cathedral, the good people of Christchurch erected a “Transitional Cathedral” which has been tagged the Cardboard Cathedral. Visiting on a Sunday, a service was in progress so we couldn’t have a good squint but certainly some of the supporting structure of this modern piece of architecture was huge cardboard tubes. The external structure appears to be corrugated, translucent plastic with aluminium angle-sections at the edges. The shape is like an A-frame with different perspective triangles at either end. It’s simple, clean and elegant. I loved it, even as a confirmed atheist/anti-religionist, and admired the resolution of the inhabitants of Christchurch.
Opposite the sharp end of the cardboard cathedral is what I suppose would be classed as an artwork, an artwork of 185 all-white chairs, each one symbolising a life that was lost in the quake. I presume the actual chairs chosen have some significance since one is a baby’s car seat and another is a wheelchair. They face the cardboard cathedral, almost like an audience awaiting a divine performance.
115 of the 185 lives lost were in the CTV, Canterbury Television, building, which collapsed leaving only the lift shaft standing and caught fire.
Six years on, several of the city blocks still remain empty awaiting, I presume, redevelopment, a testament to the devastation caused. The CTV site will not be redeveloped but is to be left as a memorial.
After an overdose of emotional content, we did wander around the Christchurch Botanic Garden before ending our visit on a brighter note in a bar serving Francine with a so-called sangria, a sangria with included both brandy and Cointreau. I’m pretty sure the Spanish wouldn’t put Cointreau into a sangria, though we’ve never actually had one. We’d better fix that oversight on our next visit to Spain which will be over Christmas and New Year.