On the 22nd February 2011, at 12.51pm local time Christchurch was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake. Centred some 10km's to the south east of the city and at a depth of 5km's the quake was to prove devastating, 185 lives were lost and there was widespread damage to both buildings and infrastructure throughout the city. Some 2 1/2 years later, in transit, I made my first ever visit to the city and spent a day wandering the streets.
A City in Ruins?
Radio adverts, "tradesmen wanted" play constantly across the airwaves, progress has been made here but there is much more to do, what's a realistic timescale for the completion of this city? The truth is, nobody can say with any real certainty, surely the sooner the better. Speak to anyone and they are either still awaiting an insurance payout or know somebody who is, tales of delaying tactics and low offers from insurers, red tape and government incompetence will most likely be the long term legacy of this event. I'm not one for conspiracy theories but this is almost certainly the case here, think you're home and property are insured? think again......
These were the real negatives, I mention them here, not in a political sense but because you simply can't visit this place and ignore them. In spite of this, the overriding feeling is one of hope for the future, this is the closest I've been to a natural disaster and even so long after the event you can't help but sense what mankind is capable of when faced with adversity, humbling indeed.
The Odeon Theatre built in 1883 is New Zealand's oldest masonry theatre, in the world's youngest country, one with so little architectural heritage it's absolutely vital this building and others like it are restored to their former glory.
Designated as "No Access" some areas of the Red Zone remain exactly as they were left on the 22nd February 2011, whilst much has been done since I was surprised by how much of this still remained.
Only shadows and the reflections of buildings fill the open spaces that were once occupied by bricks and mortar. It serves to reiterate both how much has vanished and how much remains to be done.
A divided image from a divided city? The fate of the Centennial Recreation and Sports Centre remains in the ballance, across national and local government there still appear to be divisions on the best way forward for this city.
I witnessed a steady stream of tourists throughout the day, they all gravitate to the city's most famous landmark, or whats left of it. Here a chap pauses for a moment of reflection at Christchurch Cathedral, they are it's new congregation.
Christchurch Cathedral, damaged beyond repair or just too expensive to be viable? The future of the iconic landmark is certainly a hotly debated topic. For the moment at least it remains behind lock and key.
A different kind of Normal
I've spent most of my life in shopping centres, not shopping for cameras I might add. This is certainly the most unusual and definitely the cheapest to construct.
Another community/recycling project I stumbled upon, you quickly realise that its appearance holds little significance, what really matters is that it exists at all.
This may possibly be the worlds smallest community library!!!! I don't know what I admire most about this setup, the fact that someone took the time to create this space, the utilising of an old chiller cabinet as a weather sealed bookcase or the fact that its still serving the community many months after its inception. "This fridge has kept me reading for the last 6 months" said the guy in the image as I chatted to him about this most unlikely of local amenities.
On the face of it, cutting the grass verges in a city that's largely reduced to rubble may seem preposterous, however you quickly realise it's anything but. It represents a return to normality and a first step in reclaiming what was lost.
Creativity has not been suppressed by the quake, making the most of what you have is the overriding message, mini golf, anyone??
The onset of spring has added a welcome touch of colour to the city and it affords a stark contrast to the backdrop of abandoned and damaged buildings. I applaud the decision to tend the cities flower beds and gardens, sometimes the small gestures make the biggest difference.
Messages from Quake City
As you'd expect the quake has influenced graffiti and street art alike, I guess it will for many years to come.
Irony is everywhere, if only paint afforded the kind of protection these buildings needed......I've made a conscious effort not to do too much processing of the images in this post with the exception of this one. Kodak Portra 400 preset in VSCO FILM 01, I've only scratched the surface with this but I'll post some more images in a few weeks, I have to say I really like it.
Punting on the Avon, no longer an option from this particular landing but its business as usual further along the river.
Did the owner of this tie intend to leave a message or was it a drunken prank, who knows. For me, well maybe its representative of the often faceless bureaucrats and authority that is dictating the future of this city?
Despite the destruction on display it is still difficult to imagine the horror of being caught up in this event or even living in the aftermath. Like any good citizen I shared a concern for the wellbeing of its inhabitants but I had no real affinity for the city itself. Now, having spent only a day there that affinity is strong, Christchurch and more importantly the people who call this home deserve a city to be proud of. As surely as the city must embrace change and modernisation it's equally imperative that its history be retained wherever possible for this is it's true identity, the soul of the city.